Last dance with mary jane...
The sounds of Tom Petty were in my head all weekend -"she grew up tall and she grew up right with them Indiana boys on an Indiana night" - for I just returned from a wedding in an Indiana town on an Indiana night and it was a sweet time.
After a flight from Albany, NY to Lexington, KY my 31 year old daughter and I drove another three hours to offer support and love to young Kris (that's right his momma loved Kristofferson) on his wedding day. It was a long way to go for a short visit, but it felt important for this young man has seen more than his share of grief and loss and we wanted to add our small gift of encouragement. So with a few other members of clan Lumsden - and about 150 local Indiana farmers of German background - we rejoiced as Kris and Amy shared their vows to the sounds of Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood. Later they danced to Bob Seeger and Meatloaf while their families ate fried chicken and drank beer.
It was a hoot to be in the German Midwest again - lots of beer, blondes and bratwurst - and even more fun to share it with my brother, Phil, who is a decidedly bi-coastal kind of boy. I have served congregations in Saginaw, MI and Cleveland, OH, but he's mostly lived in New England with a number of years in hippie Florida followed now by almost a lifetime in San Francisco. So he had no idea what was happening when the kids started acting like birds, clapping their hands in rhythm and laughing hysterically to the "Chicken Dance." But he had to admit it was hogs heaven eating that post wedding feast of hearty German fare. It was a whirlwind 48 hours of breakfasts with the wider family, laughter and tears and just a little worry for some of the family's children who are having a rough time right now.
And, as so often happens for me, all that time in the car on the way to family gatherings evoked a host of memories: the last time my daughter and I traveled together in a car for a family event was the funeral of Kris' five year old brother who died 20 years ago. Since then his mom (my sister) and his grandma (my mother) have gone, too. There wasn't a dry eye in the Lumsden clan pew when almost in unison we read the back of the wedding bulletin: Today we remember that loved ones are missing, ones our hearts hold on to as we travel along life's way, loved ones who made life special for all who have gathered here, ones who won't be forgotten but cherished from year to year. And now as we pause to remember, let us fondly recall how dearly each of us loved them... and how they loved us all. How does the New Testament preacher put it: since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...? What's more, I discovered that both my mother and I LOVE Reuben sandwiches WITHOUT the usual American 1,000 Island dressing (and so does my youngest sister!)
I am back home in the Berkshires (after a tough flight) with my loved one and a faith community I love, looking forward to our daughter's wedding in just 30 days - and I can't help but meditate on this poem by Kabir:
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think ... and think ... while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,do you think ghosts will do it after? The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic just because the body is rotten --that is all fantasy. What is found now is found then. If you find nothing now,you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death. If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire... So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is, believe in the Great Sound! Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work. Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.