Time and again she glanced to her side, lifting her eyes up, a broad smile pouring into her expression. This new bride, 24 years old, with a mass of curls pinned to the side, holding a fingertip veil in place. Her skirts floated along with as she walked, trustingly locking her arm into his. The day was filled with promise.
In most lives there comes a time when it feels one wedding follows another for a season of a few years. Then it passes. Babies are born, single friends feel alienated because everyone is having kids, milestones are met. In a new season, illnesses begin and funerals become more frequent than weddings.
But how important it is to still attend those weddings! I fought with my mother over inviting her friends at mine. Now that my friends’ daughters are marrying, I see why the day is as much a celebration for the mother and father as the bride and the groom.
We are not meant to isolate ourselves in a world with only our age group. Old must meet the young, and young the old. There are stories to be told, jokes to be made, drawing techniques to be taught. If children never know illness or suffering, they will have had no time of preparation in the safety of a stable family for when they meet their own illness or suffering later in life.
We do not need to hide the realities of life from our little ones. They need someone to usher them gently through before they must face it alone.
The older generation can be reminded of the good things of youth while feeling value in the contribution they make as a sign of a life well-lived or lessons sorely learned. They need not work or “be productive citizens” in the commercial sense of value to be a gift to the generations around them.
The mothers and fathers who changed dirty diapers and shuttled children back and forth to school may meet a time when their children or caretakers must do as much for them. The lives of those who served are enriched as ours have been as parents.
It is terrifying to thinking about needing, about vulnerability, about being a burden to society or those around them, but if those who are in need feel themselves a burden, the burden is of the pain of obligation that knocks against a hardened wall closing around the heart that will not serve. It is not easy to be a caregiver, but it is necessary to see the wholeness of life, the cycle, if you will, of where we come from and to where we go. As we make peace with this by the witness of others living the different stages from the glowing bride to the frazzled parent to the beaming grandparent and the tired retired.
All this is imagined in a world with whole families and generations. But when it cannot be found in one’s own family, when wounds cannot be healed, or debts paid, there are others around us with a similar need of love, care, and attention.
Let us give our best to the needs of those in different seasons whom we encounter. Once passed through, it cannot be lived again. Those who lived through it can smile at the anxieties of youth, knowing how good they have it, reminding them to count their blessings. The reminders, though not always received graciously are blessings in themselves.
Those reminders are vital to a life well-lived. The bride and groom are just starting out. Let us cheer them on rather than warn them of doom. Let their period of promise remind us of the hope from which we first began. If it brought more disappointment then answered prayers, let find power in renewal and gratitude…and dance the night away.