78: Bagpipes in Toronto

78: Bagpipes in Toronto

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Bagpipes in Toronto

To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.

~Book of Common Prayer

We were married in Toronto in October 2005. We chose Toronto because I knew the city well, having completed my fellowship in Buffalo, just over the border. Toronto is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city; it is also gay-friendly. Pam and I had met on the Internet — PerfectMatch.com — some six weeks before. It was a whirlwind romance, a flurry of emotions, joy, and travel between St. Louis and Rochester, New York. We surgeons are used to making decisions quickly and often. So the decision was not difficult. When Cupid strikes, it’s hard to miss the arrow through the heart.

Pam made all the preparations. She had always wanted a ring from Tiffany, so we got Tiffany rings, seven diamonds in each one. Her dear friend Susan, a minister, agreed to officiate. The venue was the City Hall in Toronto, a gleaming semi-lunar edifice of glass and steel, set against a backdrop of older sandstone buildings. The misty rain stopped, and rays of sunlight filtered through the clouds. As we took the taxi ride down Queen Street, I remarked, “If there were bagpipes, it would be perfect.” Since I’m a Scot, I love the drone of the pipes, and a piper can be found at many a Scottish wedding.

At this point, the taxi driver rolled down the window, and then we heard it: the strain of the pipes wafting through the air, playing “Scotland the Brave.” I couldn’t believe it — what perfection!

Our ceremony was lovely (of course, I’m biased). The Canadian judge had, by law, to officiate also, so she and Susan performed the ceremony together. We had written some vows of our own, and we used the vows from the Book of Common Prayer. They were strong vows; we promised to love, comfort, honor, keep, and be faithful.

Following the ceremony, before our afternoon tea at the Four Seasons, our photographer motioned us toward the Mounties lined up in a row on the green space. It was an idyllic scene — a happy couple, sunshine, Mounties, horses. So idyllic, in fact, that a busload of Japanese tourists unloaded and rushed over to snap the event for their albums. At this point, it was time to leave. We had become an event.

During our tea, a compilation of our favorite songs was played, starting with the classic by Robert Burns, “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose.” We had two cakes — a sponge and a traditional Scottish wedding cake, which is a heavy, dense fruitcake layered with marzipan and hard icing. The tradition is that oblong pieces can be cut and mailed in specially designed boxes to loved ones who could not attend the ceremony. We sent a piece to my mother, whom Pam had met the month before. Pam had been standing with her on the curb outside her favorite Italian restaurant in Troon, Scotland, supporting her on one arm while she steadied herself with her other arm on her white stick, when my mum said to her: “It’s okay for me to go now, now that Diane has found you. You are the right one.”

Neither of us really felt the impact of those words till a month after the wedding, when I took the call from the nursing home that she had passed away suddenly from a heart attack, just after asking the attendant for a cup of tea. We went through her room at Westbank, the solid sandstone nursing home with a side of white pebbledash overlooking the South Bay at Troon, to pack up her belongings. The CD player had buttons and Velcro glued on the knobs, so she could recognize each one by feel. Opening the lid, we found the compilation wedding CD she had enjoyed. On the bedside table we found the box that had contained the slice of wedding cake. It was empty. She had enjoyed the cake. She had been there in spirit to enjoy our idyllic day.

~Diane M. Radford

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