This past Friday I was out with my family, and another family, in celebration of their daughter’s 10th birthday. It was her desire that we all go roller skating, which is why we were at Scooter’s Roller Palace in Mississauga, going round, and round, and round.
It had been at least 35 years since I’d last been roller skating. In the last decade I have roller-bladed on city streets, but that is something totally different. Being on the roller rink, with the loud music and the flashing party lights, evoked memories of those nights at the Fort William Arena in Thunder Bay. In the spring and summer, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department turned the big hockey rink into a roller-skating venue. The music was very different 35 years ago, and we did not have the high tech lighting system, but the basic idea was the same- going round, and round, and round.
The epitome of the roller-skating experience back then was the “couple’s skate”. This event required two vital elements: the ability to skate while holding someone’s hand (which is harder than it sounds!); and someone to skate with. As a nervous and shy, and totally un-coordinated and un-cool early teen I really did not have either.
Thirty five years later, and I am going round and round the roller rink, and my wife is skating beside me. I reach out my hand, with the remembered hesitation of the 14 year old who always skated alone. My wife takes my hand, and we skate together. This is something we had not done, in all the years we have known each other. This kind of seems like something we might have done as a courting ritual, but it is just as fine a thing to do as we approach our 18th anniversary, and are sharing the roller rink with our 9 year old and 12 year old. Maybe it does not matter where we start, and where we finish, in the eternal round and round of the life’s roller rink.
The next morning I was in a palliative care room at the hospital, in my minister’s alb and stole, helping a wonderful couple make their wedding vows. They have been together for more than a decade, and decided just a few days ago to seal their love with the churchly formalities. She had waited for him to ask him, and he did. It seemed he wanted this to happen before he died.
It was a sacred and powerfully moving event. The ten or so people gathered in the room were loving witnesses as these two brave souls sat side by side, holding hands, and looking into each other’s eyes.
Love is stronger than death. This is one of the deep truths of faith. Love is eternal, and timeless, and just keeps going round and round. Like the golden circle of a wedding band. Like loud and flashy circuits around a roller rink, without a clear beginning or end.
To promise yourself to another person is an act of faith and hope and will. Does it matter whether this hope-filled promise happens nearer the beginning or the end of our earthly life?