I do not like weddings.
Weddings make me cry.
The moment the bride and bride’s father walk into the ceremony room in the town hall or church, the music in the background, the view of the two people. One is excited with some fear of the future. Uncertain how life will pan out but overjoyed about the marriage itself; a claim of true independence and grown-up status as a Mrs. The other, holding the hand of his dearest girl, thinking of how much he wishes her to have the happiest marriage and life ahead, despite knowing that there are turmoils in every family. He wants, his darling girl, to know her dad loves her no matter where her new life leads to. She is always his darling little angel. He is both sad and happy on her wedding day. Their facial expressions, their gestures, the way their eyes sparkle, the music, the atmosphere, maybe some factors that have not come to my realisation; I cry, helplessly, among the English in England, where we as a nation are supposed to have stiff upper lips. I usually blame the music to others for my eccentrically emotional behavior. However, I doubt either they or me really believe that is the only reason.
Then come the readings, exchanging of vows, blessings and so on. The traditional wedding vow of the bride contains the phrase “obey you”. Nowadays, we often eliminate that and keep the better part of the sentence for a non-religious wedding: I promise to love, honour and cherish you for all the days of my life. For a Church of England wedding, here is a detailed writing on the wedding vows, blessings and others. One reading of a wedding in London some years ago that I found very beautifully touching and befitting our modern world:
Marriage requires devotion, the ability to listen, the wisdom to know when you are wrong and the humility to be able to put things right. It means making a commitment for life. It calls for trust, understanding and encouragement, a willingness to accept each other for who you are, and the courage to grow, and change together, through the years to come. Above all, it requires unquestioning love. Our wish for you is that you always treat each other as unique individuals, and respect each other’s ideas, suggestions and traditions. To remind yourselves often, of what brought you here, together, today and that these celebrations are just the start of a lifetime of precious memories.
A few years ago, I was at a funeral of a family member. Unfortunately, this family member passed away before he and I could spend much time together. That acute feeling of loss of him compounded with the bottomless emptiness of losing all the chances of knowing more about him directly rather than through others’ memories kicked me badly. I cried. More so than anyone else; probably far too much beyond what was socially appropriate. The music was again blamed. It was the Jerusalem hymn based on William Blake’s poem. From then on, I always thought if any actor has difficulty of shedding tears genuinely in a scene, he could try to sing this hymn silently to himself. Tears are guaranteed to be abundant. This hymn could perhaps also be prescribed to anyone who suffer from dry eye symptoms.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold!
Bring me my Arrows of desire!
Bring me my Spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,
‘till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
Vows and epitaphs are the roses of the English language. I love them and hate them with equal intensity.
In one of the cemeteries I frequent, I found these beautiful writings. I cannot find words sufficient to describe how deep an impression these words made on me and the imagination of the lives once lived triggered by these epitaphs (whether original or quoted). However few words are inscribed on the tombstone, I am reminded the magnificence of the English language. Standing in the graveyard, a museum of people once lived and who left their marks on many generations to come, I am also reminded of the triviality of myself and the unworthiness of the many earthly pursuits of the human. I recommend anyone who thinks there is more value in shopping on Fifth Avenue than giving the homeless guy a hug to visit a cemetery nearby and read the epitaphs.
Smile, I am still with you
In the faces of my children and grandchildren
In the beauty of my favorite flowers
In the laughters of a joke I would have loved
In the places we visited together
In the everyday memories we made together
Although I no longer live among you
I will forever live within you
When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown,
we must believe that one of two things will happen.
There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.
– Patrick Overton
How many items in an art or history museum can you identify that are not related to love, hatred, mortality or life that are also the key threads of weddings and funerals? Just to leave you with this question. I initially titled this short article, Museums, Weddings and Funerals. By now, it is wise to write about Museums as a separate topic later. If you know I walked straight from my bedroom to my home office very early morning, have been writing this and another article untill now, you would want to drag me out of my cave to have a little fresh air and welcome a new weekend day although it is the afternoon already. A cup of tea would be very lovely.