The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morning when there is none to wed.
Written out in my mother’s ‘Book of beautiful things’
Mum had copied this, many years ago, into a section which she headed ‘Contrast’. A celebrant like me is bound to find this striking.
I am no literary critic, but even I can see what the poet may have meant in contrasting the ephemeral cherry blossom with the hope symbolised in an imaginary wedding, and with the ghosts of the past on that road. The knowledge that the poem was written during the First World War brings added poignancy, during a week in which we’ve heard so much commemoration of past conflicts.
In meeting couples and planning with them for a wedding celebration, you become caught up in their excitement and hopes for the future. I might then be working with another family on a funeral plan; or then again, devising a baby naming day. We’re also trained for divorce ceremonies, should the need arise, and are ready to offer all sorts of other rituals, including living funerals.
All of these life events connect with one another, make one another possible, bring one another into being. Grief is the proof of great love. We experience, over and over, the triumph of hope over experience - a quote attributed to Samuel Johnson on hearing of a second marriage following an unhappy first. Well, here’s to it.
Just a while ago, I walked through the park, paused to enjoy the blossom as it fell around me; recalled a long-ago wedding and a more recent death; smelt the earth, sheltered from raindrops and smiled at the abundance of new growth around me. All of these in the blink of an eye, this being Scotland.
To plant no seeds, to take no emotional risks, to hold back from love would be to deny the potential of new blossom. I celebrate all of them, and realise how lucky I am to share in so many of these moments.