Last Saturday Aileen and I watched as some friends of ours were married. First was a beautiful ceremony at a historic Baptist church in the heart of the city and this was followed by a lengthy, enjoyable reception at a nearby reception hall. We enjoyed ourselves a lot and rejoice with our friends, praying for God’s blessing on their new marriage.
As I was sitting in the church and as I sat at the reception, eating great food, talking to friends, listening to speeches and just looking around and observing, I began to think back to other weddings I’ve been to. I saw that there have been phases in my life—different ways I’ve enjoyed wedding ceremonies.
Before I was married, I would attend wedding ceremonies and think about my own future wedding. Even before I knew Aileen and had a real ceremony in mind, I would look at the bride and groom and transport myself into the future, just wondering what it would be like to stand up there and to be the one marrying that beautiful bride. What does a groom feel? What would my bride look like? When would my time come?
After my own marriage, weddings became an occasion to reminisce about my own wedding ceremony, now an event in the past. I would sit with Aileen beside me and remember how I felt when I saw her standing in the back of the church and how I felt as I kissed her for the first time as husband and wife. I would feel again those swells of emotion as I remembered that momentous day. And what a day it was.
But now something has changed. Perhaps I am getting old; perhaps life has changed me; probably both. As I watched Alicia walk to the front of the church on the arm of her father and as I saw Nick’s face change as he gazed upon his bride (he later confessed, in a most unromantic way, that he was so excited he almost threw up when he saw her); as I heard Nick’s mother say, “It seems like only yesterday” and as Alicia’s father proclaimed his affection for his daughter and his regard for his new son; as Nick’s brother shared stories from Nick’s childhood and as Alicia’s sister shared memories from their younger years; as Nick and Alicia sang a first song (in place of dancing a first dance); as I observed all of these things, my mind was drawn to my own children, and to my daughters in particular.
My wedding is now ten years in the past. While it remains the best day of my life, already the memories are growing hazy. Once again I am gazing forward rather than backwards. I am gazing to the future and seeing myself not as the groom, but as the father, the man who will stand at the front proclaiming “I do,” not as the man receiving the bride but as the one giving her to another. And it’s almost too much to take. The words, “it seems like yesterday,” haunt me. My daughters are five and two, my son eight. There are so many wasted yesterdays that have already gone by and there are only so many tomorrows left. When it is my turn to give that speech, when I look at my daughter sitting beside her new husband or my son beside his new bride, will I think back to all those yesterdays with fondness, knowing that they were used to the fullest extent? Or will I, like so many fathers, look back with regret at day after wasted yesterday?
May God grant grace…