In 1982 Karen and I were expecting our second child. Unfortunately during labor, a short while before she was born, her heart stopped beating. The hardest part about that time was explaining to an expectant 5 year old Justin that his baby sister (who he had named Little-By-One) would not be coming home- that, and the feeling that my daughter had somehow chosen not to be born. Whether something was incorrect with the body we had made for her or our relationship was somehow unprepared, at the last moment she backed out as if to say “no, not yet.”. It didn’t make rational sense, but the feeling persisted for years.
We tried again in and in 1985 our beautiful son Morgan was born, literally kicking and screaming. He was and has always been a joy. But the space left by my missing daughter persisted. Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt that she was still poised there, waiting to be born.
One night, four years later, I we decided to try again. I think the conversation went something like…
INTERIOR SCENE BEDROOM NIGHT
RON: “Hey, wanna make a baby?”
INTERIOR SCENE BEDROOM MORNING
RON: “Whoa, what were we thinking?”
I am sure in retrospect that Galen was hovering just on the other side at precisely the correct moment of ovulation urging us to let her through. That is just her style you know; persistence coupled with excellent timing. Even if it may not seem excellent at the time, it has always turned out to be right.
So, some 7 years (almost to the day) following the birth of Little-By-One, Galen Kahlyl Heacock was born, in a cooled down hot-tub, in Marquam Oregon. This may have influenced her propensity for baths (sometimes several a day as a young girl).
I do not have any proof that soul had almost been born in 1982 and then, through some change or maturing process decided that the time was finally right to take the female form in 1989. But, the feeling that I was waiting for her all that time suddenly and completely evaporated.
Fast forward twenty years.
Lest you think that twenty years is not old enough for the inexperienced to even contemplate, let alone enter into the long term and complex contract of marriage, let me assure you that as young as they are Galen and Steven have worked at preparing their relationship for several years. They have lived together here at the farm and alone in their own home in Murfreesboro. They have had their trials, experienced separation and the effects of then trying to live apart. I have watched them. And remember that Galen has excellent timing- even if it may take a while to recognize how perfect it really is. I believe they have a better chance of success than most.
I have some experience along these lines.
I picked up Galen’s mom hitchhiking, almost 35 years ago. We knew each other for three months before we were married. Though this unique fact has been used against me in the decades between, I can tell you that Steven and Galen possess the keys to make the contract work:
- Knowing when to give in (for the greater good).
- And the almost obsessive and most important trait of all- never, never, never giving up.
And even so, they will need your help.
I have a friend, Mikhael Yowe, who recently graduated from Goddard College with his Independent BA. As a senior thesis project he created a guide to rites of passage called The Core Ritual. His postulate was that our society (and in fact most modern societies) do not include complete rites of passage. Through his research he determined that an effective and complete rite includes 1) Separation; The removal of the candidate from their current social standing, 2) Transition; the process of initiation usually accomplished through some personal challenge or trial, and 3) Reintroduction; the process of welcoming and re-integrating the initiated back into the community.
I asked Mikhael about marriage as a rite of passage. He explained that our society’s current marriage ritual lacks the reintroduction phase. The married couple is not welcomed back into the culture at large with the confirmed intent of bringing them back into the fold (as it were) of the greater community to which they now belong.
I have understandably spent a good deal of time lately wondering about the ritual of marriage. And I think this is why we traditionally assemble a large group of our closest friends and family to witness and celebrate the largely symbolic connecting of two people into the union of marriage.
And it may even go deeper than that.
There may be a more mystical union taking place. Whether or not you believe in a Supreme Being or underlying spiritual current supporting the universe, there is something powerful and binding about making the commitment to love, honor and cherish each other in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, until death parts you. It may just be the overwhelming traditional weight of those words but I think not. Something elemental changes when you marry.
We are called upon today to transform this event into a real change in the way we see and support Galen and Steven.
With this toast let me declare to the universe that we welcome Galen and Steven McAlister into the greater community of our human family. It may not yet feel different to them but we should all pause and reflect how it will be different for us. Because now, where they were two separate individuals we will forever consider them as one. Think of it like a new born child; as a bundle of love and potential.
20 some years ago Galen, we made you from our love, maybe twice. And it is with these seeds of love that we send you on to your marriage with Steven to create your own traditions and seeds to carry forward in the unbroken line of love that extends backwards through time from the beginning of all human existence.
Now that you have committed to carry one another’s burdens the weight will never be more than you can bear.
With the greatest love and affection,