August 2011

I have had a number of requests from people asking for a copy of my wedding speech to Greg and Liz. I am a little reluctant; blogs can quite easily become an exercise in vanity and self-promotion as it is, and I do not want to feed that monster. But I can’t remember all those who asked, and don’t have addresses for others, so please forgive the following post and feel free to ignore it if you didn’t ask and have no interest. For those of who who already think my egotism knows no bounds; relax. My wife hasn’t finished with me yet (see below).

I want to thank you all for coming. It is nice to see so many friends and relatives here from Calgary, Hamilton, Toronto and London. The prize for having travelled the greatest distance goes to my cousin Rosalind who came all the way from England to attend our daughter’s wedding. Thank you Ros for that.

This is the moment when the parents of the bride welcome the husband of the bride into the family and give him some warm parental advice about the woman he has married and about marriage in general. After 33 years, I think we can say that we have learned a few things about the institution of marriage; although not as much as some of you. In fact there is one couple here who just last month celebrated 60 years of marriage. We would like to acknowledge Lil and Stuart McLellan for their faithfulness to each other for so many years. They got married when they were twelve, that’s why they look so young.

We are here this evening to wish Greg and Liz all the best as they embark upon marriage. Marriage, as those of us who have been at it for a while, has a transforming effect on a person. None of us are the same for having lived with another person and been shaped by the person we have lived with. That isn’t always a pleasant process, if we are honest. Change is never easy, and changing who you are is the hardest change of all. Helen Rowland, an American writer and humourist, said that “marriage is the operation by which a women’s vanity and a man’s egotism are removed without the benefit of anaesthetic.” It can be a painful business.

It is also a necessary one. For none of us enter a marriage being the kind of person who is ready to endure a marriage. All of us need to learn, some more slowly than others, that marriage is not a union of equals, but rather a union of unequals. You will find that both of you are unequal to the task of building a lasting relationship with each other; that is why it will take both of you, learning from each other, leaning on each other, supporting each other if you are to succeed. Do not run from the struggles of marriage: embrace them; grow in them; draw nearer to each other through them. The Lord who made you both and drew you together had a purpose in doing so. He wanted to make you into the kind of person that would be a blessing not only to the person you married, but to everyone around you as well. It will take Him a lifetime, but if you are willing and patient, and above all forgiving, He will make your marriage a blessing to you both and to all who are touched by your lives.

Now to the business at hand. Greg, we are supposed to say a few things to you about the woman you have married. We want you know before we start that we have given careful consideration to what we are about to say, and have thought through all the important variables. We know that we need to be careful, because you are not only younger and stronger and very much quicker than we are, so we want to be careful on that score. But even more importantly because we know that you are going to speak next, and there is no rebuttal round in wedding speeches.

And the first thing we want to warn you about is that Liz has remarkable powers of smell. One time at a church yard sale Pam bought some things for Liz that other families had donated to raise money. When Pam got them home Liz held one of the dresses up to her nose and said, “This one smells like the Starkey’s.” Picking up another one she said, “and this one smells like the Lancaster’s.” So if you ever get a notion to go fooling around she is going to know about it the minute you walk in the door.

I also want to say that I am grateful that I never taught you. You see I taught in St. Thomas, which is very small town. I used to like that when Liz was little, because everybody knew me. I’d walk down the street and every kid of school age would know who I was. It would be Mr. Wise this and Mr. Wise that. It was very nice. Then Liz got to the age when she started dating some of these guys I taught. This made it a little complicated. Especially as Liz seemed to have some kind of radar or closed circuit TV or something. There was a time there for while that it seemed like every time I had to speak to some boy in class about misbehaving, or send him down to the office, he’d show up that night at our door saying he had a date with Liz. It would always be, “Whoa, Mr. Wise, didn’t know you lived here. Hey Dude, is Liz home?” I never knew whether to let him in or give him a detention. So I am grateful that I never had to go through that with you, and I know that Liz is grateful as well, aren’t you sweetie?

So this leads us to the next bit of advice we want to give you about our daughter. Liz is more faithful to her friends than anyone we know. In fact I would be willing to bet there is not a single one of Liz’s boyfriends who would not on this day be willing to come to her wedding and wish you the best. That is the way she treats her friends. I know her friend Chonie would say the same thing. You see Chonie wanted to go out west, to Calgary, to look after horses. So Liz went with her, even though she knew next to nothing about horses, because that is what friends do. I want you know that Pam and I pleaded with her not to go. She went anyway. And look at how that turned out for her.

