This Father's Day, I will remember my most public event with our daughter. My duty was not to draw any attention to myself. It was to be the bride's day. All the arrangements had been made, it seemed. The invitations had gone out. The family members near and far had responded. Many would even cross the border to make it to the wedding. This would not only be a union of husband and wife, it would be a celebration by two families from different nations.
In order to bring so many guests onto the "Yard" of the U.S. Naval Academy, it would be necessary to meet heightened security requirements. Passports and drivers licenses would have to be presented to armed guards. It's not what you would normally expect at a wedding, but it is what we have had to live with in this post-9/11 world.
To bring guests to the Academy Main Chapel for the ceremony would require a bright yellow school bus. It embarked the guests at a nearby high school. There were surely a thousand details to be managed. And my wife of many years and our daughter managed them all with aplomb. Two plombs, even.
There was only one issue that seemed to spell trouble: What to do about Dad and his tears? Ever since a bout with meningitis nearly 20 years earlier, I had had this tendency to well up when deeply moved. And it would be hard to imagine a more moving scene than escorting our beloved daughter down that great center aisle of the chapel.
It wasn't just a matter of emotions unchecked. If I cried, then our daughter might cry, too. And then her eye makeup would run and her wedding pictures would not come out. Taking the pictures before the wedding ceremony was never seriously considered.
Happily, a solution soon presented itself. Several weeks prior to the wedding date, we were sitting in a pew listening to the chaplain's stirring sermon. He described a scene from Admiral Jim Stockdale's memoir of his time as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Stockdale's captors had tortured and beaten him on an almost daily basis – for years. He was the acknowledged leader of the American POWs in the "Hanoi Hilton." If he continued to communicate with his brothers – using coded tapping on the clammy walls of his stinking cell – they threatened to kill him.
One day, Jim Stockdale heard the sound of running in the passageway outside his cell. His tormentors were yelling and racing toward his cell. He had defied their warnings to stop communicating with his imprisoned brothers.
This is it, he told himself. They are coming to kill me. That thought, however, did not fill Jim Stockdale with dread. He later wrote that he remembered his four years at the Naval Academy chapel. He recalled vividly the great figure of Christ the Consoler in stained glass above the high altar of the chapel. The Tiffany window shows Jesus walking on the waters. Jim Stockdale just fixed that image in his mind, he wrote, and he was calm.
As soon as the sermon ended, I bubbled over with excitement: "That's it," I told our daughter and my wife: "We will be walking arm-in-arm down that center aisle toward that same figure of Jesus that inspired Jim Stockdale."
On the day of the wedding, despite intense heat and humidity, we walked down that center aisle. I gave our daughter in marriage to a dear young Christian husband. She and I kept our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. And we were both dry-eyed. Jesus stilled the waters once again.