HELEN AND BRIAN’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Laurel Christina Colless
Mum and Dad, family and dear friends. I hope you are having a relaxing and happy visit, as my parents prepare to cut the cake and make their wishes.
By now you will have heard from other family members some highlights from the first four decades of Helen and Brian’s marriage and it is now my turn to present a few from the fifth decade (notice I did not say the last decade as I know we are all wishing them many happy more together). The cake, which I hope is standing tall among you is my gift to you today. As you can see there are two tiers – one for today and one to put in the freezer to be brought out at future celebrations. (I know Dad is now grumbling that there is no room in the freezer but perhaps there is a volunteer from among the guests with a big New Zealand style freezer we could impose upon.)
Actually it is Helen who takes that line, when I try to put more frozen vegetables and icecream into the two drawers. Also, we learnt when we sang in the choir at a Samoan wedding on the previous Saturday that the top storey goes to the minister. But our pastor, Philo, will not insist on her rights in this instance. It is indeed a work of art, as was the original wedding cake, baked and decorated by my mother Irene Colless.
Another wedding cake was taken to Tokyo by Helen and myself for celebrations of her marriage to Pekka (which had already been solemnized in a Lutheran church in Finland). We had one tier each, and they created much interest as they traveled in planes like babies.
Mum and Dad
Thank you for being such terrific and available parents - including from call boxes in Tokyo in the middle of the night. Contrary to what I told you when I was a teenager, being health food junkies with strong environmental awareness; having integrity and being thoughtful contributing members of our family and society; as well as being very smart and loving were after all probably more important than wearing the right clothes and being cool.
Including your ban on wearing socks with sandals.
I thank you both for staying together through the good years, and even some of the mediocre years, and for keeping our family together. Thanks for your love and support, luckily I am not reading this aloud myself, as I would probably be crying by now, but Pekka and I and the girls, even Doris the dachshund, will do everything we can to return that love and support to you in the decades to come. Congratulations again and we love you both very much.
This message was read out by Dawn Colless, Laurel's dear sister-in-law.
And this brings me to the top five points, which I have chosen to highlight from the last ten years.
Early in the decade we saw the unprecedented terrorist attack on the world trade center and at no other time in our living family history did this make Brian’s extensive lifelong research and education around religion seem more relevant. 9/11 affected everyone of us in some way and it made our world seem smaller.
The '9/11' is the American way, getting things the wrong way round; it was the 11th day of the 9th month (September), and so '11/9'
It also put a spotlight on religion as an influential force that shapes human experience and human actions. Something that Dad has been teaching students locally and around the world for more than forty years.
Here in New Zealand we had already moved on, and so it was Wednesday the 12th, and I was taking my two final classes before retiring, on the subject Religion in the USA. I had already prepared my video clips, and the first image that came up was an American skyscraper! I asked the students whether George Bush would practise Christian forgiveness in this case (he being a good Methodist), but none of them thought that would happen. Laurel herself has had contact with him in the oval office at the White House (go to Collesseum; Celebrities).
Dolly the sheep was cloned, Olivia the third grandchild was created in vitro; then Julia the determined fourth shunned the help of science and appeared of her own volition. Their parents, Pekka and I, moved out of Finland to the US and a little closer to New Zealand.
Two years later, Helen Colless - Mum – got sick. That brought me and my family home much more often and put me more closely in touch with many of you. Prayers, well wishes, e-mails, letters, cards and visits also flowed from people everywhere, and this also made the world seem smaller.
New Zealand saw its second female prime minister serve two of her three consecutive terms in office, then leave her political career to eradicate poverty as head of the UNDP.
The other important Helen had already given her very active and energetic career to educating and empowering people, particularly children, and not least her own, in her adopted Manawatu community. She moved up with Brian to her new castle in an exotic street on the hill. Later during Christmas 2008, Mum would defy illness with a high energy family holiday, where she became a dancing queen, captured on film.
Those two little girls could sing all the Abba songs from Mamma Mia.
Not long before this, Al Gore received the Nobel Peace prize for his service to the environment, giving much needed impetus to a thinking shift on Capitol Hill, which should ultimately make the entire world greener.
Laurel's own contribution to the cause is stupendous (see Bonzoz: Ecology).
Back up on their hill, Queen Helen developed a beautiful new landscape and garden while Brian, who has always been very green, offsetting his carbon footprint to Mum the solo driver of the family, began mowing the lawns - unfortunately not ever in the correct way, so we are told.
She did the mowing herself on this occasion, and for several weeks directed Bill the plasterer and Jill the painter as they refurbished the exterior of the house..
But seriously, both Helen and Brian have spent their lives figuring out clever ways to consume less and reuse more. (With the exception of that hideous and noisy fence made of venetian blinds in Ashford Ave, we must applaud this.)
People born during the Depression don't like to see food or other goods being wasted.
And I would finish by saying that their 50 years together respecting and honoring the environment could never seem more relevant than in the context of today’s geo-political environmental struggles. Congratulations Helen and Brian. God save the earth and God save our Queen.