‘Shut up,’ I explained.
I really WAS just about that rude when a good friend quoted one of his favorite scripture passages to me the other morning, as we gathered for coffee after Mass.
My friend knew of the joyful event that had occurred in our family over the weekend – the marriage of our daughter Ellen to the love of her life, Shane.
So he offered a congratulatory word from Sirach: ‘Giving your daughter in marriage ends a great task…’, he said to me with a smile.
And I replied – well, I’ve already told you that part.
I more or less said that I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to be consoled by a biblical proverb, no matter how wise. And I was (and am) only half-kidding.
Thing is, this is all very unfamiliar turf for me: Dealing with a heart that’s at once bursting with joy at a blessed union – and ripped in two by…what? The realization that something important had come to an end? That my life’s great task – this period of child-rearing – was officially complete?
As I’ve meditated on the many joyful moments of the past few days, it’s begun to dawn on me that these odd, exotic emotions are not simply about letting go.
In truth, our three adult children all flew the coop some time ago. They’re already making their way in the world – so the flood of feelings can’t accurately be attributed to a loss of paternal influence or control. That’s not the heart of the matter. That’s not what I’ve been wrestling with ever since I walked our daughter down the aisle on Saturday afternoon.
Rather, it’s something more like this: I knew in that blessed moment – in a way that had never before been quite so clear – just what a privilege it’s been…to be Ellen’s Daddy for all these years. All the beauty and love of her life came back to me in bunches, an overabundance of splendid moments and memories, all wrapped up and bunched together like the colorful blossoms of her bridal bouquet.
Not only has Ellen been a gift in my life, but my sons, too. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter. And my wife. Especially my wife. They have been my wedding feast vessels, lined up in a row: 20- and 30-gallon jugs all filled to the brim and pouring out the choicest wine – a lifetime’s bounty beyond my deepest desire.
This is the truth I experienced at the foot of the altar, as my daughter’s arm slipped from beneath my own…and then entwined with her beloved’s. It is a truth which moves me more toward ‘gratitude’ than any sense of paternal completion or accomplishment.
It is God’s light and love that dazzles me in the person of my daughter, the bride, in her husband Shane, and in the family and friends who surrounded them on their special day.
What a blessing to have had a front-row seat!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.
You still will always be dad. . .