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September 15, 2011: Celebrating Life

When we first got the invitation about a month ago, we didn’t know if we would be able to go. It was the wedding of a daughter of close friends and an event that we would never, ever have missed back in the BC (before cancer) days. But of course, the life where we were in total control (or thought we were) has changed. “We’ll try” is the best RSVP we can give right now and then see how Stella is feeling on the day of an event.

But we really wanted to go to the wedding. And we put it on the calendar, knowing that it would be during a “good” week so chances were high that we would be able to attend. Still, the plan was to go for the wedding ceremony itself, maybe the first dance, and then get home early so we could at least say we were there and wished the Bride and Groom a hearty “Mazel Tov.”

We stayed until the band stopped playing.

We stayed until they cleaned up the desserts.

We stayed until we were so tired it was hard to drive home.

Watching the wedding ceremony made me think back 20 years ago to when we were first married. I guess we were too young to really know anything about life — except that we wanted to live it together. Now to watch two young people begin this amazing journey while sitting next to my bride of two decades was very special.

At Jewish weddings the men and women dance separately with a barrier set up through the dance floor. The women dance in some type of organized form (at least that’s what I’m told.) For the men, “dancing” means lots of running in circles, jumping up and down, and knocking into your friends. All to loud music. It’s a bit like Australian Rules Football without the ball.

A single dance can go on for over an hour. Bit by bit, those who are not either close family members, soldiers, drunk, or marathon runners fade to the sidelines to watch the mayhem while the rest continue running, jumping, and bouncing until everyone sweats through their nice pressed shirts and formerly clean jackets (would it really be wrong to wear my running gear to a wedding?)

But the main element of a Jewish wedding dance is the emotion. The joy you feel for the couple comes right from the heart. It is the highest high you can feel. It is such a strong, overwhelming feeling that you can actually feel like crying.

Now I consider myself somewhat of an expert in crying these days. I have become very familiar with the times when you feel like you will drown yourself because no matter how many tissues you keep in your car, shtender, or pocket, you never have enough. When the terrible feelings of despair that you keep safely locked away in your chest make a break out and temporarily take over your mind and body, you become a dripping mess.

But tears at a wedding are the opposite. They come from feelings of love, not fear, and you don’t mind at all when they stage a take over.

At one time, I peeked through the mechitza to watch Stella dancing. And the sight of the big smile on her face did more for me than anything else could ever do. How absolutely lucky we were that we could be present that night and at least for a few hours, forget our troubles and just rejoice with the happy couple and their family. To be in a huge room full of love, and joy, and happiness — as they say in the commercial…. priceless.

In a few days we will have yet another chemo treatment. And we will have a miserable week, we already know that. And there will be more after that, with scans and blood tests, and other forms of treatment that don’t always feel so nice. I know that in the car or at shul or wherever, my fear will visit again and try to overwhelm me.

But being part of things like our friend’s wedding are truly what life is all about. And we will continue to put things on our calendar and hope that there will be many, many more occasions where we can go and cry tears of joy… together.

As always, thanks for listening.

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