By Emuna Braverman
I went to a wedding last week where the hosts were extra considerate of the needs of their guests. What was the mark of their thoughtfulness? There was a small package of tissues on every seat. They knew everyone was going to need them.
This marriage was something extraordinary, the product of hard work, determination, grit and the kindness of the Almighty. It was the marriage of two young adults with Down syndrome, of Danielle Magady and Shlomo Meyers. (It didn’t hurt that Danielle’s parents met in our living room so I felt an extra share of nachas!)
As the groom, Shlomo, told me on the day before the wedding, “Everyone is going to cry happy tears tomorrow.” And boy was he right! Not just because we had a glimpse of the work involved in getting to this moment (none of us could actually claim to really understand what was required). Not just because we had seen the bride’s parents fight and push and struggle to mainstream their daughter and give her the same opportunities as her classmates. Not just because of the drive and determination and just plain old-fashioned effort required to bring about this moment. But because we all felt that we were witnessing something out of the ordinary, something where the world “special” just isn’t enough, something perhaps that we would never witness again.
It was like seeing a revealed miracle in our times. And yes, those happy tears flowed and flowed. As one of the guests whispered after the chuppah, “If this doesn’t bring the messiah, I don’t know what will.”
There were so many additional elements that added poignancy to the simcha including the bride’s grandfather singing to the beaming couple under the chuppah. But I think perhaps the overwhelming feeling was awe. There was an emotional intensity that could not be contained or put into words (which is why I debated whether to even try). Sometimes I tell my children (or these days my grandchildren) that “I love you so much I can’t take it.” There are not sufficient words or physical gestures of affection to adequately convey the intensity and depth of my love.
The emotional experience of this wedding mirrored this sentiment. We felt privileged to participate in this event, privileged that we were there to witness this moment, privileged that our lives had intersected with this extraordinary couple and their parents and allowed us to witness their joy.
Sometimes (I’m sorry to say) when we attend a celebration, we feel like we are doing the host and hostess a favor. We are taking time out of our busy schedules to participate in their celebration. But in this case the favor was reversed. The favor was done to us. We are forever in their debt.
I spent quite a while speaking with Shlomo the day before the wedding. Every time his bride’s name was mentioned, a big smile spread across his face. But he also made a classic mistake. He told us a few times that the wedding day was going to be “the best day of my life!” Certainly his excitement was contagious but, as with all new couples, I tried to suggest that the wedding day is only a beginning and that, please God, things would only get better and better. And, like all new couples, he didn’t believe me!
I’m not naïve. All marriages require work and this one will demand more than most. The parents who didn’t stop pushing to reach this point are not now able to sit back and relax. Their work is not over (well no one’s is). But that is part of the inspiration. Because despite the greater level of work involved in now managing two lives instead of just one, these parents persevered and moved forward. On the days when I feel that “I can’t take another minute,” I look at them and put one foot in front of the other.
Sunday’s wedding uplifted us all. And goodness knows we could use some uplifting. At a time when some of the news facing the Jewish people seems to overwhelm us with its pain and sorrow, there is still the exhilarating joy of watching this couple and their families show us what’s possible and enable us to bear public witness to the awesome kindness of the Almighty.