It was a subtle refrain, stuck in the niche of my brain.
Ohhhhh, the rains fell down and the floods came up
The rains fell down and the floods came up
The rains fell down and the floods came up…
The rains fell, and we had a flood of mud and muck, and yes – a huge tree branch fell, and someone received minor injuries, and the winds were incredible and it turned out we were experiencing the remnants of a tropical storm.
My daughter, Sarah, married her best friend, Max. And oh, what a day it was!
We started early; Sarah threw together some delicious things in the kitchen for something that resembled breakfast. Most of the females left the house, headed for hair appointments; two of the bridesmaids who were also responsible for the incredibly beautiful floral arrangements and decor stayed behind to work out their creative juices.
Everything ran late, of course. We were scrambling at the last minute to get the photographer in place, to get the pictures she wanted, to get the right undergarments….
Meanwhile, the guests were arriving. It was hot, but there was no rain in sight – and we were grateful.
When she was ready, I left my mother-in-law’s house and walked to our backyard. I grabbed a bottle of water and got in line, with the rest of the family, for our processional. Someone stage-whispered, “Beth! BETH! Where are the flowers? For the flower girl?”
I didn’t know, but I figured I could find something. I scrambled up the back deck stairs into the kitchen; I found two bags of beautiful rose petals. Somebody said, “Use this!” – and we crammed the petals into a gold-plated thing with a handle and I ran back out the door.
I left my phone behind, so I took no pictures. I focused on being present, being in the moment; and it was exquisite.
We walked in, the extraneous parts of this new family formation. On the arm of my son, I walked towards the front and sat down. The men came in, and the pastor – my brother – stood beside his soon-to-be brother-in-law. I smiled to myself as I looked at Max, looking slightly nervous – which was more nervous than I’d ever seen him. He counted the people; I watched as his eyes roamed over the crowd, his lips moving – and smiling from time to time. I supposed he saw people he loved in the crowd and hoped that it made him happy.
The bridesmaids came in, one by one; they represented such a powerful thing in Sarah’s life, these women who knew her from different seasons. Girls from Savannah; former roommates and friends who’d shared important parts of these last few years. Christine and Kristen, the other two thirds of a trio of love and affection that winds from Ohio to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Indiana; girls who have partnered in life with Sarah for almost 15 years.
And then the maid and matron of honor, the sisters of the bride. They were both trembling with anticipation – what I recognized as the prelude to some serious tears.
The song began – a guitar and the voice of a friend and groomsmen – and we waited. I watched my brother, who knew to give me the look, that thing we know how to do as worship leaders when it’s time for the pastor to make his move. It’s subtle; a slight nod, a downward shift of the eyes…and it made me smile.
Eric gave me the look, and I performed that one motion of leadership that the Mother of the Bride gets to do; I stood and turned, so our friends and family would do the same, and I saw my daughter, on the arm of her father. She stopped as she reached the back row, and my father joined his first-born grandchild to escort her down the final part of her journey as a single girl.
He was crying.
They reached the front row, and Dad kissed her through his tears, and I took his hand as he turned to take his seat with Mom. Sarah and Lonnie moved up the small hill to Eric, and Max, and everybody was beaming.
There was a prayer, and a worship song, and the giving away – but the moment that opened the door to the incredible emotional connections present in this sacred ceremony was when my brother, the pastor, looked at his niece, the bride, and said,
I lost it right there, and Eric was choked up, and I heard sniffles all around. In that moment, the power of love and family and presence rose up in a tangible wave of purpose, like God himself saying This is what you are called to, when I call you to be my people. The long line of love, of connection, of truly knowing someone in a way you can only embrace when you’ve been part of a life for its entire length.
When Eric turned to Max, he said, “Max, I did NOT hold you on the day you were born”, and we all laughed, and then he continued to remark upon what he knew about this man my daughter loves.
And it was all good.
Another Erik, their pastor from City Church in Savannah, read scripture and shared encouraging words. Three men played music – best friends, brother-in-law, brothers in Christ.
They read their vows and they were raw and true and deeply personal and real. Their promises were to stay grounded in Christ. Max held her hand and looked in her eyes and made his promise, and when he finished he kept gazing at her and he leaned in to kiss her, because it was obvious – we all saw it – it was the right thing to do, but Eric jumped in and said, “No, no – not yet!” and we all laughed again.
