This past weekend, our beloved daughter returned from a three-month sojourn in Southeast Asia and the next day we traveled to Quincy, California, for an amazing family experience. My eldest son, Demian, had a milestone birthday on same day as the rehearsal dinner for youngest son, Nathan. There was a bonfire under the stars. Nathan and his beautiful new wife, Kelsey, were wed the next day in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One couple, Max and Karin, wrote a song for them. Kelsey’s father performed the service, a non-religious, open ceremony, which included both families. The weather was filled with the feel of Indian summer and everyone felt the love in the air. It was a whirlwind of wonder, a beautiful time I will always cherish. I was invited to give a toast. I am so blessed by my family, that I can’t resist the impulse to share.
When people enter into marriage, they also enter into the family structure of their new spouse, and all the eccentricities that implies. Our family, in particular, is what we affectionately refer to as a “Berkeley blended family.” That’s a challenge that I need not go into now. You’d need a flow chart to see all the interconnections and relationships. But I think that that conscious commitment we make to each member of the family is what makes our bond strong and loving. I’d like to speak a moment generally about the nature of families. The strength of a good family depends upon honesty and integrity and loyalty. Honesty because, within the family structure (those with whom you have the closest relationships), honesty is critical. One needs to be able to trust in the support and feedback of family to live a meaningful existence. One needs to believe in the integrity of the family bonds, because the embrace of family is important in order to go forward with belief in oneself: to learn, and to grow, and to sometimes make mistakes. Because in a strong family, loyalty is unconditional. It is only with family that one can depend on the forgiveness for transgressions. We are not perfect. We need the support of our family when we make mistakes and have to be forgiven. We are a family of talkers and we talked about honor, integrity and loyalty when Nathan was little. We talked about the nature of honor. We don’t do it for others, honor is a gift we give ourselves. It defines us. Nathan’s character allows him to see the path ahead, make clear what otherwise would be confusing, face every challenge with a “can-do” attitude. We say Nate can get it done. Whether competing in the half-Iron Man triathlon (5 hours and 33 minutes) or winning first place in the state championship in gymnastics, or single-handedly launching a new product for a new company, Nate excels in whatever he tries to do. In that way, he and Kelsey are alike. They challenge and complete each other fearlessly. As Lao Tzu said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” I want to welcome Kelsey into this shared reality of our family. Besides being smart and beautiful, Kelsey fit in almost immediately. It was like she had always been a part of us. She was one more piece of our family puzzle. Once in place, the picture seemed clear—she was the right fit for Nate. And the right fit for the family, too. Weddings are like births. They are the new beginnings. Let’s all raise our glasses and toast to Nathan and Kelsey: love, strength, courage, family, and new beginnings.