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Minister mom -- and now, 'You may kiss the bride'

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Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004 — It was the morning after the wedding. Friends and family were gathered for coffee. Our new daughter-in-law, Amy, was looking relaxed and still radiant, now in her Tevas and shorts.

John, our son, was standing arms outstretched, while his new Grandmother Ida held a partially completed sweater she was knitting up to him for size. We all smiled our approval, and then one family friend said: "Well, John, you will never wear it, but you can't ever get rid of it!" Grandma's hearing is just poor enough to spare her any bad feelings, but I think even she would have laughed.

It is true. Two people get married, and two families are forever joined. John will bring Grandma Ida's sweater with him wherever life takes him, and Amy will be dodging bad lawyer jokes from now on, having married into a family of lawyers. (The jokes had already begun at this gathering.)

Even getting to the big day was a fragile process. Amy is from a small family. Besides her parents and grandmother, she has one married sister and only a few, scattered aunts and uncles.

Understandably, she was looking forward to a small, intimate wedding. John's family of four brothers and endless in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were mystified when they heard that their larger-than-life presence was in jeopardy. In the end, they were all invited and were there in force.

The strangest piece of family trivia to come out of this union is that my husband, Pat, and I welcomed into our family our third daughter-in-law named "Amy." On top of the bad lawyer jokes, we expect the inevitable "Amy" jokes.

But by far the most memorable part of this wedding for me was that I was both mother and minister. Nothing could have prepared me for this intimate journey with our son and his fiancee as they planned their wedding celebration.

Neither was I prepared for my conflicting feelings of pride and inadequacy. How can a parent possibly find words to convey all that is in his or her heart as a child takes a spouse? How does one say how precious their life together is, and will be?

Even more pressing, and much more sobering, was the awareness that these two young people had seen me on my bad days. They knew me well - the good, the bad, and the ugly! I wanted to talk about the best part of marriage, but felt an impossible obligation to practice what I preach.

I had over a year to prepare for this wedding. Way too long! In the last few months, as I felt the day approaching, the slightest disagreement or show of impatience with my husband was cause to verbally abdicate my responsibility altogether, insisting that I was not fit for the role of minister.

When the time came, I knew that speaking from my heart would be the best policy. "Marriage is not about perfection, but about loving each other through the bad times as well as the good times," I said with an ache in my throat. Even at that -- probably because of that -- I believe a marriage relationship is filled with magic.

More than anything, I wanted Amy and John to know that beneath the everyday surface of a marriage, the romance as well as the tears, there is an abiding comfort, a home for the heart, which is a miracle. To this day, that realization fills me with awe and gratitude.

The wedding day was the beginning of that miracle for them. We managed to get all the way through the ceremony. And then I heard myself saying with huge pride and affection for both of these beautiful young people: "You may kiss the bride!"

Just at that moment, the sun shone golden through the trees. We, the invited guests, were indeed only witnesses. It felt as if this marriage was sealed by a tender and loving God much more knowing, generous and constant than any of us could dare to think of being.

The journey to the altar was an unforgettable privilege for me as both minister and mother. For Amy and John it was a brief segment of their journey as soul mates. In my mind's eye, I will always see them hand in hand, beaming and in love, as they continue to let their life together unfold -- sweaters, bad jokes, and families large and small notwithstanding.