In high school my best friend and I were often referred to together. As in, “Are Pete and T. J. coming to the party?” or “Someone ate all the vegan brownies. Go find Pete and T. J.” Some of our friends got so used to saying our names together they would accidentally call us by the Spoonerism, “Teet and P. J.” Pete is still my closest friend, so I know very well what it means to have that lifelong connection to someone. Which is why I look to this coming weekend with such sadness and understanding.
I am departing shortly to travel to the continent to perform a friend’s wedding. Performing a wedding for a friend is one of the great sacred honors I know. I do not undertake it lightly. In fact, I regularly “lose business”when couples choose other people to perform their wedding who do not require the amount of preparation and pre-marriage work I require. But this couple was game for the months of work and sharing, so I agreed. But there will be someone missing this weekend.
I have known the groom of this wedding for more than a decade. We met on a ski trip with some friends and became close. A group of us used to spend holidays, vacations, and other times together. And through all those times, maybe more than my high school friends referred to my best friend and me, our whole group referred to the groom and his best childhood friend as a pair. They seemed inseparable. They navigated together the storms of so many of life’s challenges. But some of those challenges our friend suffered overcame him, and his life ended as a result.
The rupture that has come with losing our friend comes up here and there for us. And the experience of preparing for this momentous and sacred time, knowing our friend will not be physically present at the groom’s side feels awful. But in preparing for the weekend, contemplating the bare space alongside the groom’s shoulder where our friend should be, I am reminded of what a little brother knew of loss and of grief:
These are the words Bobby Kennedy shared after announcing that Dr. King had been killed. And his own experience with loss shines through in his choice to speak these words. And in them I see the wisdom of a world that knew crushing pain. Yet in these words I see a world that watched this groom find the soul he will now join to his own. And I will watch with awe as hands that hold wisdom enfold one another, as arms that carried an awful weight rise again to hold one another, and as cheeks streaked drop by drop are kissed at last by the very face of the Divine.
And may it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.