15 May

“With This Ring, I Give You My Heart…” Ruth And Wayne

by Jon Katz

There weren’t a lot of dry eyes when Ruth and Wayne exchanged rings during their Commitment Ceremony, over which I had the honor to preside over and to be Wayne’s Best Man.

It was hard not to cry during this ceremony, Ruth and Wayne were so happy, the Mansion staff was so loving and attentive, the residents smiling and clapping and crying with joy at this affirmation in love in a place usually associated with the edge of life.

Maria cried, I cried, so did Ruth and Wayne, and half the staff of the Mansion. So did more than one resident.

In my mind, I think of the Mansion Assisted Care Facility in Cambridge, N.Y., as a mystical and magical place, perhaps because it has given me the great gift of sometimes being the person I always wanted to be, but could not always be.

I call it the House Of Love, not because it is a perfect place, but because there is so much love and feeling in this place, a loving, caring, sometimes wrenching gateway from one part of life to another.

I feel it in my soul and body every time I go there.

In this place, Ruth and Wayne bravely took the step of declaring their love for one another, and committing themselves to each other.

I had the honor of writing and researching and preparing this ceremony for this love-struck couple, and it was pure joy for me.  I got to put my writing to good use, honoring the love and commitment of two people whose lives have never been easy, but just got richer.

I told Ruth at least a 100 times that this was like a wedding, but not a wedding. She nodded each time, and the first thing she told me during the service was “tell them we are married.” I said they could call themselves anything they wished.

I had to read the ring vows because neither Wayne nor Ruth felt they could get through it.

With this ring, I give you my heart, I promise from this day forward, you shall not walk alone. May my heart be your shelter and my arms be  your home.”

Ruth and Wayne asked five people to read at the ceremony: Brittany: “Love makes your soul crawl out from it’s hiding place.” – Zora Neale Hurston.

Peggy read: “Love one another and you will be happy It’s as simple and difficult as that.” – Michael Leunig.

Bonnie read: “Love puts the fun in together, the sad in apart, and the joy in a heart.” – author unknown.

Kassie read: “Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.” – author unknown.

I read: “Grow old with me, the best is yet to come.” – Robert Browning.

Maria read a quote from the singer Bob Marley: “Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more.”

Ray Gifford sang and played love songs, including a few from Elvis that Ruth demanded. Activities Director Julie Harlin read from the bible. We all danced at Ruth’s insistence. “Party!,” she kept shouting.

There was a great cake and cupcakes from our friend Emily Gold of Pownal, Vt.

We danced and sang together and celebrated this unlikely love in this perhaps unlikely place, except don’t we know that love can grow anywhere there is light and color?

I wrote the binding and closing declaration and gave Ruth and Wayne a Certificate Of Commitment to hang on their bedroom wall. I wrote this to end the ceremony:

And now, Ruth and Wayne, because you have promised your love and faithfulness to each other in the sight of God and these witnesses; by the joining of hands; by the exchanging of rings; and by having consented to love one another; and by having come together to commit your love to one another, by the privilege you have given me to conduct this ceremony, it is my greatest pleasure to certify your love for one another, and your commitment to one another, for as long as you wish, for as long as you can.”

I was  moved by this ceremony, and by the power of love to endure and survive, the ceremony was  the personification of hope itself.  There were angels in the room.

I’ll post some more photos later tonight. Thanks for your support. Thanks for the presents you sent, the banners you made, the napkins you had printed, the throws you knitted, the contributions you sent for the flowers and the cake, thanks Fran  Brummer for the beautiful dress  you send Ruth that she wore so proudly, thanks for her headband and rings and jewelry and shoes.

The Army Of Good is a light unto the world, it was present in spirit and material things.

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