John and Sandy
“You are home, john. we are home” -Sandy
There are two words that can send me into a philosophically emotional meltdown: What If?
This seemingly simple question sends my brain down the path of either mere curiosity about my life if even one, tiny choice had been made differently; or lead me to a place of questioning reality, the meaning of human existence and the complexity of connections. (In other words, don't bring up this topic if you want to have a quick conversation!)
“What If” can be a question that leads to regret and longing, or possibly to the realization that something really incredible in your life could have never happened if you hadn’t made that one, tiny choice.
When I first met John and Sandy, which happened to be six days before I officiated their wedding, I was struck by the fact that their love for each other was so present. At age 69 and 63, both have lived through different relationships, joys, heartbreaks and love. Their love for each other didn't diminish or erase any of those experiences: if anything it gave them even more evidence that their love for each other was real and true.
One of the beautiful things about love is that it doesn't have a timeline. There isn't a requirement to know another person for a certain amount of years before you are able to love them. Love can happen in a swift moment. Love can happen anywhere.
Even at McDonalds, which is where Sandy and John’s love story began.
Sandy has lived in Northeast Minneapolis her whole life, and still calls her childhood house “home”. John, on the other hand, joined the NE community 35 years ago after living in the south (Louisiana/Texas) and migrating north after his years in the military.
John and Sandy met at the neighborhood McDonalds. Rumor has it that Sandy asked John to a movie in January of this year (John claims Sandy “hit on him”, which is met by very adamant denial on her part). One of the managers of McDonalds, who also attended the couple’s wedding, shared that John and Sandy were regulars at the restaurant, and the staff couldn't help but notice when the two started coming and going together.
In John’s words:
“We fell in love before we became friends. Communication and love are the key”.
So, how did I come to meet John and Sandy? And how in the world did I have the privilege of officiating at their wedding?
Enter their beautiful, giving, kind-hearted neighbor and friend: Dorothy.
Dorothy is unlike anyone I have ever met. We know each other through years of attending the same church, and similar departures due to personal reasons. We have experienced love and loss, and have both made active choices to not have our ability to show up and love others be tainted by the pain of past relationships. Dorothy has made her family that much bigger through adoption, as well as welcoming countless people from the community into her home.
When I received a facebook message from Dorothy requesting me to officiate, I automatically said yes. I love Dorothy, and if Dorothy loves John and Sandy, that means that I will love John and Sandy. Here is what she wrote:
“Hey Katie- I'm hosting a wedding between my 63 year old and 69 year old neighbors on 9/8/18 at my house. Would you be interested in serving as a JP for them or know someone who might? It's going to be an awesome fun and simple event.”
So, what was this fun and simple event like? The wedding was set to be in Dorothy’s backyard. Rain or shine, this celebration was going to happen. Thankfully, the weather was picture perfect. Dorothy, along with the help of her kids, neighbors and an assortment of other wonderful people, set up the backyard seating for the ceremony (some people brought their own lawn chairs). The ceremony was to commence in front of Dorothy’s lovely waterfall fountain. Kids were bouncing on the trampoline in the background. The number of attendees was unknown, and that was ok. The wedding reception was going to be catered by the most AMAZING Minnesota potluck imaginable (I am still dreaming of the pasta salad).
The variety of people that showed up to celebrate with John and Sandy was the most authentic and lovely experience I have ever had at a wedding: from McDonalds, to the neighborhood gas station; From families they met at church, to their neighbors across the street. The one word I choose to explain the congregation is different: different ethnicities, different lifestyles; different religions, different backgrounds. What wasn't different was the common love and support given to the beautiful bride and groom. This was authentic love. This is genuine human connection. It is a beautiful thing when “differences” aren't the deciding force of a community, but the common love and support of others is a uniting experience. What we had in common was greater than our differences.
This was authentic love. This is genuine human connection.
During the ceremony, I asked the congregation to share words of encouragement to John and Sandy. We spent the next 15 minutes hearing stories, blessings and voices of those who love this couple. This experience hit an emotional bone I didn't realize I had.
I then asked John and Sandy to share a few words to each other before they exchanged rings and promised their love. The phrases that impacted me most was when John said, with a choked up voice, “I will love you for a thousand years”. Sandy replied, “You are home. We are home”. By two shaky fingers, they held each other. The moment then came for me to pronounce them husband and wife, and ask John to kiss his bride.
The last portion of the ceremony was “Jumping the Broom”. Dorothy helped me research the meaning behind this tradition, and what we learned was heartbreaking, as well as beautiful.
Jumping the broom is an African American tradition. Slaves in this country were not allowed to marry, so they would jump over a broom as a way to represent unity. Today it represents great joy, amidst past sorrow.
As Sandy and John stepped over the broom (Sandy had recently experienced a knee injury, so we decided “jumping” might be a bit hazardous), they physically and spiritually cross the threshold into their new life together. This broom symbolizes sweeping away the old, and welcoming the new.