The Service of Marriage for Karen Rebecca Durgee and Eric Peter Dalland
The Service of Marriage for Karen Rebecca Durgee and Eric Peter Dalland
Last Sunday (July 29, 2007) I took a Brooklyn bridge between the Connecticut River and the Hudson River. It was a pastoral mission. A wedding... a wedding in a beautiful venue. The groom is the son of a teenager in the church at the corner of 45th & 7th in Sunset Park in the Borough of Churches. Said teenager is now 64. The son, Eric Dalland, a graduate of Cornell in Asian Studies, was wed to Karen Durgee, who with her degrees, undergraduate and graduate, will be looking for a position as a schoolteacher. Presently she helps manage her father-in-law's veterinary practice, while Eric begins a construction business out of a newly constructed barn on the family property in Coxsackie, New York.
The weather was not auspicious as we began the drive across I 90; but by the time we arrived in Newtonville just north of Albany at the Pruyn House the sun was in full bloom. I have a tanned bald pate to prove it. The wedding theme was blueberries with a Far Eastern flavor. The bridal party sported parasols and each guest was given a Japanese fan. Sushi and noodles were consumed with blueberry vodka. There were blueberries everywhere, in the salad, among the wok-fried vegetables, on the three wedding cakes, in the toasting glass, and, of course, in the fruit salad. Jars of blueberry preserve, prepared personally by the bride, each with the name of a guest, were wedding gifts.
The invitation announced not only the wedding but the theme.
Of course, the honeymoon is in Japan, including the obligatory climb up Mt. Fuji.
Herewith are documents prepared for the wedding celebration, interspersed with photos from the day. Beginning with the peripatetic preacher's message:
The Romance of Reality
What a bright and purposeful nest of souls you have gathered in your family, Sonny and Lynette. Your offspring in this regard are your offspring all right, taking the present generation to its own high level of intelligence and purpose and association, I noted while eating pizza on the back lawn in Albany Thursday night. Academic degree upon degree, yes, but a warm and caring brood always with an eye to look after each other. I am privileged to have you call me in every now and then – other than Emails exchanged – to have a part in one transition or another along the way to eternity. Besides, it gives me the chance to renew acquaintances with Brooklyn and to tell Tommy Moon that even now our granddaughter is studying in Bejing and when she returns to the States she will be far better at Mandarin than he is.
I want to pick up on a theme from my conversation with you, Karin and Eric, at Friendly’s a while ago, as we looked to this moment. Eric, the quiet one, beams as Karen speaks, glad he is to have her do the talking because she’s good at it. Karen voiced a concern of theirs about the ritual, that she wanted it to reflect the realism with which they were approaching not only their marriage but their life on earth. Go easy on the rhetoric about eternity. Be sensible in voiced expectations. Tell the truth, but do it gently.
They practice what they preach. I asked them/you to write me a paragraph or two about what it is they especially liked about the other. Talk about mingling romance and reality: Eric describes Karen as, perhaps in order of ascending importance, detail-oriented, direct, adept at discourse, devoted Democrat (don’t wince, Sonny!)[I heard Dr. Dalland mumble at this point, Well, nobody's perfect], and, rounding out the D for Dalland she will soon officially be, deeply compassionate. How romantic and how real!
Karen, in turn, hints that Eric may be quiet but when he speaks people listen, which I assume includes her, easy to do because Eric is her favorite person, whom she not only loves but likes, sweet, serious, hard-working… well, what we husbands all should be.
Tell it real. No problem for this pastor whom no one has ever accused of being a wild-eyed optimist or a dreamer. Living in Brooklyn for nearly eighteen years, among Vikings who are the salt of the earth, for many of whom English was a second language, I did not have the luxury of flights of verbal fancy in the pulpit. Down-to-earth is my preferred self-description.
Like the vows you will soon exchange. Down-to-earth. Behind that phrase you will say to each other, “through all that is to come,” lies the more traditional listing of such exigencies, better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health. That’s realism with a capital “R.” The romance of life is facing these unplanned realities head on, hand in hand, with help from your family and friends, and – I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want me to say it – faith, faith in the goodness and graciousness of God, in love for whom all things happen together for good. That is, whatever the circumstance for good or ill, you can get through them, stronger for the experience, if you will but suffer God to guide you.
You have ample evidence all around you that I’m not pipe-dreaming. Your families have faced and overcome more than their share of those unhappy circumstances which find their way to us without our asking, if sometimes because we have… asked for it. I’ll not list, though I could, those circumstances even I from the outside looking in am familiar with. Enough to say that sickness, heartbreak, accident, and disappointment have found their way to you before and after that day the Dallands came into focus in Brooklyn when Grandpa Eddie took me by the hand and led me to several large AA meetings in New York City. And what about that most recent mishap when the good doctor tried to play soccer with his tractor and a huge boulder?
Nor by your own testimony, Karen, has your way to this point been exactly a bed of roses… thinking particularly in this moment on this special day of the too-early departure from these earthly scenes of your Mom and Dad, Sue and Jim.
But you’re here and you’re smiling and hoping and planning together to add another chapter to the families’ records of good achievements. With the families’ help, your personal resources, and God’s grace. When I use that phrase, “God’s grace,” I don’t mean luck. Nor do I mean that somehow God is going to shield you miraculously from troubles others must face. No special treatment, except as God treats all of us as special. The divine grace I have in mind is inspiration, encouragement, a strengthening of resolve, the internal empowerments that God provides those who wait upon him and do their best to follow the commandments. Those internal gifts of God are there free for the asking. If you want corroboration of this claim, ask the fellow who Emails me with his Capitoland address, who sees in every furry creation we take into our homes proof of God’s blessing. He knows, and I daresay you do to, and you will, that, in the words of my favorite Broadway ballad, one I listened to again a couple of weeks ago with tears of sentiment welling in my eyes, fromCarousel, “When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark… walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.”
The romance of this mortal life is to be found in the reality of love, yours for each other and yours for all others.
God bless you, Eric and Karen; we bless you too.
The wedding capped a weekend of celebration at various venues near the capitol city. Take a peek at the events Eric and Karen arranged for their friends and themselves:Pre-wedding Events. There you will also find candid photos of the wedding attendants.
The music before and after the service was played by a classical acoustical guitarist, who delighted me, if few others, with a rendition of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie." Edwin Anger read from the Song of Solomon. Lara Kassel read verses of Isaiah 55 and a poem by Shelley.
I had asked Eric and Karen to prepare a paragraph or two beginning with the line, "What I like about Karen/Eric." These two documents arrived between the Thursday evening rehearsal and the Sunday wedding:
The reception followed the religious service, in the barn adjacent to the lawn and garden where the wedding was conducted. Herewith are some photos taken during the day's proceedings: