The Same Old Rituals

blogXblessedXmotherI don’t deal well with excessive routine, particularly routine established for the convenience of others. When somebody starts ranting about how children need structure, I’m the gal in the back row muttering, “and they need regular, safe doses of freedom, a chance to land on their butts every once in a while, and the occasional pillow fight.”

When I was a child, people would tell me they enjoyed the beautiful ritual of the mass. As a child, crucifixes horrified me, and in Catholic churches, that image of awful torment dominates the ceremony–or it did for me. Ritual, I concluded at a young age, is over-rated.

And yet, I’m not young any longer.

blogXmotherXcatXandXkittensWe all know somebody who “held up wonderfully” in the face of a bereavement, until the actual graveside ceremony. Maybe we know a crusty old grandpa who got teary-eyed at a christening. 

And we know me, whose daughter gets married later today. 

In fact, Beloved Offspring got married at the courthouse back in November. She and her swain have been close for more than four years, and they have been through a lot together. They have a better chance of a successful relationship than most people.

blogXpupXandXmomXdogI had nothing to do with the courthouse wedding, but this time around, I’ll be there. I went flower shopping with my daughter, I’ve heard her gush about her dress. Not surprisingly to those of you who’ve been through weddings, I also started crying in the middle of the Mangelsen gallery at a photo of a mother polar bear and her cubs.

heather-graduates-croppedI also started crying before I left for the airport, when my Besom kitty kept trying to climb into my lap. 

And I’m sure I’ll need tissues during the wedding. 

This ritual–this danged, irrelevant ritual–is making me deal with the fact that after nearly thirty years, I will no longer be my daughter’s next of kin. I’m no longer her closest family, and her path is now diverging from mine in a new, albeit wonderful, way. 

I haven’t written many rituals into my books, but one scene stands out. Lady Eve and her ducal father are standing at the back of the church, and Eve is telling her father essentially that he’s done a good job, giveblogXeven her much love to draw on, and she’s all grown up now. The duke doesn’t know what to say or do or feel, because the moment is upon him to give his baby girl away. 

He makes it up that aisle, and so will I, figuratively and literally, because yes, much changes as a function of this wedding, but the love remains. The love will always, always remain. 

When has a ritual or ceremony hit you in an unexpected way? What’s your idea of a lovely ritual, or one you’ve seen go off the rails? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. 

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18 comments on “The Same Old Rituals

  1. Many happy wishes go to you and your daughter and your new son-in-law today. Hope it’s lovely and you have a pretty hankie handy!

    I have to confess, Grace, for many years, I was the one leading the rituals as a profession church musician. I can tell you stories about excesses that would make your hair curl or simplicity (and beauty) to drop your jaw……and I got to the point I just didn’t pay attention, I just sang or played or did what I was hired to do (and the pastor signed off on). Oh, I should mention, I am not *just* speaking of weddings but of funerals and christenings as well!

    I’ve sung at so so many funerals…and even though I don’t have a full time church position any longer, I do still get funeral calls. It’s easy to sing at a funeral if you don’t know the person or don’t know the person well.

    My Mother, who was an opera singer, passed away the summer of 2014. Her cancer reoccurred that January and she was at peace with it. A week or so after we got the news, she called me and told me to *listen up* because she wanted to tell me IN DETAIL what she wanted for her funeral service. She picked out the hymns and scripture readings (and I kept asking her with witnesses as her illness progress to make sure she still wanted these things). I asked if she wanted someone to sing (she had many students who could because I knew I couldn’t!)and she said, “no honey, I always hated singing at funerals and I don’t want to put someone through that.” I asked her if SHE wanted to sing at her own funeral…we could use one of her recordings and she LOVED the idea. We laughed and laughed at the irony!

    As my brother and I made the arrangements (Dad told me to do what Mom told me she wanted and gave me free reign, other than the eulogies)and I was fine; I was running on fumes. We had decided to use a recording of her singing “Romance” from the operetta, “Desert Song” and it would be played as her coffin was taken by the pallbearers to the hearse. I was fine through everything…..the wake and service…but when I heard her voice, I broke down. I sobbed and wouldn’t leave her coffin. My mother-in-law (since my husband and sons and brothers were the pallbearers)gently helped me “get a grip”…it was tougher than I imagined. I was the *pro* but at my own Mother’s funeral, I was a grieving daughter. It startled me.

