The laughter is making its way to me as I write: five old girlfriends from university days, now fiftysomethings, are catching up the day after the night before. It’s good to hear, and confirms my thought that we are so blest to have so many lovely people to count as friends. Old friends.
The night before (Friday 11 Jan) was our delayed Silver Wedding celebration ceilidh, and for that we returned to the part of town where Jane and I were married, and which, in some ways, is still our spiritual home – Morningside. Not this time the old elegance of the Braid Hills Hotel that holds the happy memories of our reception on 28/11/87, but the function room of The Merlin on Morningside Road. More basic, to be sure, but it’s the people who make a party not just the venue. If we wanted to be picky we could identify things that we could have changed, but with an excellent small band and a group of people, young and old, determined to have a good time dancing, we had such a lovely evening of joyful celebration.
There were no speeches – at least not beyond an opening welcome from me and an acknowledgement that we are so grateful to God for how blest we have been in these 25 years. We didn’t want to talk to people but talk with them, catching up with news over a drink round a table.
Three and a half hours passed in moments, with dancers whirling round like the ghouls of Burns’s Alloway Kirk, and at the end we were both embarrassed and humbled by the way in which people sang their appreciation and stamped their feet – goodness knows why those in the bar down below didn’t complain!
As I looked round the room during the evening I was struck by several thoughts. What a wide variety of contexts are represented here: family, yes, but also Jane’s friends from P1 and Aberdeen University; folks from all three of the parishes we have served; work colleagues; Watson’s families we got to know through our children; students and Professors from the University of Edinburgh; folks from home and overseas. The net of friendship has been cast widely for us, and hopefully will grow wider yet.
And what lovely people we have been blest with as friends. The path of friendship often meanders and some friends are easier to relate to than others, but as my mind recalled the journeys we have taken together, all-in-all we could hardly wish for a better group of people – and my heart swelled with joy, for they are our friends. We are the link, for some of them the only link, that brought them together.
Underneath these thoughts – and above and round about them – was a deep and contented sense of thankfulness to God for all that we have received in these two and a half decades. The camomile tea had helped assuage my late-afternoon anxiety and, just like the Wedding Day itself, there was a calm confidence that allowed me to enjoy the experience as it happened. Now, in the moments of reflection, there was the feeling that we were being held – embraced in a love that can only be measured by a cross. Or perhaps by the eternal cord that twists into three loops that is the Celtic symbol of the Trinity. This symbol was printed on our Wedding order of service and we made it the mark of our family life. I’m looking at a piece of slate hanging on my study wall into which the symbol has been carved. If our life together is in the hands of the one who made the universe, the one who became incarnate and gave himself for us, and the one who makes us more like Jesus, then we are in safe hands no matter what turn life takes.
These many years ago I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, when it’s our Silver Wedding I’ll be sixty!’ And so it has proved. I have my bus pass. Now I’m thinking, ‘When we celebrate our Golden Wedding I’ll be 85.’ The chances of making it are not good given the average age of the men of former generations of my family. But we’ll gladly take whatever we get and use as many opportunities as we can to celebrate what we have received. How much dancing there will be may depend on how the knees bear up. SDG!