Article 23 : Vals Wedding
Hello. How are you doing? Been a strange year, hasn’t it? Sometimes it feels like time keeps moving on but life is standing still. The markers of the year such as weddings, birthdays, special celebrations even funerals, are not following the usual pattern. No doubt each one of us has a different story to tell. In the midst of it all, I can report one very happy chapter. Imagine this:-
The Te Deum by Charpentier emits from the cool interiors of Crossthwaite Parish Church, Keswick. Through the beautiful stone archway laced above with lilac celebration blooms walk the happy couple. Masked guests begin to emerge to a hot summer’s day - except it is late September, but should have been June. Despite my sister’s meticulous planning, viruses seem to adhere less to the rules than DC. Personally I breathe a sigh of relief. I had not fluffed my reading. MB had not trodden on Valerie’s dress as he promenaded her up the aisle. Sadly, our true father-of-the-bride had long since departed us and her son is marooned in Covid America. MB made a worthy substitute, looking as handsome as the day he waited for me at the altar 45 years ago! Only a last minute reprieve saved me from being ‘The best woman’, as uniquely we had a different best man for the wedding as for the reception, due to shielding. Guests had gone from 70 to none to 12 to 30 making planning a challenge.
My sister Valerie and my new brother-in-law Alvin, met at college in the 60’s, but their lives moved in different directions. Some years ago they bumped in to each other again in Keswick, as Val headed across the car park to the surgery where she is a Podiatrist and Alvin was heading back to the car with his invalid wife. Fast forward three years. Sadly Judith had passed away and ‘keeping-in-touch’ had moved on, (or back) to a more romantic phase. But more than partners in love, they were partners ‘in Christ’. I remember the exact spot on Latrigg Fell many years back now, where I said to Val, ‘I don’t have anything else to offer, Val, only God loves you’. Thankfully she began to return slowly to the faith that had first awakened at a Billy Graham crusade and to extract herself from her current relationship. The God she had side-lined had not side-lined her. Alvin too had had a resurgence of Faith, and it was my privilege to witness his confirmation the Sunday before their wedding. This was no ‘faith of convenience’ as despite living a long way apart initially, they were sharing the same bible reading notes and talking endlessly about what plan God might have for them as a couple. Both 70, understandably things moved quickly and a June wedding was in the diary.
Then Covid19. I have only admiration for my sister. It was not long since MB and I had stood outside her premises looking at the pile of hard-won equipment from her podiatry business piled up out of her flood-ruined surgery, wondering how she could possibly come through this. But come she did. Despite mounting financial pressures, family problems and desperation to retire, here she stood now, a radiant bride. Alvin had a first marriage of 44 years before Judith passed away, his faithful character evident also in the time he had put his architect business aside to nurse her in her final year. What a lovely man he is too; full of fun, knowledgeable and interesting and a lover of the fells. I can only say thank God for mobile phones, WhatsApp and free minutes or their communication costs would be a challenge, even to Rishi Sunak!
A masked wedding has none of the frivolity of a masqued ball. With a core of 12, we waited in trepidation that we ourselves might end up in lockdown and that restrictions may change even that reduced number. As it was we were able to expand to 30, just before numbers reduced to 15 the following week. There were some precious missing guests, however, we swapped a sodden day of rain in June for a weekend of sunshine and blue skies, mountains shimmering in a late Indian summer. Weddings have been very different affairs under Covid19. My nephew and his partner sent us a hilarious picture of themselves ten minutes before a wedding, with PJ bottoms but wedding gear tops, only to follow this with a picture of a computer screen and two glasses of Prosecco! Zoom on! Many couples have faced similar difficulties, often choosing to postpone altogether.
I am sure our experiences this year will have varied immeasurably. Trying to work at home perhaps while caring for home-schooling children, loss of jobs, births, deaths – more free time, less free time. Every one of us has a different story to tell. My sister’s wedding tale is a happy one of God’s provision through it all, of finding the good in the gloom while keeping steady to life’s course. MB and I love the line of the song that goes, ‘Won’t it be strange to be 70, sitting on a bench like bookends’. Don’t think there will be much sitting like bookends for this 70 year old couple currently on honeymoon hiking round Skye together!