By The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton
Brian and I have one of those relationships forged in the crucible of death and dying. You know, the kind were you pack in the intensity of a lifetime in a matter of a few weeks and months. The kind that changes and transforms you for life.
I first met Brian two years ago when his mother, a woman of exactly my age, was actively dying. He had returned from his position with the US State Department in China - left the Chinese woman he loved and intended to marry - to say his good-byes to his mother.
And, he was very, very angry. He wanted very much to be with his mother, but not to say good-bye. Too soon. He wanted desperately to be with his beloved, and to have his mother meet her before she died, but Immigration Service, overly cautious after 9/11, was dragging its feet about issuing her visa. Not soon enough.
So, there he stood, an angry young man between death and life, the too soon and the not soon enough. There I stood, my own mother's heart aching for him as he waited in the valley of the shadow of death. Together, we made it through.
That was two years ago. Since then, he has buried his mother, sold the family home, taken care of the family estate, organized the finances for his two younger sisters, both of whom are in college, gone back to China and, in a Buddhist ceremony, married his beloved Yan Yan.
He appeared in my office yesterday, unannounced and with the strikingly beautiful Yan Yan on his arm. No longer angry, he radiated confidence and love. In what seems like the blink of an eye, he's become a full grown, mature young man.
They came into my office to talk about marriage. It was a bit complicated. He needs to be married - to have a marriage license soon. She's here on a "fiancee visa" and the law requirements and time lines have to be met in order to set their plans in motion - grad school, green card, etc.
His sisters and his father will be in the country in August, and they want the church wedding then, but the civil requirements can't wait that long. Can we split the two, he asks. Can we do the civil part now and the blessing part in August, he wonders.
Of course, I say, smiling. Separation of church and state and all that, I respond as he nodded knowingly. Is this a great country or what, Yan Yan asks. And, oh, by the way, she asks, how do I learn more about this Jesus of yours?
So, I find myself in the wonderfully ironic situation of presiding at my second blessing of a relationship here at St. Paul's - both being of heterosexual persons. Adding irony to irony, as a beginning student of the ways of the Buddha, I am teaching an avid Buddhist about the Way of Jesus.
Brian and Yan Yan stand between a civil right and a liturgical rite, and I find myself standing right there with them, in the midst of forging the kind of relationship that, like death, changes and transforms you for life.
In the final analysis, I guess that's what the church's business of "blessing" is all about, isn't it?
(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
200 Main Street
Chatham, NJ 07928
973 635 8085
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