It was a raw afternoon, the hint of cold rain in the air. A perfect setting for a football game, hands wrapped around a cup of steaming hot chocolate, maybe spiked with a spirit, maybe topped with marshmallows. Hardly the perfect weather for an outdoor wedding. But this wasn’t an ordinary wedding, no, this one possessed a different energy; it was draped in pall of sadness, adorned with dignity and laced with poignancy. It is and will be the inspiration for many bittersweet smiles.
The couple approached me early summer about officiating their wedding, they set the date for the anniversary of the day they first met. They wanted a 70’s themed wedding, they wanted ‘Ozzy Osborne’ to officiate and they wished for a fun ceremony. When I let my hair down, don the right glasses and wear the proper costume, I resemble a younger Ozzy.
Two weeks later, the groom was diagnosed with brain cancer and given less than a year to live.
Through his deteriorating health the couple insisted that they wanted to go through with the ceremony. Practically, it made no sense, the bride would be taking on medical debt that she wasn’t on the hook for, but, this wasn’t about practicalities, this was about spirit, about the immortality of love.
With each passing week, one wondered if there would be a wedding, despite numerous medical procedures the cancer progressed. On a personal note, I pondered how to write something that would be lighthearted and not make a mockery of the situation. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t have problem being inappropriate in the appropriate situation, but this was one line I wouldn’t cross. For weeks I fretted about the ceremony, I even lied to the bride saying that I had the ceremony written, gift wrapped and topped with a bow. The truth was I was clueless what to do. It wasn’t till the Wednesday night before the ceremony that inspiration struck. Keeping within the theme and mindful not to go over the top, the muse gifted me a story told in the titles of 70’s songs.
In the mean time, other logistical challenges arose, the venue cancelled, so it was decided to hold the wedding at the bar. A second problem arose, the weather, minutes before the ceremony a cold November rain set in, it was decided in the interest of the groom to hold the ceremony inside. The only problem, it was the fourth quarter of a tight Griz/Cat football game. In our neck of the woods, it’s the biggest college football game of the year. I’m proud of the fans who didn’t mind the interruption. Grasping the gravity of the situation, not one left, opting to stay for the ceremony.
Unable to stand for any length of time, the groom, joined by his bride, sat a buddy bar tucked against the main bar, while I sat cross-legged on the bar and conducted the ceremony. Below is the reading – the story told by song titles.
Dream On, become Hot Blooded, get Saturday Night Fever and end up in Hotel California, the New Kid in Town playing That Funky Music with Fat Bottom Girls until the Levee Breaks, but Baba ORielly, One of These Nights, After The Thrill is Gone, you could be in Bad Company, listening to the Piano Man sipping Captain Jack wishing you were Kung Fu Fighting. It’s a Rock and Roll Fantasy, Rollin’ Down The Highway in a Chevy Van caught in a Bohemian Rhapsody. But when The Wheel in the Sky pokes through Smoke on the Water, The Dream Police appear and Draw the Line.
Imagine, like Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, A Blue Collar Man and a Killer Queen, a real Brick House, enjoying American Pie and Sweet Jane. Babe, she says, my Superstar, Child in Time, Take Me Home Tonight, be my Dream Weaver, Take it to the Limit.
Then You Fooled around and Fell in Love. Hush, Highway Star, ‘cause as every Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman knows, Love Hurts. After Communication Breakdown(s), my 19th Nervous Breakdown, through Good Times, Bad Times, I’ve learned to be Cruel to be Kind. Sweet Emotion, it’s Dog and Butterfly, it’s The Stairway to Heaven, but in The Long Run, We Are Family.
Easy, ‘cause All Along the Watchtower, before the Jailbreak and The Boys are back in town, Come Sail Away, Walk this Way with a Lady, sip a Tequila Sunrise and enjoy a Peaceful, Easy Feeling, and savor the Best of Times.
On a Saturday in December, we’ll be gathering in the same spot, to celebrate the life of the groom. Two days after the wedding, he entered hospice, a week later, his bride was widowed. I get the feeling that even death doesn’t do them part.