When I was asked if I’d officiate the wedding, it was an easy answer. Yes. How could I not? It was an honor to officiate the marriage of anyone, let alone my closest kin. My cousin, Ryan.
I’d officiated one before; back in 2017 for a couple of my best friends. That was the first time I played the role of Father Jon, or as I jokingly introduced myself to the groom's Mexican family, Padre Juan.
My divorce had just finalized and here I was about to officiate a wedding three months later. The insecurities barged in as expected. No matter how spiritually fit I thought I was, I was still human.
For weeks, I’d stare at a blank page on my phone, knowing I had a ceremony to write. But to be honest, I wasn’t quite ready. The energy wasn’t right.
I had to put down my past so that I could pick up the present in the present.
Just because you know what needs to be done, doesn’t make the thing that needs to be done any easier.
I’d written Blank Canvas and The Bigger Picture toward the end of summer. August had me caught in a web of reflective thoughts. It was more than just my birth month. It was the month I'd gotten married. Same month the divorce had finalized too. There was a lot to do with August.
So as November neared, I knew I couldn’t keep hiding. It was important to release that energy so that spirit could have a clean room to enter when I spoke at City Hall. San Francisco City Hall. The same exact place where my ex and I had tied the knot before our celebratory ceremony abroad.
My soul smirked at life's cyclical nature while my heart rolled its eyes. Why would it be any other way? Having to officiate the wedding in the same exact place where I got married was the way.
The opportunity was serendipitously divine. To be given the opportunity to lead those I loved toward marriage while I simultaneously healed from mine.
When we got to the venue there wasn’t much time to settle in. People were already trickling in. That didn’t stop me from taking a moment, however. I walked down the aisle as we’d rehearsed. I would be the first. Just before the groom and his parents.
As I walked down the short set of stairs leading to the balcony, I stared across the canyon of City Hall’s first floor, up the grand staircase, and through a set of pillars until my eyes landed at the exact spot where my wife and I had exchanged rings. Well, ex-wife now.
My heart sunk to my soles. Nothing was said in my head, but my spirit communed a message of peace. This ceremony would be the final release.
When I got to the wall that retained my fall, I turned around and stared at the half empty seats. After nervously checking my phone, I took a deep breath and exhaled a silent prayer.
“Kuya Jon, have you seen my mom?”
“The musicians will be coming in shortly. Setting up over there.”
“Is our queue still this song?”
“If Aunty Rachel and Uncle Boy aren’t here, someone else will have to do the lasso.”
"Where's the lasso?"
“Hurry up, they want us in line already.”
“Make sure you tell the guests to keep their phones away.”
“What time is it?”
“Tell everyone to take their seats now.”
“Jon, make an announcement about…”
The chaos. The questions. The managing of all the things that happen behind the scenes. The filling the space of whatever needs filling so that the ceremony can begin. That’s what was happening all around. Fine, because I’d already found the time to find my center.
The musical prelude began as “What A Wonderful World” swam through the space. The bridal party stood ready in their place. Lined up and ready to embrace. This day. This experience. This ephemeral, yet beautiful moment in time.
As the guests began to take their seats, I walked up the steps and stood in front Kuya Mano, Ryan, and Ate Del, then went on to jokingly mimic LeBron James’ pre-game ritual. I took the imaginary powder, placed it in my hands, and then tossed it into the air.
“Naw, we’re not doing that, Jon.”
I chuckled at Ryan's anxiousness. Kuya Mano laughed too. Same with Ate Del who was patting away her tears. I smiled and reassured them that everything would be fine. To just be present. To slow down time.
For those that aren't Filipino, Kuya and Ate are Tagalog words meaning older sibling or family member, but often extends past blood to pay respect. Even though Ryan was a year older than me, generationally, he was my “nephew.” His mom, my Ate Del, was my true first cousin. Our father’s were brothers. Growing up however, Ryan was like mine, giving my cousin Del a more Aunty-like vibe.
The moments that followed felt so much faster than we'd rehearsed. Me walking down. Ryan and his parents. The bridal party. The receiving of the rings. And of course, the welcoming of the stunning and beautiful bride.
With all of the formalities out of the way, however, there was no where left to hide. My heart pounded from my chest as all eyes fell on me. It was time to speak and hold space. It was time to redefine the meaning of this place.
“What are rituals but things that we’ve created to give meaning to life?”
A subtle pause.
An opportunity for people to ponder the rhetorical remark.
“Ceremonies, like this, to solidify and give life to the intangible. Things like love and commitment.”
A secondary pause drew in the audience before I finally let go. I trusted that whatever notes and quotes I'd written down would find me in flow. I knew that when I spoke it wasn't just me, but also divinity flowing through me.
In the end, the ceremony was everything it needed to be.
I was everything I needed to be.
Open, accepting, and free.
Based on the energy felt and the amount of praise I'd received, I knew that this was true. When we have the courage let go and trust in flow we make room for the universe to reveal its magic. And that day, November 19, 2021, was nothing short of that.
Deep gratitude to Ryan and Lorraina for allowing me to be a part of such a magical day. The path I had to traverse internally to get there wasn't easy, but this is the way.
I love you guys tremendously!!
Continue to feed each other everyday ;)
"The wound is the place where the light enters you." - Rumi
June 19, 2022