    • Yeah… startled. Good word. I’d thought I had the mom/daughter thing in one bag, and then realized… well, no. I’m gaining a son-in-law but I’m also losing a daughter, to the extent that the identity of wife can and should take precedence over the identity of daughter.

      Ouch.

      As for watching your mother’s decline… that had to be so hard. And because you were the pro, everybody just let you handle the final arrangements. I can’t hear certain pieces of music without crying (“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth…” and that’s on a good day. To hear my mom singing them at her own funeral…

      Of course, you fell apart. Of course you did.

      • I get choked up SINGING “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth…” sometimes and it’s popular for funerals….but you wouldn’t be able to tell ’cause I’m a pro…I’m good by the time I get to “and though worms destroy this body…”! I also do “Pie Jesu” from the Faure “Requiem” and that’s easier (in many ways) to get through.

  2. My Grandmother died over 20 years ago. I remember the details of her funeral Mass very clearly. It was snowing, icy and I had another doctors appointment in Boston. UGH! I had been trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant for several years and this appointment was important. I remember sitting in the family pew when the priest mentioned that God closes one door and opens another. Everyone around me was crying. Four hours later, I got the call stating that I Was pregnant. I think it was a sign, a leasing from my Grandmother. Seven months later my daughter was born.

    My favorite Mass is Easter Mass — renewal.

    Congrats to your daughter and son in law.
    I wish them much happiness!

  3. 10 years ago this month, we buried my last grandparent. He was actually my mom’s step-father (married to her mother after my mom was already married) but the only grandfather I knew from my mom’s side. He was not a pleasant man to many and after my grandmother died, some 13 years before, he made my mom’s life a living nightmare. He always treated me with as much love and affection as he could. If I needed anything he was quick to see that I had it. I had many fond memories of him from my childhood,but at the age of 29 when he passed away, my feelings for him were clouded by the hell he had put my mom through and the stories I was told of the way he treated my grandmother.
    Anyway, his funeral was a small affair. Just me and Eric, my mom and dad and her brothers and their wives and children. I think there may have been one “friend” from church that came. As he was a veteran of WWII his graveside service consisted of the gun salute and flag folding. And even though he was not loved by very many people that whole ritual had me in tears.

    I grew up in the Lutheran church which has about as many rituals as the Catholic church. I now attend a very charismatic church that doesn’t have much in the way of rituals. There is a big part of me that doesn’t need those rituals and doesn’t miss them at all because I know that is not where my salvation comes from, but there is that small part of me that sometimes thinks back to those rituals and traditions of the church I grew up in and misses the comfort they sometimes brought.

    Congratulations to your daughter and her new husband. May they have many years of happiness together.

    • What an interesting story.

      I handle adult guardianship cases in situations were somebody who’s reached their legal majority (usually several times over), has lost or is losing their buttons, and they need somebody appointed by the court to tend to their affairs.

      Invariably, my clients are the sweetest, dearest, most lovely people… and a certain percentage of the time, they also have family that wants nothing to do with them. Some of these sweet, dear old codger and codgeresses were AWFUL people back in the day, to hear their next of kin tell it.

      I’m glad this guy was at least decent to you, and glad you’ve found a faith home that’s more what you need.

  4. Oh Grace, what a happy (and sad) time for you. But you are so right, the love will always remain. I hope you all have a beautiful day.

    As for structure and ritual – well, I think structure is important and ritual can be comforting. As a child I probably didn’t have enough structure in my family life. My father was alcoholic and my mother was depressed much of the time. So I found a great deal of comfort in my religion (Catholic) which was very structured. I can remember sitting in Church as a very young child (so tiny my feet didn’t reach he end of the seat) and feeling comforted just by the atmosphere and beauty of the place.

    Then too, remember this was the cold way era – I had other things to horrify me. I was sure that the Russians were going to drop the H-Bomb any day. There were even films showing us how we should get under our desk if the bomb dropped. Can you imagine? Even as a child, I knew that that desk and I were both going to be toast (or vapor) if that happened (smile).

    Well, I think I’ve gotten a little off topic here. Just want to also say that you are right – it is also important to learn to “step out of the box” sometimes too.

    • I didn’t really appreciate the Catholic approach to services until I’d spent time among the Mennonites. Their idea is to keep to a minimum of trappings–none of this stained glass, enormous organ pipes, marbles this, and gold-plated that.

