Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I Hope You Dance

My feet are killing me, but it was worth it. Worth the Dance, that is. Sunday afternoon I went to the wedding of a dear friend’s youngest daughter. First of all let me say that Orthodox weddings are amazing… full of sacrament and mystery. The bride and groom wear crowns, symbolizing the little kingdom that their home will be, and also the martyrdom of their lives for one another. The priest, bride and groom, and their sponsors actually hold hands and dance around a table in front of the altar at one point, as the choir sings, “Dance, Isaiah, Dance!” It’s all there—joy and communion and sacrament and beauty and hopefulness.

Later at the reception there’s dancing of a different kind. A band plays favorites, old and new, and the pretty young lead singer is soulful and smooth on the ballads and bumps it up a notch on the fast numbers. The dance floor is hopping all evening, with celebrants of all ages enjoying the new couple’s party. Our table is right next to the dance floor, which is a great vantage point for watching … which I plan to do, at least for a while. And then I see her. My dear 85-year-old Greek friend, sitting directly across the table from me, pointing to me and then to herself, and indicating that she wants to dance by shimmying her shoulders to the beat of the music. There’s a twinkle in her eye, even though this really isn’t a good day for her. She has late-stage cancer. I thought she’d had her last dance at her grandson’s wedding. I point to myself and over the loud strains of music I mouth the word, “me?” She nods and I’m up and helping her to the dance floor, fearing that she might even fall down if I don’t hold on tight enough.

But she’ll have none of that … after a few minutes of hand-holding she breaks free and moves to the beat with joy and abandon. A few others join us and we’ve got a line going. Then I’m spinning her and we’re laughing and suddenly I’m remembering years of priceless conversations I’ve had with this amazing woman, my unofficial “Yia Yia.” Times when I was down about something in life that I thought was unfair or just too hard. Her words are flowing into my ears, even above the music. Words about always be thankful and trusting God to take care of you and accepting whatever life gives you with joy.

The dance floor is crowded now, with young friends of the bride and groom and baby boomers who never quit dancing, and an old friend from Mississippi pulls my twenty-four-year-old daughter out on the floor with us and my joy grows. I look at her, my baby who is now a beautiful grown woman, pursuing her dream in grad school for architecture, and I remember the time I gave her a book with a CD inside the cover. The book was an illustrated version of Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Dance.” As I look at my daughter, Lee Ann’s words override the band’s music, seeping through the pores of my heart:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance....i hope you dance.
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances but they’re worth takin’,
Lovin’ might be a mistake but its worth makin’,
Don’t let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin’ out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance....i hope you dance.
I hope you dance....i hope you dance.

Stay with me as I go back to the Orthodox Church for a minute and remember the services we just had for the Feast of the Mother of God’s Dormition… her death. Just five days before this couple’s wedding, a burial bier with an icon of the Mother of God had stood on the very spot where the bride and groom would be married. It’s the same canopied bier that is used during Holy Week when we sing the lamentations on Holy Friday. “Every generation to the tomb comes bringing dear Christ its dirge of praises….”

Every generation. They’re all here at the wedding feast. Singing “God grant you many years” to the bride and groom and then dancing together with joy. My four-year-old Goddaughter, Sophie, finds me and joins the dance, and I spin her round and round with five-year-old Mary, for whom I am unofficial “Yia Yia,” and the circle is complete. Well, almost. My sons are off serving in the Army and Air Force and can’t be with us this time. But I find my husband, sharing a glass of wine with friends who have come from as far away as California for the wedding, and we share a toast to “every generation” and he takes me home, with my shoes in my hands.

Later we look at pictures from our own wedding, thirty seven years ago, and smile because the father of today’s bride was one of our groomsmen… in 1970. You know, when you "stand up" for someone (serve as a bridesmaid or groomsman) at their wedding, it's supposed to mean something more than getting dressed up and posing for photographs. It's supposed to mean that you pledge to be there for them, to support them in their marriage. We're still together... thanks in a big part to friends who stand by us. So now I'm thinking about other weddings... weddings where I stood up for someone and promised to be there for them. I've kept up with most of them, but to my shame, not all. Maybe I'll look up the ones I've lost touch with. What would I say if I found them?

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance....

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