Seven years ago, my husband and I got married. We splurged and hired a videographer to capture videos of the day and every so often we’ll pull out the DVD to show the kids or reminisce over the joy of the day. Within our “wedding movie” there is a section that has each of the wedding speeches fully recorded. The one I find the hardest to watch is my dad’s.
My dad enjoys public speaking and in his later years would often perform in community theater – he wrote an eloquent speech and he spoke very well…but as he spoke on our wedding day I remember feeling slightly mortified. First, because his speech ended up being about 20 minutes long (it took up 2 chapters on the DVD :)), and second, because it contained a detailed history of my accomplishments. From the science awards to the piano accomplishments, to the statement (word-for-word) “Tiffany obtained her Master’s of Accounting at the age of 23” I was embarrassed to have dozens of my achievements listed off like it was a verbal CV.
Yes, my dad was proud of me and my accomplishments, and, in a room full of his friends, I could see how he might want to shine a light on them…but in the last year I realized there was another reason why I found it difficult to watch.
I realized that the speech said nothing about me as a person, or who I had become.
There was no mention of those funny childhood anecdotes that give you a sense for the person’s passions/humor. Nor were there any descriptions of my personality.
I could be the biggest bitch in the world who stabbed people in the back, lived my life in vain and greed, & only respected people who had something to offer me in return…and my father could have read the same speech. Because all of the facts he read would still be true.
Surely, my parents wanted me to grow up to be a kind and compassionate person…but I sometimes reflect on how my parents would feel if I had more academic/career success but with a less kind personality. I don’t think they would mind the trade off.
You can’t change others and you can’t change your past…but you can write the past you want to remember and write the future you want for yourself. Here are snippets of a wedding speech I wish he would have read:
As a young girl Tiffany was equal parts creative as she was defiant. After a trip to Universal Studios we asked the kids to each write a 2 page report on the experience. Tiffany, who was 7 yrs old, didn’t love the assignment and instead created an exciting 2 page brochure marketing the thrills of the amusement park – complete with pictures and exciting captions littered with exclamation points. Getting the job done, but on her own terms.
(6 years later she did something similar in school when the class was tasked with writing a report on anything related to baseball and while some suggested topics were “Women in baseball” and “The History of Baseball”, she asked if she could write about “Halitosis & The Effects of Chewing Tobacco on Baseball Players”.)
Her brother nicknamed her “Chippy Monster” as she had an overwhelming love for chips. So much so, that she named her favorite stuffed dog “Ruffles” after the chip brand.
Tiffany had a special empathy for her stuffed animals and would often admonish her mother for tossing them in the corner exclaiming “You hurt her! Say you’re sorry and give her a hug!”. Along with “Ruffles”, her favorite stuffed animals were “Raccoon” (a stuffed raccoon), “You’re the greatest” (a teddy bear won at the CNE that wore a pink shirt that said “You’re the greatest”) and “Mouse-y” (an adorable white mouse with a red flowered dress). Creative names weren’t her specialty.
Our nickname for Tiffany at home was “Little Mommy” – partially because she tried to take care of everyone from the time she was 8 years old, and partially because she was so bossy.
As a teen, Tiffany had an undeniable & obsessive love for the band Hanson. Her bedroom walls are still wall-papered with sun-faded Teen Beat, Bop!, and Tiger Beat Hanson pin-ups. She was also smugly proud that she shared the same birthday as Zac Hanson.
Tiffany’s love for volunteering grew out of her early experiences. She first started volunteering at the hospital doing super boring things like folding towels and refilling glove boxes. But her favorite part was delivering meals to the patients because she could see her young presence brought a smile to the elderly patients’ faces. She also enjoyed the free Drumstick ice cream cones at break time.
A few years later she volunteered at Pathways to teach swimming to children with special needs which was an incredibly rewarding experience. A decade later this would influence her to both advocate for accessibility and provide feedback on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (she gets a kick out of doing employee AODA training, knowing she played a small part in its creation) and eventually volunteering with her church’s Friendship group where she felt privileged to build friendships with adult’s with special needs.
Sometimes people write their own eulogies, and perhaps this is a start to what I’d like to write in mine.
I hope that as my daughters grow older that I remember that their successes need not be measured by trophies or letters behind their name, and to appreciate them for all the things that make them them. Big or small, good or bad, publishable or private.