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David Reynolds: A Reflection

Column by David Reynolds
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There are times when one must get away and reflect. For a couple of reasons this was one of those times. The man in the mirror had a milestone only days away. And he knew of too many friends who had left this paradise for another one.

No more sad funerals. My dark blue suit was wearing out. And so was I. Is there not a happy wedding somewhere that I can attend?. Yes, there was! We had received an invitation in the mail. Just the prescription I needed.

The wedding was a big out-of-town affair. Very big. And far from town. So we packed up the red wagon and drove away to see how new lives are celebrated – not how old ones end.

It all took place outdoors on old Cape Cod. It was the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended. Except, of course, my own.

Yet I was not there! Sure, my body made the trip to the cape. But my mind? As is its custom, it took a detour.

There were others at the wedding with distant thoughts. You could easily pick them out from the 200 guests. They were of your generation with that same distant look in their eyes. As for the bride and groom? Their thoughts were only of each other.

Let’s set the scene. It was a cold and windy June day along the New England coast. Or was it old England? No, it was not only New England, but a New World to a band of brave men and women who landed nearby three centuries earlier. Their landing made this particular wedding ceremony possible. The polestar that guided their ship was religious freedom.

Just behind the outdoor altar was a tall flagpole with a huge American flag blowing in the strong wind. The uninvited storm and the invited guests were about to gather together.

The celebrant joked about the weather. He told us not to worry. Too much planning had gone into this day to allow some wind and a few clouds to mar its success. A few knew otherwise. We know that both life and death have a way of interfering with the best laid plans.

At least that is what a father told a young boy when he came home after three years of planning for the day that was in my thoughts. The overall planning is what he always discussed. But he never said a word about what was really on his mind. If he had only spent one more hour at the office in London maybe one fewer body would have been washed ashore on the beach in France.

Then the guests started to fill the long empty rows of white chairs high above the sandy cliffs. It did not take much imagination to be reminded of other long empty rows under the home flag, but on foreign soil. What is under all those rows? The land does not speak. And the grass covers all.

Just before the wedding vows were taken, I took a long look over my shoulder to see the choppy seas where 66 years earlier thousands of men had also taken vows. And said their final prayers.

Yes, it was June 6. Both 1944 and 2010. D-Day changed the world. Drive over the mountain to Bedford to learn how. It’s worth the short trip.

As for the wedding, it was lovely. The sun came out. We fully enjoyed Mr. Jefferson’s pursuit of happiness. Did I mention it was a Jewish wedding? Did I mention that God was at its center? That God was to be the voice of the newlyweds?

Times that try our souls are worthwhile times. Three centuries ago they forced those with strong faiths to embark on an unknown ocean journey. Sixty-six years ago such times forced others to cross a watery channel mixed with blood in order for those of us on this side of the Atlantic to remain free.

We will never be able to fully repay our debts. Today we are free to go wherever our bodies and minds take us. That’s because our wars are not fought in vain. There was no one in a brown shirt to tell the Rabbi to stop the wedding.

It worked! Weddings do work. They strengthen your faith in the next generation. Now I think I can handle the next funeral.