Winds of Change

Ed. Note: I spoke these words at my daughter’s wedding reception Saturday, Aug. 2 at Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster on the outer Cape Cod; any father who has married off a daughter has felt the moment; it advances slowly, then pounces. Change, in the fabric of family, is a conflict of emotions; the “giving away” seems so anomalous, yet so natural, running a range of sentiments—joyful, cerebral, wrenching, all at once. I offer this reflection to all fathers who have stood on the terra firma of love, reflecting on imperfections of fatherhood in giving a daughter to a man who will replace you.

By Greg O’Brien

Words have sounds.
We hear words. Not just read them.

  • Run.
  • Breathe.
  • Reach.
  • Live
  • Celebrate.
  • Faith.
  • Forgive.

They all have meaning in sound, in the composition of the mind. Scholars call it onomatopoeia—formation of a word from a sound associated with it.

The word today swirling around my head is: Change.

It has a lumbering sound. It is the elephant in the room.

As a verb, Webster’s defines change as “to make or become different.” As a noun, change is defined as “the act or instance of becoming different.”

We are here today on the precipice of change, the making and the instance of it. Becoming different.

While my mind agrees with Webster’s definition, my heart says otherwise.

I’ve never done change well.

Sounds that I hear today when I think of change: the first cry of a beautiful little girl entering the world in the delivery room of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Colleen’s laughter at walking the flats on Cape Cod Bay as hermit crabs tickled her toes; her anticipation as she climbed alone for the first time those steep steps of the yellow school bus on her way to kindergarten; the cheers on the softball field as she turned a double play; the stench of the old Boston Garden as we watched Disney on Ice together; the swing of Sweet Caroline at Fenway Park; sitting in Tom Brady’s personal suite for a Pats game at Gillette Stadium; the rip of my heart as she left for Elon University, and I felt in change there was something terribly wrong; the first time she brought Matt Everett home with her, and I felt something was terribly right.

Change it has a sound to it. The Book of Revelations says it best: “Whoever has ears, let him hear.”

Winds of change are swirling. My mind today is an old school carousel of Kodachrome slides of my daughter’s life, all arranged in chronological order. I can hear the click as one slide advances the other.

I can’t stop these flashes and sounds of color. Nor do I want to. Any father who hasn’t felt this moment at the marriage of a daughter, please check your pulse.

We don’t want to have to pay for the dinner of a deceased.

Marriage, to me, is reaffirmation of God’s plan. We, as parents, are caregivers, caretakers in the nest for our children. They belong to God, our Father. Our job is to nurture, to love, to direct, to refine, to support—all in imperfect ways—then to let go, and let God. When love comes from the heart, not the head, it is perfect.

The letting go part, however, is difficult for all of us. But the spreading of wings results in beautiful, soaring flight.

So Colleen and Matt soar today, as you leave the nest, soar as high as you can. Fly side by side. Help, encourage and love each other endlessly in flight. A picture worthy of a gold frame.

You begin your family album today. The first click was the “I do.”

Now it’s “we do,” the first person plural. You have become one. That is a change. A good change; becoming different, but in remarkable ways. The winds of change have cleared the canvas. You paint your own picture now, a stunning picture in romance, in children, in challenges, in flight, and in words from the heart.

Words have sounds. We hear them.

I love you both with all my heart.

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