So we just want to say publically “Honey, we were wrong, and you were right. And we’ve got that written down here, so we won’t forget it.” You know Pam and I were scared sick for her when she left all by herself in that little Pontiac Sunfire, her stuff piled in the trunk and the backseat so high you couldn’t even see Liz behind the wheel. And I know too that the first winter in Calgary was awfully rough; it was bitter hard. But she stuck it out, and that is another thing you need to know about her. She is one determined young lady, and she won’t give up just because things get tough. I think you know that about her already.

It is important to know, because as happy as this day is for both of you, you must know that things are going to get tough. Ask anyone out here who has stuck by their spouse through thick and thin and they will tell you that the difference between making it as a married couple or ending up in divorce or separation is sometimes just the ornery stubborn cussedness of not letting go of the other. Don’t let go of her, Greg. If we know anything about our daughter it is this: she won’t let go of you. Tough it out; forgive and forget. You have thought carefully about this marriage; you have considered all the angles. The best part of you knows that this is the best decision you will ever make. Don’t forget that when the hard times come. When they do, remember who you are, remember who she is. Remember the promises you have made to each other this day. See the best in each other, and learn to forget the rest.

Finally; Listen to each other. Especially listen to the things the other doesn’t say, but yearns for. Liz you listen to the things that Greg needs from you, and will have trouble saying: he needs your respect above all; he needs your consideration; he needs your tenderness. And Greg you need to listen to what Liz needs from you. I wish I could give you a list: but I don’t know what is on that list. Men are a lot alike; we are simple creatures and the list is pretty short. Women are all different, and they are far from simple. So I can’t tell you what Liz needs, and here is the hard part. A lot of the time, she won’t know either, but she will be counting on you to figure it out, and provide it. I wish you all the best with that!

Marriage has been designed by God to call us out of ourselves and teach us to love what is different. Being bound together in a marriage, sharing our homes, our things, our beds, even our bodies, forces us to respect and appreciate someone who is radically different from who we are. We need to be called out of ourselves because in truth we are incomplete. Marriage shows us that we are not all there is; it calls us to yield to the other, to make room for another, and by doing so find happiness, joy and fulfilment. God never promised us a life free of trouble, but He did promise to be there in the midst of it to help us if we called upon Him. Make room for Him in your marriage, and it will be His great delight to bless you.

And now the toast; Greg, Pam and I most gladly welcome you into our family as our son in law, and we wish you and Liz all the happiness that a loving God will give, all the joy that your experiences will bring you, and all the satisfaction that you will find in knowing that in all the craziness of this life, the two of you have found the one you want to share this crazy life with: to Greg and Liz.

All good things must come to an end, and this week has been a very good thing indeed. From the arrival of all the guests and the wedding party to the final goodbyes, this wedding has been an event of great joy. Sunday was one of those days that you have the morning after Christmas; everyone is relaxed and happy; you go through some of the presents and eat leftover turkey for breakfast. I have always liked those rare moments, and Sunday was one of those days.

We got Dave, Greg and Liz from the hotel around 11ish, a little tired, but not much the worse for wear. Dave and I did some post-wedding errands while Pam and the newlyweds came back to Al and Shelley’s. Joe and Aunt Jane, along with daughters Tessa and Sarah Jane showed up, as did Greg’s folks Vern and Holly. Dave and I got back in time for a lunch that Ros had whipped up: kashmiri pulao to go with some leftover chicken and salmon from the open house and the last of the cupcakes washed down with a lonely looking bottle of champagne. It was a happy little meal.

Greg and Liz opened their gifts while we ate and chatted about the wedding and the lovely opportunity it was to visit with family and friends. “The sun poured in like butterscotch” from the patio while we shared happy moments from the past week. After many hugs Jane and Joe had to leave for Toronto with Tessa and Sarah Jane, and then shortly after it was Dave and Amanda’s turn to catch a ride to the airport for their flight to Calgary; Dave with Liz’s guitar in tow. While Pam was doing that airport run Kim and Larry dropped by for a visit and stayed long enough to give us a chance to get caught up on their lives. Early in the morning I gave Greg and Liz a ride to the airport so they could catch the first of their flights to Hawaii. Hugging Liz goodbye was again a moment of sweet, almost unbearable joy. It was such a beautiful wedding and Liz looked so lovely and acted with such loving grace to all who attended her wedding that it quite overwhelmed me.

