Isn’t that just so IT? So much of what matters in life, so much of the meaning OF life, flows from the act of showing up. Not necessarily because you think you’ll have a great time, or that you’ll even get anything out of whatever the IT is. Maybe you KNOW you’ll have a terrible time. Maybe you’ll never know how important it was to other people that you showed up. If you’re lucky, you get to know how important it is to other people, and if you’re REALLY lucky, you get to have a sense, maybe only a glimmer, or maybe a huge cascading fireworks of an AHA!, of how important it is to YOU that you were there, wherever IT is, bringing your particular you-ness to an event, a day, a weekend, even to a fleeting moment.
A lot of people showed up this weekend for SweetP’s institution as the 12th rector of her parish – the first woman and the first openly queer person to be chosen for this position by this parish. Some people traveled great distances. Some came with a lot of baggage (of various kinds.) Some brought only themselves and whatever they could fit in their pockets or purses. Some came with babies. Some came with conditions (physical, philosophical, emotional, psychic, etc.) that required them to make enormous, even exhausting, efforts to be there. Some were dressed to the nines. Some wore costumes. Some wore whatever they usually wear. Some sang along. Some didn’t. Many of us wept, some of us sobbed, some of us giggled uncontrollably, some of us were still, solid, and strong, and some of us were the emotional equivalent of a clown car, veering and lurching wildly among all sorts of states. Some of us were dressed as dragons. Yes, Internet, there be dragons, even — and maybe especially — in church.
The title of this post is something my sister-in-law said to me after we had processed to the back of the church during the final hymn of “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” I think she exclaimed this as she hugged me shortly after I had come completely unglued when I hugged my brother. Poor guy, there I was, hugging him, and as I whispered into his ear the words, “Thank you SO much for being here today,” I was completely overcome with body-wracking sobs. I buried my face into his shoulder and, because I wear glasses, it felt a lot like I was smashing my face up against a window. Picture the sobbing guard at the gates of the Emerald City, with tears fire-hosing out of his eyes, but have him pressed up against a pane of glass. That’s the scene. Oh, plus, somewhere in there, I’m pretty sure my brother was holding me up. I bet I outweigh him, but he’s essentially all muscle, so I think it all worked out. I haven’t heard that he’s being treated for a hernia, so I’m assuming he’s okay.
The whole weekend, the day on Sunday, the ceremony itself, they were all like this weird combination of a wedding AND a funeral. All sorts of people doing the miracle of showing up, and lots of SweetP’s favorites: music, readings, flowers.
The church looked like it was decked out for a wedding, with red tulips and gerber daisies and other flowers everywhere. There were huge beeswax candles at the ends of every 3th or 4th pew. The place smelled so intensely of beeswax that I could have sworn that there was incense burning.
Many gifts were exchanged. The night before, at the big family dinner we hosted for 18 of us crammed into the renovation project that we call home, SweetP opened some cards and gifts from the extended family. I had been wracking my brain trying to think of something significant that the girls and I could give her. In a phone conversation earlier in the week with my eldest brother (the same one whose suit suffered water damage from my sobbing episode detailed in the previous paragraph), he was telling me about a book I had first heard about a few weeks ago. He said that the first time he looked at it, he didn’t move for 2 hours as he pored over it. I knew it would be the perfect gift for SweetP for a whole bunch of reasons. So this is what the girls and I gave her:
Now she’ll NEVER get any work done! The Red Book is every bit as stunning as I expected it to be, and every bit as perfect as I hoped it would be.
But I digress. Back to the ceremony on Sunday. The last part of the gift exchange in A Celebration of New Ministry involves the priest giving gifts to her family. Before we went up to receive our gifts, I asked the girls if they’d be willing to huddle up and all put our hands in the center and do a cheer, like a team does before it takes to the court or the field. They nixed that, but they did agree to huddle up after SweetP presented her gifts to us, which was really all I wanted in the first place. I’m sneaky like that.
Several people came up to me afterward to tell me that this was the most intensely moving part of the service for them. Some people sought me out to say that they were especially moved by hearing and seeing the word “wife” used to refer to me. One of the small but mighty gifts of marriage equality is the witness to the power of words that a lot of people take for granted, words like “wife.” Conversely, I know that the opposition to marriage equality reflects an awareness of how powerful these words are, and betrays a deep fear of us queers having access to the power of such language. But THAT, dear Internet, is a topic for another day.
So. This family that I have, that the five of us have made together, quite simply leaves me speechless with awe, wonder, delight, and a deep abiding love that makes the very word “love” seem tiny and utterly insufficient. And this moment right here, when we all circled up, put our heads together, wiggled our toes, and laughed, I officially have no words for it. Still. Days later.
But enough about us. Here’s a hairpin turn for you. Check out the artistry of a young pastry chef who was born and raised in the parish and is now on the young adult leadership team! I had told her that SweetP’s favorite flowers are red tulips, so she created these edible tulips out of some sort of candy wrapped around jellybeans. Some of the cupcakes had the letter P written on them. Also, there were little white P’s created out of some sort of icing that were strewn across the tablecloth like confetti.
At the reception, I was approached by a man I didn’t know, who said something that made me realize that he was James Primosch, the composer who created the amazing setting of e.e. cummings’ poem “spiraling ecstatically” that SweetP chose as one of the musical offerings of the service (the EMI chorus sang it beautifully, with a bonus version offered in the morning service, for additional rehearsal purposes.) I’m not usually given to swooning or being rendered speechless by meeting new people, but I’m pretty sure I made a fool of myself when my hands involuntarily flew up to my throat and I gushed something to the effect of “Oh my gosh!!! You’re James Primosch!!! Thank you SO much for your work!!!” I don’t usually speak in exclamatory triplets, but I just couldn’t help it. Then I blurted, “I just know that [SweetP] wants to thank you” and before he could object I grabbed the poor man by the hand and dragged him across the crowded reception as though I were some sort of human cow catcher, pushing several well-wishers aside (no well-wishers were harmed in the making of this introduction.) I planted him in front of SweetP, and announced, “THIS is JAMES PRIMOSCH!!!” I sure as hell hope I didn’t also say “Ta Daaaa!!!” I’m pretty sure that stayed in my head, along with the sounds of trumpets announcing the arrival of an important guest to the ball. I was somewhat relieved to see that SweetP had a very similar response to him that I did, nearly sloshing her glass of wine onto all three of us as she struggled to free up her hands to greet him.
Speaking of spiraling ecstatically. Whoa. I need a deep breath.
Even though my reflections on the weekend continue to ripple, and our life in and with an amazing and complex parish is beginning anew, and my old job is ending, and my new job – whatever it is – is somewhere out there, this particular blog post needs to end. This song, “Rise” by Eddie Vedder, seems like a fitting song with which to honor both beginnings and endings:
P.S. Very special thanks to Duane Dale for the exceedingly generous gift of the lovely photos from the ceremony and reception that I’ve included here.