Taking Notes


We honored our friend’s dad’s life today…and I took notes. I believe a memorial service can be one of the best seminars on living. It is satisfying to see the end product of a life well-lived: friends and family whose lives are forever changed by the love, faithfulness,  care and kindness of an ordinary man.

Although I’ll pass on Bob’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter, lettuce, and mayonnaise.

During the eulogy, all fourteen great-grandchildren were named. You could see each one sit up straighter when named. Individual names are so much more personal and potent than a collective number.

I had shared with the family a nice touch from the last memorial service we attended in February, and they incorporated it into today’s service.  The moderator asked groups of people to stand (and then sit). Grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws, fellow church members; the greatest rising was in response to “if you have ever hunted or fished with Bob.”

A well-worn and scuffy truth was on display today: the highest way to love your children is to love your spouse. Eleven years ago, my husband and I wrote about Averil, Bob’s wife:

This Repeated Wedding Procession

And Grace Will Lead Me Home


Raise Your Joys and Triumphs High


So profound was Anna and Robert’s wedding that I can’t stop pondering its potent magic.

The families supporting and standing behind Robert and Anna are a fortress of fidelity. Three sets of grandparents sojourned to our beautiful Shire to witness the vows. I’m guessing around 150 years of marital faithfulness are represented in their marriages. Winsome, dignified, charming. These gentle folk are who I want to be when I grow up. Their flame is still burning, their love abides, they joyfully treasure each other in the sunset years. Clearly, their children and grandchildren adore them, rendering preference and respect. It was a comfort to move among these well-oiled relationships.



Also behind the bride and groom are delighted parents, grateful to be in this moment, so proud of their child and so pleased with his/her choice. Parents who have worked diligently to arrive at this junction, who rejoice to see maturity and beauty in their children.

Beside Robert and Anna are ten siblings (plus four added by marriage). Their devotion is palpable. Their toasts were deep with emotion involving some long, very throat-lumpish pauses. There’s a shadow of grief—the tiny sorrow of separation and change—the kind of shadow that with its shades highlights the bright joy. You see, these dear ones are cherished and respected. And yet, there was no sense of you-aren’t-good-enough-for-my-sister (daughter, brother, son). 

Robert and Anna are both glorious; a glory that comes from all directions: inward, upward, downward, outward.   



     Photo credit: Rebecca James

Each family’s culture was represented. Many of the Taylor clan wore salwar kurtas to the rehearsal to reflect their Indian heritage. The Hurley appreciation of excellent music was evident with Uncle John and Aunt Rebecca’s violin contributions to the music and in the congregational hymn We Are God’s People, the processional in other Hurley weddings. The Callihan rehearsal dinner had cowboy boots as centerpieces and barbed wire on the serving table. Callihans enjoy dramatic productions: the guys wrote and produced a skit for the evening’s entertainment.





It is deliciously simple and profoundly mysterious, this love between Robert and Anna. Grounded in faith, expressed in humility, bounded by restraint, Christ-centered, other-oriented, staggering in its beauty, strong as death. They are not perfect, but there is an excellence in their love that called for a robust celebration: navy dresses with daffodil yellow shoes, bold bright flowers, Anna’s entrance to For All the Saints, a homily focused on dancing together, a feast of home-made pies, a Father-Daughter led Grand March, Robert and Anna’s first dance to Eric Bibb’s Gratitude, and their departure as we sang the Lutkin Benediction. It was good. It was fitting. It was full of glory.




As Robert and Anna danced the next generation looked on, hopes and dreams germinating.


My account of Robert’s sister’s wedding

Robert’s dad, Wes Callihan, on this wedding


What Is Good?


My husband and I are separating today. I’m headed “up the branch” to celebrate dear Anna’s wedding to Robert. Curt leaves tomorrow for Washington to celebrate dear Lori’s wedding to Gunnar on the same day. These brides are treasures to us: radiant, glorious jewels. I love to witness a wedding with my hand firmly gripped by Curt’s, but I am up to the rim with joy that we can each take part in these concurrent weddings.

When I need only a few minutes of reading material, I often go to Alphabet Juice for a quick fix. On this double celebration week, I was astonished to discover what “good” means.

from root ghedhto unite, join, fit. Other derivatives: together, from the Old English togaedere, from the Germanic gaduri, in a body; gather, from the Old English gad(e)rian, from the Germanic gaduron, to come or bring together.

When we hear the words, “We are gathered here today to witness the joining of two lives,” it will all be good.

This Repeated Wedding Procession

Note: We mourned the passing of our neighbors’ mom/grandma this week.  After the service, Curt and I sat down and wrote out our thoughts.  And Grace Will Lead Me Home has my reflections. This is my husband Curt’s gift of words to our friends.

