The mother wore an expression of joy and awe as she cradled her newborn son and stood before the congregation. The occasion was a child dedication ceremony and her visage could not have been a purer expression of hope and love. The minister whispered and kissed the two-week- old and presented the parents with a rose stripped of its thorns. He said the thorn-less rose signified new budding life and the desire to protect our children from life’s harms and struggles.
The second part of the dedication was a bridging ceremony for high school seniors. Once again parents stood and faced the congregation but this time with their children by their side. The juxtaposition was clear. The occasion was joyous and anticipatory however the expressions of hopes and dreams were worn by the young-adult children rather than their parents. The profoundness of the contrast hung in the air.
The assembly echoed, “We honor you at this transformative time,” and “May you find among us allies and friends…we share together the sorrow of leaving the past, as well as the excitement of embracing the future.” The minister repeated the presentation of roses but the seniors were given roses with thorns.
He said the roses represented the sweetness of life but the thorns showed that there would be struggles. The parents nodded with the knowledge of hard-won wisdom. The minister said the thorns should not be seen as a frightening omen. He assured the youth that they were equipped to handle life’s prickly moments, would be supported and would always have a place to come home to.
My son participated in this ceremony yesterday and is nearly ready to leave the nest. We have done our best to deliver him to the altar of his future self. It is a bitter-sweet moment, knowing that he will no longer be part of our daily lives. Yet, I am filled with joy.
In the words of Henry Ward Beecher, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”
Carol Lewis Gullstad June 3, 2013