After my father died a couple from one of his old congregations wrote wanting to share this story about the impact he had on their lives. Let's just call them Jack and Diane.. two American kids from the heartland..
They had been living together for about two years when they decided it was time to get married. The date was set. The reception was planned. The Tuxedos were rented. The gown was done. The flowers were ordered. The license was ready. But, at nearly the last minute the groom got a severe case of hypothermic feet.
At the request of the bride my father, who was to have performed the ceremony, went to their home to discuss the situation. Things were naturally strained so they loosened up over coffee and pie in the kitchen. My father didn't talk a lot. He sat mostly chewing the pie and sipping the coffee while the tension in the room continued to build. Finally the groom started coming forth with nervous excuses.
"I'm real sorry about the wedding and all man... it's just, not really my thing man, yanno the whole 'establishment' trip. I don't know I just can't get into it."
My father looked back at him and nodded. "Establishment."
The groom continued, "Yeah man, yanno, you get married and the next thing you know you buy a house and you have a mortgage and you're going to the PTA and... I think yanno, Diane really feels that way too cause we're like on the same frequency... this was just all about her parents yanno? Like... she wanted to like please them, cause like, yanno -- they're like into the whole establishment and religion 'thing'."
My father looked at Diane and asked her, "So, the dress, the flowers, the wedding -- that was just to please your parents?"
Of course, by this time, Diane was on the verge of tears anyway and she began to weep loudly. My father looked back at Jack and asked him, "Does she always cry like this when she's happy?"
Jack said, "Well yeah, she's upset. But, yanno, she like, wanted me to be the one to be the A-hole cause it's like HER parents man. Yanno she wanted to please them and all. She'll be ok."
My father got up from the table and walked into the living room of the small apartment -- he picked up an old LP off the shelf and brought it back to the table. The album cover was a picture of John Lennon.
My father looked at Jack and said, "Establishment?"
Jack didn't get it. He said. "Uh, yeah man, like we can spin that if you want -- I had no IDEA you were into this kind of music."
The parson shook his head no and then tapped on Lennon's face. "Is this guy establishment?"
Jack hemmed and hawed for a second. "Well, no man.. he's like totally not establishment, I mean -- you ever listened to that song 'Imagine'? I mean.. no offense and all, I know you're a man of God but -- he's like, bigger than Jesus."
My father then shot back at him. "It's funny you should mention Jesus. You know -- he wasn't married?"
Jack said, "Well yeah man... that's what I mean, right there, like if Jesus didn't get married,"
Interrupting my father pushed the album over directly in front of Jack, "John got married to Yoko in March of 1969." He paused and waited; "Do you love Diane?"
Jack said that at this point he felt like his head was going to explode. Tears were starting to form in his eyes and they burned in his throat as he tried to choke them back. In a shaken, softer voice, he said.. "Yeah man... I love her more than I love myself. She's everything man. She's everything."
It was a small kitchen, in a small apartment, and it was a yet smaller table. But, Diane said that it seemed like a thousand miles across at the time. The old man leaned forward in his chair and in his low, priestly voice said,
"If you want to share with me the real reason you don't want to get married I'll listen son. Or if you prefer I can leave the room and you and Diane can work it out. But, young man, you're about to lose 'everything' if you don't do 'something' pretty damn fast."
Jack put his face in his hands and wept hard. It was the first time he had since he was a young boy. He cried. Diane cried. Time passed. My dad sat and sniffled a bit but remained silent. Finally Diane gathered her voice and in an almost inaudible whisper eeked out,
"I don't want to lose you Jack. I don't want to push you into anything.."
But Jack interrupted. "It's not that baby, I'm just scared. I can't explain it."
Diane asked him, "of what? Scared of ME?"
"No baby, it's not that, it's hard.. It's just hard." he said in-between sobs. "I don't want to be the one to let you down. Yanno my parents never got it together man." He said weeping. "And, mom... she would date men after dad was gone and they'd hang around a while and they'd be gone, and then she got married again, and then he was gone, and then she got married again and he was gone.. and it just hurt her so much, and me, every time I got attached to somebody they were gone -- and I don't want to be like that to you -- or our kids if we have any. I just don't want to be like that -- I'm just afraid that I'm not good enough. I don't know how to be good."
They sat a while longer until Diane went over to Jack and embraced him. They both cried for a while longer. When it seemed like the time was appropriate for words my father asked Jack,
"Do you want to spend your life with Diane?"
He said, "Yeah, I do."
"You want to take care of her?"
"Yeah" he said still holding her in his arms weeping. " I do man. I want to."
"Haven't you been taking care of her for two years Jack?"
"He has.." she interrupted
"You two been faithful to each other?"
"Yes." they both said.
My father then pulled the license from his jacket pocket and an ink pen and signed it. "As far as I'm concerned Jack you and Diane are already married. You've already been living the definition of it. Probably doing a better job than half the old married couples in my church. You know the scarecrow didn't really need a diploma -- he was plenty smart without it." He laid the license in front of them..."It's up to you now Jack, but, I don't think there's anything to be afraid of anymore. You two don't have to get married -- but if you really want to take care of Diane -- you need to be. That's how to be good. That's HOW to take care of her. All you have to do is take this back to the courthouse. "
"That's it man? You mean we're like married just like that?" Jack asked perplexed.
"Well we can still have the big wedding if you two want... ", Said dad, "but, You're married Jack. You already were all along. How does it feel?"
"It feels a lot better than being scared man." he said. "It feels good. And I am gonna love this woman forever."
"Well then," dad gathered himself together, "we'll see you at the church."
We keep hearing that same-sex unions are going to 'erode the meaning of marriage' and examples are cited from Scandinavia, which doesn't have same-sex marriage by the way -- but a type of civil union, as an example of the dread that awaits any nation that might bless same sex unions. What keeps getting ignored about that example (aside from a really poorly defined experiment -- one can discover that 100 percent of people who acquire the habit of eating also die but that doesn't show correlation much less causality) is that the trend was away from marriage before civil unions for same-sex couples was authorized there.
In order for same-sex unions to have an effect on marriage in this country, or any other, it would mean that if we asked a couple why they weren't getting married they would have to respond -- "Well, it's because gays can get married -- so, we're just not going to."
It would mean that when a couple got divorced the predominant answer why would have to be -- "Well, we just decided we couldn't keep it together because homosexuals are getting married."
The definition of marriage only exists between the couple that gets married. At best it exists individually in the minds of each one who aspires toward marriage. Surely there are millions of couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, out there who are not married but are already living the definition of marriage. Is it necessarily a bad thing if the definition of 'family' is expanded to include 'any definition anyone wants'?
What is the continued relevancy of marriage, religious or civil?
[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (03-21-2004 12:32 AM).]