His Princess Bride

This morning I'm reflecting on pain. And purpose.
On pushing forward and on The Princess Bride movie.

And on this wisdom from Westley, a quirky character in The Princess Bride; here's what my brother Mark said about that movie in a work team gathering, just a few months before he died:

The 1987 version of focus. What was his one mission, for which he trained almost his entire life? To find the six-fingered man? No, that was not enough. He needed to find him and kill him to properly avenge his father’s death. How’s your focus level today? What’s within you that drives you forward, propels you to make that extra call, dive a little deeper into yourself and the account? What’s your reason to sell more and to play your role well? Making money to pay the bills, save for the kids’ braces, weddings or college, buy that house, take that vacation, help others, get management off your back? Whatever your reason, channel your Inner Inigo and push forward.

Dear Mipps,

We are trying so hard to do what you advised, to push through the bittersweet pain of joyful life events without you here. Since I thought you might want a highlights reel of Joshua and Ari's fairytale journey from dating to their June wedding, lights, camera, action, from my heart to yours.

First, they got engaged last November on the banks of the Comal River during our annual Thanksgiving Trek to the Texas Hill Country. It was such a lovely tribute to our time-honored tradition for him to choose that setting for his proposal. Since it's the first place he heads when we arrive, John was allowed to be fishing nearby, as a decoy of sorts; the rest of us got to watch from our balcony. So romantic really; you'd have loved watching him catch his girl from down on one knee and reel her in with that ring.

So they set the date for June 10th, the two-year mark of Ari agreeing to be his girlfriend. More romance. and lots to be done in a six-month period. Traditionally the girl's side still gets to do the bulk of the wedding planning, so I went to work on ideas for the rehearsal dinner. We decided on Locals Kitchen and Market as our venue because their Smash Burger is Josh's favorite and Ari loves their Panini Amore. Since we decided it would be a picnic on their patio, I quickly went to work on a frisbee design, in lavender, of course. Frisbee golf, after all, was the last thing that you and Joshua got to do together. I thought it'd be a sentimental way to have you there, but Joshua nixed the idea based on functionality. He says those are cheap, don't fly well, and will likely just get thrown away.

As you wish.

I know you'd have savored every second of this outing; there was a spot for you at every table, because that's how you'd have connected. Kaitlyn did a wonderful job saying grace in your stead.

Oh, and this Peach Caprese Appetizer? 

You'd have totally tried to recreate these when you got home.

On to the day-of highlights. Wedding is at Hope Lutheran at 4 pm, so Joshua invites his two attendants to get ready and take pictures as our place around 12:30. Why so early? John inquires. Well, it turns out that there's a huge Pokémon Go spawn around 2, and the groom wants to catch a few before he says "I do." Some men golf before the wedding, others drink, still others play pool. Ours? He's a competitive kid at heart who just wants to catch 'em all.

So instead of try to talk him out of it, John offers his Uber services.

As you wish.

And of course, he made it to the chapel on time and their church wedding beautifully conveyed their commitment and love. How many weddings do you suppose are at our church per year? One. Ish. Does that surprise you? Yeah, me too. Pastor looks pretty pleased, eh?

Anyway, doesn't she look like she won the lottery in this shot?

Joshua got his princess bride ... 

... and the best was yet to come.

The reception room resembled a Fairyland
with twinkle lights and sweet glimmers everywhere.

The food was tasty and the toasts even more delicious.

We were grateful Dad and Flo could travel from Wisconsin;
Jacob's speech was delightfully funny and authentically heartwarming.

Sort of like you, in this prayer you gave at your friends' wedding.

Your words that day were incredibly genuine and oddly prophetic;
starting with that Princess Bride reference was signature you.

I see so much of you in Jacob. You're both purple tie guys.

And then, just when I thought the best had already arrived,
it was time for their first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Gruener.

Click {here} to let the music wash over you while you read this part.

So, let's go back to March of 2021. The kids are back in college, behind masks, navigating through the fallout of a global pandemic. Joshua goes to an Anime club meeting and invites his friends after the meeting to come to the Student Activity Center because he's planning to play a few of the songs he'd been practicing on the grand piano there. As you can imagine, this was huge for him, because he's more of a behind-the-scenes sort of guy, who really plays for his own release rather than for others to hear.

When Ari arrives, she hears him playing her favorite song, Isabella's Lullaby, and quickly pulls out her phone to film. Another rarity, because, again, Joshua doesn't really like the spotlight much. 

Okay ok. At. all.

Flash forward two years and a few months. Ari still has the footage that she took that day, and she has an uncle, who's also doubling as their DJ at the wedding, with some mad tech skills. So he takes that clip and splits the audio so that their first dance is to her favorite song as her prince tickles the ivories at A&M.

I know, goose bumps, am I right?

Then it's my turn to dance with my young man,
to the ballad Slow Down by Nicole Nordeman.

After we danced alone for a bit, the couple invited other moms and sons to join us, so Dad and Grandmother are just behind us on the dance floor in a beautifully poignant moment.

As you wish.

Cake, then a picture-perfect exit that's one for the books.

And for the birds as the newlyweds laughed their way through
getting pelted with bird seed on their fond farewell and one last look.

Still, the best was yet to come, because here's where you come in, Mipps.

Jacob offered that your sweet ride be the getaway car.

The Prince and his Princess Bride in the coolest carriage ever.

Driving off into the sunset on the first day of the rest of their lives.

Gosh I wish you could have been here in person,
but I'm grateful that you were with us in spirit.

Yep, life is pain, and if anyone says otherwise,
don't buy what they're trying to sell.

And yet, when that pain propels us toward sharpening our
focus on faith, family, friends and fellowship, then we
are all the richer for it here, until we meet again.

Know that you are always here in our hearts, little Mippers.

Because sibling love never dies,


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