By Gregory Wolfe
The following remarks were given by the author at his daughter’s wedding this past weekend.
For Barry and Helena Wolfe-Blevins.
When the father of the bride steps up to say a few words at the wedding reception, his remarks typically have a certain amount of—what should I call it?—leverage, given the sizeable contribution that’s been made to the wedding budget.
But in this case, Helena and Barry have done such a wonderful job of making this a simple, modest, beautiful event, put together largely by friends and family, that I find myself without much leverage at all….
Still, I do feel it important to say that as parents your mother and I are very concerned and protective, so we just want to go on the record that if you ever, ever do anything at all to hurt our dearly beloved Barry, there will be hell to pay, Helena.
At your mother’s and my wedding reception I said a few words, too, attempting to balance idealism with a little realism. Knowing that we were both strong-willed types, I said that our marriage presented a situation rather like that old logical conundrum—what happens when an irresistible force meets an immoveable object?
I don’t think we’ve ever solved that puzzle, but at least the space-time continuum hasn’t been destroyed.
But when I think about you two in this regard I don’t see a problem. Because when you come barreling down the pike as the irresistible force, Helena, I think Barry’s already demonstrated a remarkable capacity for just leaning back slightly and letting you go hurtling past.
Seriously, we love Barry’s inner calm, his deep, sincere kindness, and his ability to see the good in every situation. We couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law.
OK. I’ll stop teasing you now, Helena. You know how proud and happy your mother and I are to be here to celebrate your marriage to Barry. Our hearts are light—in the sense that all joy represents a lightness of being.
We know you’ve had your share of trials and tribulations but we’ve always felt that your greatest gift was, in fact, a capacity for joy—for the lightness of soul that wants to ascend.
Another way of putting it is that the theme of your life seems to have been defying gravity. Ever since you were tiny, you’ve sought to fling yourself up into the air, again and again and again.
That’s what made you such a terrific gymnast. I remember watching you on the balance beam once: you were so determined and confident and beautiful in the way you leapt and twirled and spun that my breath caught in my throat.
I felt the same way when you switched to diving and went tumbling through the air with the greatest of ease. And now you seem to love nothing better than scampering up to the top of mountains, as if to lessen the distance between yourself and the great sky above.
(I might add here that your desire for lightness may also explain why for so many years you seemed to want to go without underwear, shedding it at every opportunity. Helena, you were the original poster child for going commando….)
Anyway, I hope and pray that your marriage continues this theme of defying gravity.
As you’ve probably heard by now, you can’t look for salvation in your spouse; you can only look for a friend and lover who can help you accompany you on your pilgrimage through life. Or, to use a gymnastics metaphor, you and Barry can spot one another as you leap up to swing around and around on those uneven bars.
Our prayer for the two of you is that you never stop longing for the infinite sky. To long for the infinite is not to deny human limitation, but to express what is most deeply human in all of us. Never stop kicking gravity’s ass.
So our prayer is that your life together is long and happy and fruitful, a blessing to yourselves, your children, and the world around you, so that one day, a very, very long time from now, you will be filled with the joy of a life well lived and find yourself ready, once and for all, to blast off into the heavens above.
Gregory Wolfe is the founder and editor of Image. He serves as Writer in Residence and Director of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program at Seattle Pacific University. In 2013 he launched a literary imprint, Slant, through Wipf & Stock Publishers. Wolfe’s most recent book is Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age.