My husband’s youngest brother got married this weekend. It was a wonderful wedding. When they asked me to give a toast at the rehearsal dinner, I really wanted to say no. Not because I don’t love them, but because the last two wedding toasts I’ve given have been complete disasters. (Lessons learned: Don’t get drunk and start blubbering about the bride’s estranged father. And if you bother writing anything at all, you should revise it… mercilessly.)
Writing a wedding toast is a lot of pressure. I wanted to write something funny, sweet, moving, and wise… This is what I came up with:
As the last person to willingly join this crazy clan, I think Jeff and Erica thought I should be the one to welcome Erica into this slightly loopy, yet very cool family.
Tonight I want to tell you two short stories that I think say so much about these two quality individuals. They’re both stories that illustrate the reasons I think they’ll make an outstanding husband and wife team. And both, interestingly (and as it turns out–importantly) enough, take place during times of grief and loss.
The first takes place in 2009. I remember standing in Eric’s childhood bedroom, suitcase splayed open on the bed, staring into space. Jeff came in, arms reaching out. “Can I help you unpack?” he asked. I looked down at the dress I was holding in my hand. When you’re in the fog of grief, the simplest tasks can be so difficult. I heard myself saying that I wanted to hang up my clothes, but the hangers in the closet were dusty from months of disuse. Without a word, a few moments later, Jeff returned, damp paper towels in hand. And he began taking the hangers out of the closet, one by one.
It sounds ridiculous now, but I feel like watching Jeff chat quietly with my husband that day while carefully wiping each hanger in the closet, I somehow glimpsed into his soul. And what I saw was someone with a gentle kindness and a keen thoughtfulness.
As for Erica, my story about her also springs from a time of grief. I don’t remember the first time I met Erica, but I do remember when I realized that I really, really liked her. It was in the weeks after Larry, Jeff’s father, passed. There were a lot of things to do, tasks big and small. Over and over again I heard Erica speak up, saying, “I’ll do it. I’ll do that.” It wasn’t long after that that I turned to Eric and said, “Jeff is fool if he doesn’t marry her.” As it turned out, not only is Erica beautiful, funny, and smart, but she also has a kind and generous spirit.
I have little doubt that the two of you will be able to create a fantastic marriage. For you clearly share so many of the same qualities. You are bighearted, loyal and generous to friends and family, and you both take fun and laughter incredibly seriously.
And why bring up these moments of grief at such a happy time? Why a reminder that your paths will surely include moments of loss? Because loss is a part of love.
I read the following on one of my favorite blogs, and they seemed like wise words to pass on today:
So please join me in raising your glass to Jeff and Erica. May you make each other better lovers, and may you make the most of every moment of being loved.