Then it was back to the house for a wee kip before beginning our last long goodbye to my cousin Ros. We wanted to show her a bit of the beauty of this corner of the world, so we took her south through St. Thomas where we used to live and then along Highway 3, past Aylmer and Simcoe before ending up in Fort Erie and the start of the Niagara River. I always like to approach the Falls from this direction; it is a lovely drive and there is a growing sense of anticipation that is not diminished in the least by the eventual sight of Niagara itself. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Falls, and after drinking in the sights – including a double rainbow over the river – we wandered our way down to Niagara on the Lake for a cup of tea. It was great to have this last day with Ros, who travelled a great distance to be at our daughter’s wedding. We had sun practically the entire day and very little traffic as we made our way to Toronto airport and Ros’ flight back to England. After a final few hugs to end a very special and happy visit we were on our way back to London to wrap up our own time in Canada.

Before we leave the subject of our daughter’s wedding, a few thank yous are in order. First of all to the many guests who came from London, Calgary, Toronto, Hamilton and even England to attend our daughter’s wedding to her fine new husband Greg. You have honoured us with your presence, and delighted us with your company. Thanks to Al and Shelley, whose generous loan of not only their home in London, but also their apartment in Toronto for our family’s use this past week was a gift of immeasurable value. We simply could not have managed so many wedding guests with such ease and comfort without your help. Shelley, you did all that you could to see that this week worked out well for our daughter and Greg and their wedding party, and we are so very grateful.

We also need to thank Randy and Sylvia for the use of their ‘granny suite’ for Pam’s lengthy stay in Canada this time and for all of Syl’s help on the wedding planning and arrangements. Thanks too goes to Jenelle for scanning some last minute pictures for the slide show, Jesse for moving the slides into Movie Maker and burning the DVDs and Jeremy for the loan of one of his guitars. We also want to thank Ben and Abi, our dear grandchildren for their part in the wedding as ring bearer and flower girl, and Nicole for getting the children performance ready for their big entrance. They looked great and acted adorably.

We want to thank the bridesmaids, Amanda, Chonie and Stacy for all their help in planning and preparation for the wedding, and Liz’s friend Amy for getting the girl’s hair and makeup done. Thanks to our son Dave and Greg’s best man Taylor and Chad who were willing to do whatever we asked in moving stuff in and out of cars to the venue. Culinary Caterers also get a mention for being helpful in the setup and take down of the hall, as does my old friend Pete Howard of RPM Sound in St. Thomas.

But the biggest thanks of all go to Greg and Liz themselves who worked so hard for so many months to make this wedding a gift of love to their family and friends. Everything they did was intended to make this special day as warm and intimate a family event as could be arranged, and they succeeded so well. So many things could have been so much easier if Liz and Greg had been willing to simply throw money at the problem and let someone else solve it. But they didn’t want their wedding to be a financial burden on anyone, and undertook to do many things themselves that another couple would have paid someone else to do. All the features of the wedding and the reception were chosen to give people an opportunity to enjoy themselves as naturally as possible. The result was a wedding of really touching warmth and sincerity, the glow of which is going to linger in our hearts for years. Thank you so much for such a unique and genuinely meaningful day. May your marriage be as meaningful as as full of happiness and you have sought to give to others on your wedding day.

“I was speechless.” It is a term you hear often; usually from people who just won’t shut up about whatever it was that happened. I am rarely speechless; for teachers that is an understandable occupational hazard. Voluble, garrulous, talkative, and verbose: I have been called all these things, and they are all unfortunately rather more true of me than I would care to admit. But last night, dancing with my daughter, I was truly speechless. I couldn’t even manage, “You look beautiful tonight.” I couldn’t manage a word. It was like I had been transported to another planet where speech was redundant. I wanted to just soak in every glance, every smile, every gesture, and speech would have been an interruption.

The whole day was like that: it was one happy moment after the other. From walking down the aisle to wishing them well as they waltzed out the door it was all so wonderful. Liz seemed to know exactly what she wanted the venue and the day to look like. She wanted an outdoor wedding, and chose the old courthouse in London, trusting that the day would be fine. It was, despite the fact that a hurricane was at that moment lashing the east coast of America. Liz superintended the decorating of the hall until it shone with a warm lustre. The caterer, who does hundreds of weddings, said she had never seen the place look so radiant. The wedding party arrived exactly on time and the grandchildren, Ben and Abi, performed their respective roles with admirable poise. Liz was serenely gorgeous in her ivory gown with burgundy flowers, drawing audible gasps of admiration as she walked down the aisle. Greg began to wilt a little as his said his vows; more due to the heat than nerves, but the minister smoothed things over with a touch of humour in his lyrical Irish brogue. But Liz brought everyone to the edge of tears with her heartfelt and moving declaration to Greg. Passersby were crying on the sidewalk as she voiced her vows from her heart.