But finally, they exchanged rings – a beautiful silver band for Sarah that Max bought at Hearne’s Jewelry Store in New Bern, which was founded by my grandfather and is, in fact, the source of Sarah’s middle name – and a band hand-crafted of wood by a North Carolinian craftsman for Max, which is what he wanted. Then they did kiss, and Jesús sang the song that made me cry every time I heard it, the song that seals their promise and lays open the truth of how hard it will be:
Hold on, darling – this body is yours
This body is yours and mine
Hold on, my darling –
This mess was yours
Now your mess is mine
How hard it will be, but how well worth it.
They walked down the aisle with joy, nearly floating, beaming. We finished the recessional stuff and took the pictures and moved into the reception time. I walked around, my heart bursting to see so many people who are so important to our lives.
My cousin Garth and Denise, who opened up the world to Sarah when she spent two summers with them as a nanny for their kids, who are now moving into adolescence themselves.
My cousin Drew and Victoria, with their miracle baby Elliot.
Max’s brothers and sister, his parents and his nieces and nephews – who have all expressed love and affection for Sarah that reassures and comforts me, as her family widens.
My brother-in-law – some might say ‘ex’, but I still claim him – Donnie and his son Brendan and daughter Abby, who drove clear from Texas to celebrate with us.
Debbie and Meredith, who worked alongside Sarah at Lands’ End and helped her grow in myriad ways.
Travis’s mom and dad, who’d spent a hot summer night in the back yard last year as we celebrated Shannon’s wedding to their son.
Sammy and Angie, whose influence on our entire family is immeasurable.
Leslie, who offers support in a way that only she and I understand when it comes to our kids.
Brian and Susan, whose friendship and partnership is stronger than I could have ever hoped for.
Lonnie, who smiled all night long.
Tony, who did whatever it took to make it all happen.
We ate – the Boka Tako truck came, and if you haven’t had their shrimp and grits tako, you haven’t lived. The Gelati Celesti truck came and the dessert was heavenly.
And the rains came, as I mentioned at the beginning of this long post. The rains came down and nothing went as planned from that point on. The toasts were interrupted; the sound system quit working. Torrential rains blew in sideways. A huge branch sheared off the tree that stood between the tent and our house; it clipped a friend on the foot and left a serious bruise. The ice cream truck got stuck in the mud.
But eventually the rains passed, and we plugged in somebody’s phone and turned the music back on, and they danced. The mud was deep around the dance floor, but they danced and danced and Sarah and Max smiled and laughed and enjoyed every minute.
They left, in a car that had been decorated and then washed clean by the storm. We waved goodbye as our sparklers faded out.
The rest of that song came back to me as well – not just the part about the rain. It says, “The wise man built his house upon the rock…and the house on the rock stood firm.”
That is EXACTLY what I believe we witnessed, in the unexpected events of June 20. It was a crazy night, and much of it didn’t go as planned; but Max and Sarah are on solid ground. Messy ground, sure – but solid. And theirs.
We’ll never forget it.
|At Ahead of Hair – the hoody worn by Christine, Kristen, and now the third and final bride.|
|Shannon gets her Boka on.|
|Miracle baby Elliot and my cousin, Drew.|
|A beautiful photo of my mom, Victoria and Elliot!|
|They served each other tacos.|
|My cousin, Garth, with his Uncle Clyde – my dad.|
|Beautiful – am I right?|
|He’s fit right in with the family since the beginning.|
|That’s a pouty duo.|
|Shannon, getting her WATERMELON on.|
|Eric and Levi, considering their tacos.|
|Love these guys – but check that photo bomb by the best wedding coordinator EVER!|
|Everyone in this photo is named Eric(k).
I’m not kidding.
Four of them were in the ceremony.
Is there such a thing as too many Eric(k)s?
|I just love taking pictures of this happy couple.|
|The bride and the photographer – friends from way back.|
|Travis playing a little John Mayer for the daddy/daughter dance. She changed into a reception dress made by my mom,
barefooted with bangles made by Susan Lloyd.
|He cleans up well!|
|Best man, maid and matron of honor – right before things fell apart.|
|Sweetheart table, with the sweethearts.|
|I think this was right about the time he had to reassure her that everything was going to be okay.
Even though trees were falling and rain was blowing sideways…
|Eli got some serious dancing in!|
|Eli, again – with Katie!|
|There were no lights…but there were toasts.|
|We held up our phones to illuminate Syd and Shannon’s speeches.|
|Meanwhile, Tony took care of business….with his chainsaw.|
|Justin. This guy was amazing.|
|Max’s nieces. Beautiful!|
|Invite Mathew O’Donnell to any party and he will Tear.Up.The.Dance.Floor|