“Raleigh Little Theatre,” I answered the phone. “Oh, I thought this was the Rose Garden.” “Well it is.” Then she asked directions and I tried to explain how to find the Rose Garden but she and whoever she was talking to over her shoulder did not seem to know local landmarks like Cameron Village. I finally gave directions from Hillsborough St. and NC State and figured it was done.
I received another phone call from… I’ll call her Macy. She said that she and her husband… I’ll call him Olan, had found the Rose Garden and were here but she wondered… She told me of her desire and need to renew her wedding vows with Olan and a secret reason why it was urgent for her. She did not want Olan to know the secret. She asked if there was someone available who could be the officiant. I rent the Rose Garden for weddings but do not have pastors on call. I found her desire and secret compelling and without thinking said, “I can do it.”
I explained that I was ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church and based on that could be the officiant of a wedding and sign a wedding certificate and could do a renewal of vows and would love to be able to do this for her. She said she would spring it on Olan and call back. She was not at all sure that he would agree.
I hung up and started to sweat. I was wearing jeans and sneakers and had never done a wedding. I am empowered to but had never actually done one. Where to get a ceremony, vows, what do they read? Don’t those real minister guys carry around some kind of little book or something? I searched the internet and came up with a “Brief Elopement Ceremony.” I printed it out. Two pages. The only thing on the second page was, “Congratulations, you may kiss your bride.” Brief. Good.
She called back. Olan was willing. She said more about her secret. She started talking about a fee. I said, “no, no, I want to do this for you… I won’t accept money.” I went out and wandered around the grounds till I found them walking. They were nice looking people dressed in casual clothes. I started to feel somewhat disoriented. I talked with them briefly and showed them where weddings are usually held at the Rose Garden. They normally look like this:
except minus the blooms as it is November and the gardeners have trimmed back all the rose bushes to keep them healthy.
We stood and I asked names and filled them in on the ceremony and we mutually agreed to dispense with the exchange of rings. They put down jackets and other things and stood together facing the sun in front of the fountain and I stood facing them. I got through the first part about their intentions to wed with their responses very well, voice strong enough. When I started getting into the next part of the vows, her secret came back to me and a great welling of emotion began to crack my voice and cause tears to flow… first a few drops from one eye. I focused on my Muladhara (root) chakra and continued on, mentally repeating the bija (seed) mantra and “feeling” the color red and my breathing got deeper and steadier. My voice continued to crack as I continued reading and now both cheeks were damp. I made it through the reading and responses and they kissed. I shook both their hands and patted Olan on the back and told them both how happy I was that I was able to do this. I folded my printed copy of the service double and then double again and put it in my jacket pocket. I left them there and returned to the office. Tears were still coming. I washed my face and then sat and finished up a few things related to Rose Garden rental. I was watching the clock to be sure and have enough time to get the box office open in time for our early matinee – Jungalbook – a sellout today.
The phone rang. It was Macy again. She thanked me for doing the ceremony and then asked if I could give them a copy of the ceremony. I said I had to open the box office soon but would have a few minutes and would be glad to give them the copy we had used. I went up and met them on the other side of the theater. They both said they had had a wonderful day and thanked me again. I gave Macy the papers. Olan shook my hand. Macy gave me a big hug. By then, they no longer seemed merely human but had taken on a luminous quality, at least in the right side of my brain. They asked directions, Olan referring to Oberton St. which I imagined was Oberlin and Crabby which I understood to be Cary. It almost seemed like their existence in this plane was a play for my benefit, that they only had to think about roads and directions to continue the show for me. That the real transaction had taken place when I had been willing to do them a mitzvah, a kindness, something to prove that I recognized them as God who has come in this form. After all, they had found the Rose Garden using directions from me that would have taken them right through the Christmas parade route.
I left them as they were heading toward the parking lot. They have walked off into the mist that they came out of. The Rose Garden is a magical place.