A time of pictures and visiting with friends followed. My cousin Ros got to meet many of her Canadian relatives and my brother Wyn showed up to express his best wishes to Liz and Greg. Lil and Stewart, fresh from their own 60th wedding anniversary were there, along with her daughter Sandra, Pam’s cousin and oldest friend. My oldest friend John was there with Bonnie, his wife of nearly forty years, and of course many of Vern and Holly’s families. Then there were all of Greg and Liz’s friends, obviously a younger generation, along with the sons and daughters of the families. It was great mix of people, all united by our common bond of affection for Greg and Liz.

To get the couple to kiss at the reception, couples had to kiss themselves. However they kissed, that was how Greg and Liz would kiss. Pam’s nephew Jesse Carter and his girlfriend Sarah stole the show by kissing while Jesse did a handstand. Not to be outdone, Greg did exactly the same. They also provided one of the highlights of the evening by doing a Johnny Cash and June Carter song “Long-Legged Guitar-Picking Man,” on guitars, soon to go viral when I get back to KL and upload it on Youtube. It was utterly charming.

They were many other highlights as well: Liz’s friend Chonie singing “Fire and Rain,” a song she had learned a scant 20 minutes earlier as I walked her through the lyrics; Greg dancing with his father Vern; our son Dave dancing with Greg’s mother, Holly; speeches that were meaningful and humorous. But above all it was Greg and Liz’s clear delight in their relationship with each other, and their desire to make of their wedding a gift of joy to all that family and friends. And it was so abundantly that; a day of such kind consideration and happiness and that will shine in all of our hearts for a long time to come.

Tomorrow at some ungodly hour Greg and Liz will arise to begin a long series of flights to their honeymoon destination in Hawaii. We wish them every happiness as they begin what everyone hopes will be a long and blessed marriage. If any couple deserves such happiness it is these two, who have sought for and laboured to bring about such joy in the lives of all who were fortunate enough to have been present at their wedding. God bless you both.

You will forgive the brevity of this post. I do promise a longer one as soon as the dust has settled. It is yet early Sunday morning, Pam and Ros and I are just sitting and chatting about yesterday’s events. It was a wonderful wedding, filled with touching moments. Liz and Greg did a fantastic job of making their family and friends feel like they were part of something very special, warm and joyous. All of us are still glowing with the memory of it. It will be another busy day today getting everyone back on to planes and back to their lives. There are tuxedos and boxes of rental frames and centrepieces to return, so I can’t indulge in a longer post at the moment. But it was a lovely ceremony and a wonderful celebration and I will treasure certain moments of that day as long as I live.

Back around Christmas my cousin Rosalind found me on Facebook. What a delight it was to be in touch with her after so many years. This past summer Pam and I had the opportunity to visit with her in Kent, in the south of England, where she was kind enough to take us on a tour of the beautiful English countryside in her part of the world. Yesterday she arrived in Canada in order to attend our daughter’s wedding on Saturday.

Meeting Ros at the airport was no trouble at all. I even got to experience the famous East Coast earthquake while sitting beside a glass wall that was doing the wobbly while I was sipping my tea. Earthquakes of five and six are pretty common in KL; I think we have been through three or four in our time there, so I wasn’t terribly concerned, and I think most people at the airport weren’t even aware that it was going on. My waitress, who hadn’t noticed a thing, assured me that I simply had a wobbly table. Of course, dear. And I wouldn’t know the difference, would I?

After a little trouble finding the car we were on our way to the Skydome, and Al and Shelley’s apartment nearby where Ros would be staying for a few days. We negotiated the many layers of parking lot security and found our way to a lovely little apartment, decorated in Shelley’s tasteful style. I got caught up on the earthquake “disaster” gripping Washington while Ros freshened up, then we did a little tour of the downtown to allow Ros to get her bearings before parking in the Eaton’s Centre. A short walk brought us to Nathan Phillip’s Square where we witnessed the outpouring of love and grief for Jack Layton who had just passed away two days ago. To read the many expressions of appreciation from people from all walks of life was both touching and telling. Jack – which is the way most Canadians thought of him – was a rare politician who never lost sight of the plight of ordinary people, and never stopped giving them the encouragement of hope and optimism about the future. He was a unique individual, and he will be sorely missed.

Ros and I had a lovely Chinese meal at one of the few remaining restaurants of what used to be a thriving Chinatown on Dundas before heading back to the car and the apartment. I opted for the 403 going home as the 401 is just one long construction site at the moment. For me it had been a long day, and I will admit I needed a short kip in Brantford before getting back to London around midnight. The ladies were still up and chatting by the pool, so I just slipped quietly up to bed without interrupting them. This morning Liz’ fiance Greg arrived from Calgary, so the folks are gathering, and there is going to be a wedding soon!

