May you have heard? We had a big wedding in our family in August. It was a first for Jocelyn and I. You probably remember seeing our son Wright and his fiancé, Chelsea, around the church. Photography brought them together. We had contracted with their company to capture memories at River Hills and help with our last photo directory. Aug. 4 was the day their memories would be captured. These photos are now treasures, because they capture more than just memories. They capture a legacy.
When Jocelyn and I were married 30 years ago, we captured this amazing picture. We were blessed on that day to not only have all of our parents and siblings, but six of our seven surviving grandparents in this photograph. This is a treasure.
When Wright and Chelsea get the rest of their photos, I’m going to be looking for the ones that trigger the memories and the feelings we shared that week. The railroad tie archway we built together. The yellow ties Chelsea and her mom stitched for us. The time Wright and Jocelyn spent together choreographing their dance to thunderous applause. The first moment as a married couple spent breaking bread for one another then sharing it with everyone in attendance. Precious family and friends came to share the wedding with us. The photos will be treasured. Our memories will hold the stories. But sharing the stories will allow them to last.
I’d like to share a story. Shortly after Wright’s first birthday, my grandfather (standing behind my grandmother on the right side of the above photo) was admitted to the hospital. Later that night, he had a massive aortic aneurysm and passed away suddenly. I remember being awoken by the phone ringing. It was my dad, telling me his dad had passed away. I was so moved, because there was a little boy sleeping who also made me a dad. I cried. I cried for myself because I was going to miss my grandpa. I cried for my dad because I couldn’t imagine the pain of losing my dad. I cried for my son because he’d never really had the chance to meet one of the truly great people in the world. If it wasn’t oil under Gramp’s fingernails from fixing somebody’s car, it was dirt from the garden or sawdust from his latest project. He had the chance to hold Wright when we were visiting Iowa for his first Christmas. We found that picture for Wright’s wedding day. It told a story of love that has been told for generations.
On Wright and Chelsea’s wedding day, my mom and dad weren’t comfortable walking down the aisle. Wright and Chelsea asked them if they would pray with them before the ceremony started. We made a circle with Chelsea’s parents and brother, my folks, Wright, Chelsea, Jocelyn, and me. When I asked who was going to start the prayer, my mom answered, “Your dad wants to start because he’s afraid if I start there will be nothing left to pray for.” We laughed, held each other’s hands, and bowed our heads. Dad started praying. A voice that used to capture the attention of a crowd was now much quieter as a result of his Parkinson’s. His prayer was powerful. While I could not understand a word, my heart was overflowing with a mighty spirit far greater than any disease, any suffering, any problem or power or principality. Mom picked up where dad left off and now we were all ready for a sacred and holy celebration. Dangling on the edge of emotion, I composed myself. I had a job to do (officiate the wedding) and a role to play (father of the groom). I have to admit, though, that in retelling this story I am a blubbering mess. I am so thankful I am home composing this article. There will be the day when I have to make that same painful call my dad made that night 28 years ago. It will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do. The only thing that will bring me comfort is knowing that this legacy of love and faith is not bound by this lifetime. And … I have the comfort of knowing that Wright and Chelsea will have a picture and a story that will allow them to keep the legacy going.
The church has a sacred legacy that we must continue to carry. Carrying it and sharing it will only be possible if we share the stories that are close to our hearts. Faith allows my great days to be greater and my worst days to be survivable. I know I’m not alone. River Hills … let’s share our stories.