How is it that an artist can seize an experience and an emotion in a three minute melody, saying more with less, each line so precise, so minimal, that it actually expands our understanding?
Taking his cue from his siblings, Kevin decided to finish his last two years of college as a married man. Ever the easy going one, he surprised us with his confidence and determination. He knew he was prepared to step out on his own. And he chose a wonderful gal to woo and wed.
Of course a father approaches these events differently than a mother. If the child is a daughter, the father has that moment when he must place her hand into the hand of another. The moment is defined by another man taking responsibility for her welfare, and the father must now take a backseat.
Mothers and sons are another matter entirely. Mothers never stop being mothers, and letting go of a son is a step of faith. If mom doesn’t let go, she places a burden on the new relationship. And while letting go is an act of love, it is one of the hardest things a mother will ever do.
For a father, seeing a son strike out towards manhood and responsibility is an accomplishment. It means the young man is ready. It is far easier for a father to release a son to his future destiny than it is to do so with a daughter.
Mom, on the other hand faces the day with a wealth of memories and emotions, all surfacing simultaneously. Not the least of these is the question of whether or not she is still needed. This rite of passage reaches a precipice in the mother-son dance.
The wedding was quite beautiful, and the bride radiant. Kevin looked every bit thunderstruck, and, with his older brother Joseph as best man, it was the beginning of a new chapter in his life. And ours. The baby of the bunch, the youngest of six, was now a married man.
As an older man, I watch younger men and how they interact with young ladies. Can they be strong and yet tender? Are they compassionate? Are they caring and respectful, or demanding and petulant? Are they selfless or selfish? I had complete confidence in my young soldier, having watched him over time, but he still managed to surprise me.
Kevin has never been shy about showing love to his mother, even in front of his friends. On this day he would put it on open display in front of a packed house. His choice of song for the mother-son dance demonstrated his sensitivity and his understanding of what the moment meant for a mother letting go of her son.
As the father-daughter dance began to near its end, my wife Suzanne stood close to Kevin. In her heels, she would be almost his height. Kevin leaned in and said, “You can take off your shoes if you like.” She did. And then, hand-in-hand they made their way to the center of the floor.
I don’t know what I was expecting. A song we had heard before, a popular sentimental ballad. I don’t know. What played was something entirely different. And it was absolutely perfect. In three minutes everything about the changing nature of their relationship was put to music. As the song played, my wife laid her head on his shoulder and let the tears flow.
Later, I asked Kevin who the artist was, and where he had heard the tune. He couldn’t remember. He had been searching for something special for his mom. It was the kind of choice I am sure would have gotten him some ribbing from the guys in his infantry unit. A chick song. Yet the soldier wasn't embarrassed by being tender.
I have always felt that the music we need finds us in those moments when we are seeking to articulate the deeper truths of the heart.
The fragile nature of loving and letting go, the vulnerability we place our hearts in, and the willingness to risk pain in the quest of loving deeply requires a courage that puts all the cards on the table. Spin the wheel, roll the dice, play to win, let the chips fall where they may.
And so, on a hot July afternoon in Georgia a humble ballad encapsulated a place in time, a place in the heart. And as new and significant as that moment seemed, it became apparent we had been here before, in all of the little leaps of faith that led to this day. Take a ride on a little red bike…