There are three things which are too wonderful for me,

Four which I do not understand:

The way of an eagle in the sky,

The way of a serpent on a rock,

The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,

And the way of a man with a maid.

Proverbs 30:18-19

When I was younger, and when my eyes seemed smarter, I concluded that a marriage was best represented by the wedding ceremony.  Beauty, strength, desire, hope, vows, laughter, celebration, romance, honeymoon; all of these became for me the defining picture of a rich marriage.

But over the years my vision of marriage has sharpened beyond the blur of my youthful folly.  My own marriage has taught me the value of sacrifice over time.  My wife’s sustained love for me through the years has re-sketched my picture of a rich marriage.

I have witnessed many marriages that are in it for the long run.  These marathon marches through difficulties and joys continue to grip my attention and cause me to refocus.  My parents’ journey speaks loudly here.  But there is a particular snapshot etched indelibly in my mind, a rich picture of marriage, crafted before me on many occasions over these recent past years.

From the privacy of my own home, I have spied what for me has become a masterful image of marriage bliss.  Sitting at my table, watching through my window, an elderly couple has often climbed their son’s driveway to attend various family get-togethers.  Slowly, carefully, stooped and leaning upon one another, arm in arm–this repeated wedding procession has captured my attention.  Their destination was always happily realized through their courageous determination, but not without the pain of old joints, grimacing faces, and off-balance missteps.

Bob and Averil scaled with difficulty what for them was a steep climb.  And they probably never knew I was watching them, sometimes praying them onward to a welcoming front door.  I’m sure they were studying the ground for the sake of a safe arrival.  But I was studying them, for the sake of my own marriage, which has not yet fully arrived.  And one day yet future, I hope someone younger will notice the masterpiece before them, when Carol and I cannot walk forward unless we are walking together, leaning in upon one another.  Thank-you Bob.  And thank-you Averil.


Wonderful Wedding Moments


Saturday we celebrated the wedding of Julie and Daniel, the fourth and final wedding of the year in our church community.   In this lovely picture (credit: Matthew Hurley), we are dancing a Virginia Reel.  Isn’t Julie beautiful?  She is wearing the same dress her mom, aunt and grandma wore with a gorgeous pair of cowboy boots underneath.  Directly behind her is Isaiah (white shirt) for whom many of you prayed to wake up from a coma.  There he is, dancing!  I’m leaning forward, ready to twirl around.

It was a wonderful wedding. I woke this morning through a floodtide of memories…moments worth recording:

~  The groomsmen’s toasts were simply amazing.  My friend leaned over and whispered, “If these are the kind of guys Daniel is friends with, it speaks very highly of him.”  The masterpiece was the song written by one of the best men, Daniel Went Down to Wallowa, modeled on The Devil Went Down to Georgia



 ~  Collaborating with a college freshman on the composition of a violin descant for St. Patrick’s Breastplate, the bridal processional, was a hoot! We had more fun isolating a musical phrase and pulling a blues riff from it when we should have been focusing on the descant. Julie entered during the centerpiece of the song: Christ be with me.  My first exposure to NoteWorthy Composer software has me drooling.

~  I looked across the table and said, “Krista, You. are. beautiful.”  Her mother, holding with a squirming grandson agreed, “She really is.”  Krista smiled and explained, “My husband’s love makes me beautiful.”  And.  It was so sweet and genuine, not a Sunday School answer, if you know what I mean.

~  The. Kiss.

~   Our Bonnie (mother of the bride, a friend who belongs to us all) displayed extraordinary beauty and serenity.  Hosting a wedding reception in her back pasture was no worry.  She glowed with the light of grace.  It has been five years since she fought Stage 3 cancer.  We are so thankful for God’s kindness displayed in her life.

~  The entrance of the cake, held high and carried around all the tables and delivered to the head table by a Best Man (there were two), while a jig was played on the violin.  

~  When I heard the men were wearing Wranglers I was a skeptic.  However. They looked exceedingly handsome in their Chocolate Black Wranglers with cowboy boots, formal vests and, after the ceremony, cowboy hats.

~  It has been a glorious summer.  Glory can be fatiguing but it is a Good Tired.  A Happy Tired.  Looking back with a young friend, we smiled and sighed and took a deep, cleansing breath.  “Well,” she said, “I guess it’s time to start a new season of love!” 


A Father’s Blessing

Curt’s words to Carson and Taryn:

A Father’s Blessing

May God bless you with faith,
for without faith it is impossible to please God.

May God bless you with repentance,
because every faithful man and every faithful woman remains a sinner.

May God bless you with courage,
to reject the foolishness of the world and to keep the law of God in all of life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.