Our Family Tree’s roots were watered well by the western ocean this past weekend. Nothing like people of the rich and fertile Illinois farmland getting their feet shaken, not stirred in the ice-cold Pacific. It was lovely. It was tender and gregarious. It felt so much like home ~ even there.
Cousin Lisa married Brent in Santa Barbara and as many as could gathered round them to celebrate. Lisa is Mom’s younger brother, Tom’s youngest daughter (I’d say she’s my favorite ~ and she is ~ just like all my cousins are).
Lisa stood so tall and strong, confident and sure, blessed and a blessing to us all. She was right where she wanted to be ~ and many of her kin were right there with her to bear witness to the moment.
She and Brent invited me to “call on the saints” for my part in the service. We’d spoken on the phone a couple weeks before so that I could “meet” Brent and we could talk about what they wanted said in that part of the ceremony. It was my first time talking with him and he generously told me of his family tree. Brent tenderly spoke of his father who had died a few years ago. He described his father as being independent and compassionate, a strong man of humor and faith. He said his dad was a piano player who could never quite master his favorite tune, “The Maple Leaf Rag.” (You’ve gotta love a guy who never gives up…) And Brent asked me to speak of his dad’s undying love for his wife, Marie.
Half of Lisa’s kin are also mine, so it was a challenging task to choose which one to be her witness. I thought about Bobbee and Granddaddy, the grands we shared who gathered us around family tables, taught us to play cards and called most every Sunday evening to check-in. I thought about Lisa’s other grandmother, Martha who taught her of generosity and love of story.
When it was all said and done, I chose my Mom, Lisa’s Aunt Barb. Mom’s been gone 8 years this past week and would so, so, so have wanted to be there with Lisa and Brent for their big day. As it turns out, perhaps she was. When the pictures were being taken outside the church before the ceremony, a butterfly kept dancing from one shoulder to the next. Somehow everyone knew that Aunt Barb had joined them.
The music started and my two handsome cousins, Chuck and Thomas escorted Aunt Cynthia down the aisle, followed by Lisa's three nieces Erika, Kate and Maddy (one in grad school and the other two toddling), followed next by her sisters, Julie and Karen and finally my Uncle Tom walking so proudly with his youngest daughter on his arm. I didn’t stop crying until we were on our way to the reception at the beach. Even the Santa Ana winds couldn’t weary our spirits. It was truly a day of celebration. Family and friends encircled Brent and Lisa and love was in the air.
Our family tree expanded her branches and welcomed in another this past weekend. I took this picture of the California sunrise on the morning Claud, Bets, Linda and I headed back to Atlanta. Morning Had Broken and Aunt Barb would have just loved it.
Working as a Hospice Chaplain, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.