Sunday, March 26, 2017

Keeping It Real

Friday afternoon I officiated Carol and Elliott’s wedding ceremony at the Marty Leonard Chapel, in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Carol and Elliott have each spent time exploring their own identity, and searching for their place in the world. The depth to which they have engaged in such contemplation strikes me as something that is beyond their chronological ages. Carol says: “I took to church strongly and was soon heavily involved with the children’s special needs ministry, found the lord and was baptized in the Guadalupe River… Spirituality did a lot for me…” And Elliott says: “As a young teen… I struggled to find my own real spiritual identity… I more or less had to find my own spirituality and beliefs. What I was left with best resembles Reform Judaism, yet not strictly Reform.”

Now, one of the perils of being such a searcher, is that you might take yourself and your beliefs too seriously, to the exclusion of others' beliefs. Not Carol and Elliott. As Carol says, “I wholeheartedly believe that spirituality is a journey that you are never done with, despite the religion one identifies with.” And, Elliott adds a humorous tone, or at least that is how I took it, when he says, “I rarely eat pork.” This reminds of the groom years ago, who shared with me that his grandmother was so religious, that she never ate pork, but would eat bacon, because bacon is just so good!

It is this "keeping it real" approach that made such an impression on Carol. She recounts their first date: We... walked around downtown for around ten or eleven hours. It was amazing. We talked about everything. The conversation was real, unfiltered, and sincere. He acted goofy, told bad jokes, sang and even skipped. It was a breath of fresh air being around someone so real with their opinions and able to be themselves without worrying of judgment."

And, in his recounting of it, Elliott once again emphasizes the depth of thought he found they shared, and the humorous side of it too: "We walked for miles all over town, just talking about everything and anything. Our past, the things we'd been through, the things we wanted in life. There was also an incredible amount of silliness involved as well, with a lot of laughter, I still remember that date vividly."

Carol and Elliott are able to continue to preserve that sense of depth, openness and humor to this very day, and they believe that that is the source of their ongoing bond. As Carol says, "My favorite thing about our relationship is that it mimics everything our first date was." This is why Elliott says, "We're choosing this time to marry because we think it's time, we love each other and we know nothing is going to change that."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Our Better Selves

Saturday morning I officiated Parker and John’s wedding ceremony at the Ashton Depot in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The idea of constantly seeking to learn from every person and every situation is one that has the potential to tremendously enrich your life. This idea was central to Parker and John's upbringings, and they brought this approach to their relationship.

The very birth of that relationship came from the desire to learn. Parker emphasizes the unique setting for that special learning, that led us all here today:

"John and I met the same way my parents met: In an emergency room. Very romantic. I was a first year resident and he a first year medical student. He was working with one of the senior doctors in the ER who did not seem interested in actually teaching him. I wanted to be a teacher longer than I wanted to be a doctor, so I invited him to see patients with me, and we stayed there all night together talking about physiology and taking care of people. I later found out that he stayed hours later than he was supposed to have gone home."

Now, John agrees that that fateful night, "I was eager to learn, and Parker was eager to teach what she knew." However, in addition to that, a plan hatched in his mind, one, notably, Parker does not admit to having shared at the time, "I was attracted to her enthusiasm and kindness, and that night I made it an eventuality that I would ask her on a date in the future. 'Now' intuitively did not feel right. Having decided that, I spent the rest of the night trying to focus on learning medicine from her."

So, about two years later they reconnected, and John was ready to move forward. Parker was hesitant, "Not knowing whether I could get in trouble for any romantic entanglements with a student, I turned him down three times when he asked me out for really fun sounding dates. However, over the following months we kept in touch, and I fell for him." Once again, this man's patience paid off, "Once we started, there was no stopping, and despite her upcoming departure from Seattle back to Texas, we decided a life temporarily apart would be better than a life without each other at all."

Lifelong learning is not just about discovering new things. It is about bettering yourself, becoming the best person you can be, and creating a virtuous cycle where you want to learn more.

This is what Parker and John have found in each other. As Parker says, "I have been looking for John my whole life. He is obviously an impressive man: he is smart, kind, thoughtful, and incredibly capable, he surrounds himself with wonderful people, and I love and fit well with his family. But our relationship brings me so much more than just having a good man in my life. I feel the most myself when I’m with him. He brings out my best qualities. He encourages me to try new things and to rely on myself and to have confidence that together we can accomplish anything we set our minds to."

This is exactly why John wanted this day to hasten and arrive. As he says, "She and I are our best selves and strive to develop into our better selves when we are together... we have learned and will learn from each other and about each other... I want to continue to fulfill her life. (and) I can no longer imagine my own life without Parker."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Age-Old Lesson of the San-San-Kudo

Saturday evening, I officiated Leah and Daniel’s wedding ceremony at the Dallas Museum of Art. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests, which drew on an aspect of Daniel’s heritage:

One of the oldest Japanese wedding traditions is the San-San-Kudo. In this ritual the bride and groom take turns sipping saki three times from three different cups for a total of nine sips. Hence the name of the ritual, which literally means "three-three-nine." Odd numbers, specifically three and nine, are considered very lucky in Japanese culture. This ritual's symbolism is simple, yet profound. The hope is that the couple will find good fortune in life, but as all couples also have challenging moments, it contains an implied prayer that they be blessed with a spirit of understanding and cooperation.

When you first meet Leah and Daniel, you might notice, that they are a little different. I mean, for one thing, with Daniel, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise, and Leah, well, I hope she eventually comes out of her shell. (Not really…)
Seriously, though, what Leah and Daniel exhibit is really no different than any other couple. If you think about, if you didn’t know better, the idea that two people, from different households, with different backgrounds and having had different life experiences could come together and become one unified unit, might seem preposterous. So, how do you make it work?

Well, you do what Leah and Daniel did. You learn. You put some elbow grease into your relationship. You talk, you listen, you work on yourself, and you learn together. Why? Because, as Leah and Daniel will tell you, that makes you both better for it, as individuals and as a couple. In this context, I love how Leah describes Daniel’s effect on her. Listen to this; it’s like poetry. “Daniel is grounded and calming. He keeps me based solidly in reality… He validates me… He clarifies my world view and does it with infinite patience, humor, and love. I'm lucky. And now I'm crying. Damn it.”

Years ago, one of my mentors shared an insight with me: The ideal marriage does not really create anything new. It validates what is already there. It makes it official. This is what Daniel says, “Marriage… declares… a partnership which already exists... We’ve been together long enough that I know that I love Leah…” Ah, but listen to the rest of what he says; this is the kicker. What is marriage, in fact, if it is not creating something new? It is, in Daniel’s words, “making a promise to Leah in front of friends and family to continually work on and nurture our relationship…”

Leah and Daniel understand that the work they engaged in before, does not end today. They make a public promise to nurture everyday what they began creating seven years ago. That, my friends, is the age-old lesson of the San-San-Kudo. That is the lesson of Leah and Daniel to all of us here today.