Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In Honor of the Wedding of Socrates and Emily Rosenfeld – In Memory of Robert “Sly” Seidel

The lone osprey hovered over our gathering – a majestic aquiline talisman of vigilance, beauty and grace.

We had come from near and far to celebrate the wedding of Socrates and Emily, and we had assembled for the rehearsal dinner hosted by the Rosenfeld’s – the groom’s family. We were a motley bunch. There were those among us who call Martha’s Vineyard their home, and those, like the Rosenfeld’s, who have come to love the island over the years by breathing in its essence for a month or two each summer. The rest of us had made our way on the Woods Hole ferry from Cape Cod, Boston, New York, Gettysburg, Ontario, British Columbia, Iraq and Jakarta, Indonesia and a variety of military bases in the US.

The setting could not have been more inviting. For over twenty years, John and Ketty Rosenfeld and their children have enjoyed spending a portion of each summer in a rented cottage overlooking The Vineyard’s picturesque Sengekontacket Pond with its panoramic view across the sand dunes to the distant shore of Cape Cod. A few dozen extended family members and close friends had been invited to dine with the parents of the bride and groom. This crowd was not shy about enjoying the wonderful selection of salads and meats - grilled to perfection by Grill Master, John Rosenfeld. We also justified our hosts’ faith that we would take full advantage of the two large coolers of adult beverages that they had laid in for our enjoyment.

After most of us had eaten to the point of feeling stuffed, John took the microphone to lead us in a Rosenfeld family tradition. Whenever the clan gathers, impromptu speeches by many in attendance are the order of the day. And this was a very special day, so the speeches were in keeping with the magnitude of the occasion.

Socrates, who would be the first to say that he does not enjoy speaking to a crowd, took the microphone and thanked everyone for coming. With great emotion, he shared with us that in addition to him wanting his brother, Abe, to serve as his best man, Soc had looked forward to sharing his special wedding day with three of his closest friends. His friend Paul was unable to be present because he wife was expecting their first child that weekend. Matt was unavailable because he is in the midst of evaluation for Special Forces. And “Sly” . . . . Socrates had to take a moment to compose himself, and then he continued by reminding us that Robert “Sly” Seidel would not be standing at his side on his wedding day because he had been killed in action in Iraq in May of 2006. And then Socrates added, as he always does when talking about his friend “Sly”: “But I know he is with us. I can feel him.”

The regal osprey overhead continued to remain on station - flying in an oval pattern and watching over the proceedings – an airborne sentinel.

The entire Seidel family had come to know the Rosenfeld family very well as the older sons visited one another’s homes during their four years together at West Point. So, it was a natural and very touching gesture when Socrates invited Stephen Seidel, Sly’s younger brother, to stand up with him as his groomsman. Stephen, who works in his home town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as a painter in an auto body shop, took the microphone from Soc and offered his thoughts about the special occasion that had brought us all together. Stephen reminded us that he was not really a public speaker, and then proceeded to eloquently evoke the presence of his big brother, reminding us what a special friendship it was that Soc and Robert had shared, and how pleased Robert was that Soc had found someone as wonderful as Emily. Stephen’s simple eloquence accomplished with his words what he often does at work with his hands: Stephen took something that had been damaged in an accident, removed the dents, and made it shiny and new and usable again.

Sandy Seidel was clearly moved by her young son’s words. She made her way slowly up the steps to the porch, and accepted the microphone from Stephen. She shared with us a story that I can only describe as miraculous.

“A couple of weeks ago, we received a visit from one of Robert’s soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. This young man had been with Robert in Iraq. We sat and talked, and as we talked, we were listening to some of the selections that Robert had downloaded onto his MP3 player. The songs – hundreds of them – were playing in random order. I asked the soldier if Robert had ever convinced him to begin to appreciate country music, which my son loved. He smiled and said, ‘Not really, but there was this one song by Bob Dylan that I really grew to like as much as he did.’ Within a few moments, a new song started playing on the iPod, and the soldier exclaimed: ‘That’s the song!’ We felt like Robert was speaking to us.

As we continued to talk, the soldier asked, ‘Have you had a chance to go through Robert’s personal belongings that were shipped back from Iraq?’

‘Not really. I quickly checked the contents against the inventory list, but I did not really look at things.’

‘Would it be helpful if I went through the things with you?’

So, we started going through Robert’s trunks. We came to something done up in bubble wrap. On the inventory list, it had said ‘box,’ and I assumed it was some kind of a box, but I did not know what kind.

The soldier smiled and said: ‘I can tell you exactly what this is. Almost a year and a half ago, Robert and I were together at the bazaar, and he found this special carved wooden box, inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl. He turned to me and said, “I am going to buy this as a wedding gift for Socrates and Emily.” ‘But they aren’t even engaged,’ I replied. “But they will be, and I want them to have this.”

I thanked the soldier, and told him that Soc and Emily were to be married in just a couple of weeks, and that I was heading to Massachusetts for the wedding. I told him if he had not visited me, I would have had no idea that the box was to be a wedding gift for them.

So, it is clear that Robert went to a lot of effort – not only to buy this gift – but to make sure I knew about it so I could bring it here tonight.

Soc and Emily, I am pleased to present you with this box – a gift from my son.

I looked to the sky and the osprey was gone; having done his duty, he had returned to his aerie.

In loving memory of Robert “Sly” Seidel

Rest in peace.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing so beautifully about this special "rehearsal" dinner. We are honorred that you came and touched by each word you lovingly selected to share with all of us. God bless and much love, Mama Rosie.