      They prefer to put the effort and emphasis on the deeds, not the staging.

      That’s commendable, but when I walk into a pretty church that’s not as plain as the Anabaptist tradition prefers, I LIKE some of the trimmings. I like architecture that draws the eye and pleases the heart, I like stained glass.

      There’s probably a happy medium, but being raised Catholic was a good perspective to have, for me at least.

  5. How wonderful for your daughter and her husband! Congratulations to them and best wishes for many wonderful years together!

    I believe there is a time and place for ritual and other structure as well as a time and place to throw away all structure for some free play. But not everyone’s idea of tradition and ritual line up. Ironically, my daughter and I were talking (actually texting) about unexpected rituals today. She attended a church service with a friend where they were told love isn’t about feelings and marriage isn’t about love between the couple. There was much Amen-ing, Hallelujahs, and tears – she felt like crying but not for the reason the others did. It reminded me of the ‘traditional’ Christmas pageant a friend asked a group of us to attend while in high school. Let’s just say non of us were expecting so much hell fire and damnation in a Christmas pageant…. I had bruises on my arm where my friend grabbed me because she was so startled by some of the congregation participation.

  6. My wedding was not at all as I had imagined! It rained that day, I cried during the the last solo and final blessing (a photo of my groom and me-hanky to nose walking down aisle), and left my bouquet at the altar. 500 witnesses (guests)! Omens? My marriage wasn’t the best or worst; I will not elaborate out of respect for my deceased husband as he cannot defend himself. I have been a widow for a very rough decade.

    You, your daughter and son-in-law sound much better prepared for the happy event, and I would wish you all the best. I once read that these “old rituals” keep us going, especially the funeral service. However necessary they may be, they are only temporary

    Thank you so very much for your literary efforts. I’ve enjoyed your special “prose” and insight into relationships again and again and still have many more to read. As they said in the Regency era, you are a true original!

  7. Hmm… I haven’t been to a wedding lately. I have been to some funerals and visitations. I went to one funeral where they showed pictures on two flat screens. I was impressed by how much he loved his granddaughters. In the other funeral, they had a beautiful solo. I guess there can be beauty and joy even in a sad occasion.

  8. Loved the scene with Lady Eve and the Duke, just prior to the walk up the aisle, and it reminded me of my own chat with my dad, who surprised me by his insight and compassionate words…
    As for ritual, I grew up in a church that was a great, gothic building; the massive pipe organ would rumble the wooden floors, and I imagined it was the voice of God. Now that I am older, I absolutely love the outward symbols of glass and gilt and images that enhance my worship time…but I have found the same meaning and presence in an outdoor “chapel”…I guess I am thankful that my God meets me where, when and how I need Him!

  9. My youngest brother was a musician in a rock and roll band who died of heart failure at 35. There is nothing that prepares you for such a death as those of you who have had such an occurrence can attest. He left a wife and a 5 year old daughter. Because he and his wife were poor,she had to make the choice of cremation. My brother was working on his music degree from a local college and they graciously provided us with an auditorium for his memorial. The college jazz band played one of his compositions. Friends and family shared remembrances. At the end we all raised our voices and sang Amazing Grace. While everyone filed out, the jazz band played and his daughter whirled about dancing on the stage, too young to understand the farewell we gave her father. Though a prayer was spoken in opening and faith was a matter of fact in the sharing it was a most unusual time and unlike most rituals of death I’ve experienced.

  10. Thought provoking, Grace. I’m realizing lately how important rituals are to well, my comfort level. And there have been too few since I lost my parents who were the makers of ritual in my little family.(Your job is not done.) The DH cares none whatsoever for holidays special moments, crossings, etc so I’m learning to create my own, using seasons as my guide. In September I return to my cubby to write in my little writing retreat over-looking the bayou. In March, I pack up the retreat and head to the tub for morning writing time before work. At the end of the Summer I start planning a trip somewhere, Scotland, home to DC, a meet out with a friend. And there are the simple ones like waking at 5, saying good morning to the fluffy mutt and walking outside under the stars…thanks for the sweet post.

    • Ah, and I forgot since you mentioned it, one of the sweetest times was when I served as choir director for a tiny Catholic church. I believe that’s when I started recognizing the importance of a few rituals (one of the most heartwarming experiences ever
      .)