She held my face with both hands, looked me squarely in the eyes and said, ”You’re a good boy, Greg, so I know you’ll want to act nice for your mom and dad.” Her eyes were kind and I knew she was saying that to me in the most caring way, and with the best possible intent. Her name was Vee Strutz. I was five years old and wreaking havoc on the Calvary E.U.B. church on 7th street in Bismarck, North Dakota. Bedlam was my constant companion, but the church family contended lovingly with me. Vee was a very beautiful woman of unpretentious sophistication, graduated from Carlton College and married to Al Strutz, a Supreme Court Justice for North Dakota. I knew this couple very well. I knew where they sat each Sunday at church and where they lived.
As I looked at this beautiful young woman walking down the aisle, I remembered those words uttered from her great grandmother’s lips. I was all teary eyed from both that memory and the stunning elegance I saw in her, borne out of her mother’s, grandmother’s and Vee’s lineage. Her name is Rachael Mitchell, and today was the day she would marry the love of her life, Cole Hession.
Let me first say…I hate going to weddings! My wife is always making me go to weddings. Weddings of people I don’t even know. “Honey, I think it would be really nice if we showed our support for Shirley and go to the wedding of her third cousin once removed by a previous marriage. “ I asked, “Shirley who”. Pam answered, “You know Shirley, she’s the woman from our church who sits two pews back from us.” “No, I don’t know who you mean”.” Pam continued , “Well anyway, I RSVP’d to go to the wedding.”WHAT…WHAT…WHAT? I don’t even know Shirley!!!! I don’t want to go to a wedding of someone I don’t know, watch my wife get all weepy and stuff, blowing her nose while I listen to wedding music I have heard over and over and over and over and over again. I don’t want to go to a reception with people I don’t know, and even worse, end up talking for two hours with someone like uncle Earl, an insurance salesman out of Bucksnort, Tennessee who would like to get my contact info for a free estimate on life and health. He keeps saying, “You know…You know…You know. ”SHEESH< SHEESH< SHEESH!!!! Get me outta here!!!!!
But this wedding is way, way different for me. I have a rich history with Rachael’s grandparents, Bill and Marilyn Strutz. Al and Vee’s son, Bill, is an accomplished trial attorney, with an amazing love for books that includes more first edition and publisher first drafts than you can imagine. He has one of the largest private libraries in the country. His precious wife, Marilyn is a student of the Bible, a woman of unbelievable depth of caring and service to others, and one of my closest friends. Bill was Pam and my Sunday school teacher in our young married life, and he was elemental to challenge my thinking, causing me to look deeper into matters of life and theology.
They have 3 wonderful children, Heidi, Colin and Nat Paul. I had Heidi, Colin and Brad Mitchell, Heidi’s husband in my youth group when I was Youth Director at our church. I have a continued relationship with Brad and Heidi and their children to this day. Brad and Heidi have a fantastic ministry to married couples entitled “Build Your Marriage”. Look them up; it is well worth your time.
Oh yah, one little tidbit about the wedding. I was to play the piano until it was time to seat the mothers and grandparents, then play my cello while they were being seated. I kept looking for the wedding planner who was to cue me….but there was no cue, so I just kept playing, constantly looking back for the cue. My eyesight is extremely poor and hence the reason I find it difficult to drive any longer. It was not until the mothers were lighting the candles that it dawned on me that something had gone awry. I quickly scrambled to set up my cello. I got that accomplished, but as I looked up, I saw the minister standing in preparation for the bridal entrance. They were using a recorded piece of music for that portion of the service. . So here I am in front of God and everybody, sitting ready to play my cello….but alas..my portion of the service had come to an untimely conclusion. I sheepishly tried to fade away with my cello…but had to walk right past the officiant for my exit. AWKWARD!!!
Many of you know me…so I’m sure this is no surprise to you. I’m half blind, wear hearing aids and I’m ADHD. This is a tragic cocktail of attributes when playing a wedding, where you and you alone are left to deliver the music. I compare it to standing with your pants down around your ankles. There is no safety net or the ability to blame anyone else. (Ps. In my defense…the wedding planner forgot to cue me, and apologized later) I did get to play the cello pieces as the people were walking out. As I played…it seemed they were more eager to leave. I definitely think I have an “evacuating” quality to my playing. It’s a gift.
So you can see, when I was watching Rachael and Cole being joined in marriage, it was deeply meaningful to me. Pam was to attend the wedding as well, but unfortunately broke her ankle and could not attend. We were in a pickle because I’m unable to drive. My cousin, Joanie and her husband stepped up. Joanie watched over Pam at their home while Jeff drove me to Ohio so I could play for the wedding. When we realized Pam could not go, my wife shed tears and it was a great loss to us. As much as this wedding meant to the participants, it was a major deal for Pam and me. In the recent years, Rachael came to Nashville to attend a school to prepare her for the music industry. She secured a job at Capitol Christian and has been a bright spark for that company. The four of us are close (They lovingly refer to us as their Nashville grandparents) and we love getting together with them when they can find time
I know most of you don’t even know these people. I just wanted you to know what matters to me. Isn’t that what Facebook is about? I know that this couple has a legacy of great spiritual depth, brilliance, work ethic and compassion for the needy. What better to write about than this?