Friday, June 5, 2015

Wedding Season

Our wedding was a  four-day event—the melding of two large families: one Canadian Jewish with origins in Eastern Europe and Portugal, and the other Hindu from East Africa (Kenya) with roots in Gujarat, India.

It started on Thursday with mehndi, in which the women decorated themselves with henna, sang songs, told jokes and stories, and more. The men were at my stag party, where we took over a pub and played pool, drank various liquid refreshments, told jokes and stories, and more.

Friday night was the start of the Jewish Sabbath, and I was called to bless the Torah and to deliver a sermon. Taking cues from the Torah portion to be read that weekend, where there were 72 different commandments in one portion, I decided to speak about a theme of tolerance and understanding, which ultimately leads to peace. As one rabbi explained, “…the idea behind all these laws is together they make Israel a fit partner in God’s covenant.” And, with one weekend, we married two cultures, two families, and multiple communities as we embraced our love. The mind opens and in creeps wisdom. Tolerance, understanding, faith, and more were discussed, all with liberal references to one of my favourite sources of quotes, “Star Trek”!

Saturday we honoured Tina’s family and community with a Hindu engagement ceremony, a Ganesh pooja and sagai, followed by a feast of Indian food with African flavourings, and finally, sanji (singing) and raas garba (folk dancing with sticks). It was an incredible day of flavour, sounds, smells, sights, colourful clothing, and great joy.

Sunday morning, we held our Jewish wedding ceremony in the round, followed by a luncheon at the Officers’ Mess at the Curry Army Barracks in Calgary (I was a recently retired officer in the Canadian Armed Forces). We ended our day with a dinner for our family and 90 of our best friends at a Thai restaurant.

Prior to this incredible weekend, we both spent years doing more than just work. For me, in the Army, I learned how to curl. Curling is a great sport that can be enjoyed by all ages—and both genders. Through curling, I made wonderful friends who remain close to me today. I also played baseball and played in organized leagues for more than 30 years. Between the Army, dentistry, baseball, curling, my Jewish community, and our enormous families (I am one of 13 children, my wife is one of six, my mother is one of eight, and my father-in-law is one of seven), our wedding was not a small intimate affair, but a large community event. That was almost 22 years ago.

As the years have gone by, it never ceases to amaze me that when I get out of the house, and out of my office, and get involved in something/anything, I get connected. Connected to people. Connected to communities. Connected to life itself. After nearly 28 years of dental practice, I have seen children born, grow up, finish school, meet someone special, get married, and have children of their own. I have seen others complete careers, enjoy vacations, become grandparents, embrace retirement, and that which we will all face one day, decline and pass on. And, for hundreds, or even thousands of people, I have been a regular part of their lives, every year, multiple times per year. Between my large family, my community, and my patients, we have been invited to 11 weddings this year; four of these invitations are from patients of mine, and I am so honoured and thrilled that they consider me to be that special in their lives that they want me to be at their wedding. I am very excited to witness the start of that next incredible journey in their lives.

It is pretty incredible what we get to do as a career, the lives we have an opportunity to influence, the communities with which we become involved and ingrained. It is our opportunity to make a difference and to help make humanity happier, healthier, safer, and more peaceful, one patient at a time.

It’s wedding season. Enjoy every moment.

Larry Stanleigh, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD

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