Today we picked up Liz from London airport, dress in hand, at the end of an overnight flight from Calgary, along with her friend and maid-of-honour Amanda. We understand that they did not get a lot of sleep on the plane and have gone to bed for a few hours before we begin what is going to be a full week meetings with caterers, disc jockeys, photographers and the like. Our friends Al and Shelley have allowed us the use of their home for the preparations for the wedding for which we are most grateful. I finally got a decent night’s sleep for which I am most grateful.

It is hard to describe what we are feeling at the moment; so many conflicting emotions of joy and anticipation, excitement and concern. The fact that we are able to be here is a great delight; to see our daughter and listen to her planning all the details of her wedding a great joy. Life can be so pleasant at times. We are looking forward to a great week of family being together. We will keep you posted as best as we are able of the coming few days.

I love flying. I don’t love waiting in airports to catch flights, or waiting to go through customs or waiting in line at washrooms, or waiting for luggage. No, what I love is looking down at the earth from 30 thousand feet. I always get a window seat if I can, and if the sky is clear I spend all my time watching the earth below. I have seen the peaks of the Himalayas, the sands of the Sahara, and the sparkling waters of Lake Victoria shimmering in the moonlight in the midst of the deep threatening jungle of the Congo . I have flown over the near endless tundra of the far north and traced the patterns of the icepacks around the Pole. I have been fortunate to have seen this and much more.

And the conclusion of all of this is? God is beautiful! Only a Being of near infinite beauty could have created such beauty ‘in His image.’ From the air the earth is wondrously beautiful; the sunsets are spectacular, the vistas breathtaking. Why is it we are so blind, so dull of sense that we cannot see His boundless beauty in the things He has made? Only our pettiness and our vanity keeps us from acknowledging He has truly ‘made all things well.’

The other conclusion that can be drawn from these views is that the activity of man is really in sum a paltry thing. For all our billions we don’t occupy a tenth of the landmass of the earth, and virtually none of the vast oceans. We think we are so important, that what we do has such an impact? We are fleas on an elephant, my friend. From 30 thousand feet you can hardly see us at all.

My employer, Taylor’s College, is kind enough to fly the Canadian staff home once a year. This year I delayed my going home to coincide with my daughter’s wedding, coming up next weekend. This means that I haven’t seen my family for nearly 14 months. In the interim my oldest son and his wife have had a third child, a girl whom they named Elisa Grace. Today my wife and I travelled the hour to their place for a visit. It was a truly joyous occasion, saddened partially by my son’s horrible accident that has left him with a broken leg and a painful 12 months of physiotherapy to recover its use. Such joy and hardship are part of our lives here on this earth. Our preoccupation with these things can leave us little time to contemplate the One who created and placed us here. Which is perhaps why I like flying so much.

Congratulations and all our love as you enter “The Thirties”. Looking forward to seeing you in just over a week.

We love you and are incredibly proud of the young man that you have become.

Owning a car has opened up a whole new world for me; an easier one, for the most part. Groceries are certainly less of a hassle with a car, as is going to church. Traffic is going to be a problem, but I am hoping I don’t have to do too much driving during the rush hours of the day. But owning a car has also meant that I got my first parking ticket in Malaysia. Honestly officer, I did try to park legally, but the machine was broken and I couldn’t find another that worked. But then, it is hard to argue with a broken machine. So I got a ticket. For 80 ringgit (about $25).

Fair enough, I thought. That is just the price of learning where to park, now how do I pay it. Turns out that isn’t hard, you just go to the fancy building in the next sub-division and pay it there. In fact there is even a discount on tickets if you pay on Friday. So I drove out to the very fancy parking ticket building and found a place to park about a block away that looked like it might be legal and strolled back to the building where I took a number and sat down to wait.

But I didn’t have to wait any time at all before my number came up and I went forward to deal with a very pleasant young lady who spoke perfect English. She informed me that I was not entitled to the Friday discount because I was not a Muslim, but there was a discount for paying in person within 15 days. Not only that, but there was a special promotion on right now and my 80 ringgit ticket would only cost me 10 ringgit (about $3). I can’t even park for 10 ringgit, so that seemed like an exceptionally good deal to me.

Parking is definitely going to be an ongoing problem in KL. There are lots of cars, and very few parking spaces. In fact as I walked out of the parking building I was greeted by the parking lot featuring cars that were double-parked while their owners went in to pay their tickets. You just have to laugh!

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