Sue’s friend, Cindy, once gave her a card that said, “Success in life depends on how you handle Plan B.” Sue has come to understand that the prospects for her attending Jessica’s wedding in Idaho are dim, so, because Luke is here visiting for spring break, Sue and Jessica hatched Plan B.
The other evening seven of us huddled around Sue’s hospital bed and had a mini-version of the Celtic handfasting ceremony Jessica has planned for May. First , Sue said a few words, including how happy she was that Jessica found Luke and that she does not have to worry that Jessica might have made a bad choice. Then Sue read from Ecclesiastes 4:9-13:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (and here she pointed out that God is the third strand in their cord)
We then tied the knot on Jessica and Luke. I don’t know if this is where the term “tie the knot” comes from, but the idea is the two to be wedded hold hands and different colors of ribbons, symbolizing different things, are tied around their wrists sort of binding them together, while words are spoken. Sue and I tied a blue ribbon on their wrist, symbolizing tranquility, patience, devotion and sincerity, and while the gathered few looked on, recited from the handfasting verses selected by Jessica. I am not allowed to print the whole thing, but a selected section was particularly meaningful, and appropo (apropos, if you prefer) to the moment: “These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow; and tears of joy.”
It was a time for both tears of joy and tears of sorrow. But it was good, and gave some closure to all involved. Following the ceremony I told the happy couple they could kiss, but they still couldn’t sleep together until after the real wedding on May 22. Couldn’t brandish my shot-gun, though, since we were in a hospital. (Actually, I don’t have any guns. I’ve never really wanted one, and anyway I always figured that if I had a gun I’d have a much greater chance of getting shot by Sue with my own gun than by an intruder.)
The whole saga of Sue’s cancer and the timing of it and all the “best laid plans” that have “gone askew” and the need to go to Plan B caused me to want to re-read the Robert Burns poem, “To A Mouse.”
To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, with the Plough – by Robert Burns
(translated to English from the original Scottish version)
Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With hurrying scamper!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December’s winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!
You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough past
Out through your cell.
That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!