— V I C T O R Y A T L A S T —
A speech on the occasion of the wedding of Samuel and Safiya, November 28, 2015, to be delivered with tenor Churchillian bombast, and given in recompense for Samuel’s unforgetable speech at my own wedding five years prior
* * *
To find Samuel a wife. This was our charge. This was the battle.
One score and eleven years ago Samuel’s parents brought forth in this nation a new boy, conceived in hope, and eventually dedicated to the cause of spiritual and social advancement and the true liberty of mankind … and also, a bit later, dedicated to the hope of marriage.
The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy. In this case, the enemy was a life of bachelorhood: abstinence from home-cooked meals; abstinence from in-law-related obligations; and, of course, standard-issue abstinence.
You ask, what was our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs! Victory in spite of all potential embarrassment! Victory, however long and hard the road! For without victory there could never be the hope of adorable, cappuccino-coloured progeny.
He had nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. He had before him an ordeal of the most strenuous kind. He had before him years of struggle and long-suffering. He faced the most daunting of tasks: to seek out and investigate the character of one who could be his match, his intimate helpmeet.
What were our tactics? We would see him off on outings with young ladies. He would date in North America, he would date in China, he would date in Africa, he would date in India, and he would date online. He would go on dating to the bitter end. Or would it be the sweet end? And he would never surrender.
We were all in this together – you and I, families, friends – rallying around the noble cause of pairing this guy off, sending our warrior into the loving arms of eventual matrimony. We took up our task with buoyancy and hope. We knew in our lion hearts that this cause would not be suffered to fail among men. Through thick and thin, we have stood by him: ever the suitor – but ever to be the groom?
“Always the wedding crasher, never the bridegroom,” or so it has been said, just now.
I, among his comrades-in-arms, have done what I could to stand by him – mostly over the phone, since, despite our apparently undying friendship, we have never in fact lived in the same place. Living far apart from your BFF can be difficult – but it may have been a mercy to those around us, considering that when we did get together we insisted on doing such things as: challenging everyone in sight to Scrabble tournaments; pretending that the somewhat dry gatherings we attended were actually taxidermy conventions, and then trying to hold in our giggles; calling up acquaintances to ask them ludicrous questions that purported to have something to do with their fields of expertise; and, of course, hosting our own preemptive funerals.
My spiritual brother was not always the paragon of manhood you see before you today. I first came to know this now decorated hero [point to wedding ring] as a small, blonde – nay, see-thru-haired – boy at a summer camp. Camp, in particular ROBSI (the Rideau-Ottawa Baha’i Schools Initiative), became our primary stomping ground, and we were royals in our day. Our campfire skits were the cleverest, our noodle fights the noodliest, and our spice-eating contests the most hilarious. One fateful year, we were at last put together as a counsellor team, only to be split up later that summer, after the camp directors received complaints from campers in other groups that our group was having too much fun and it wasn’t fair.
On other occasions, we would be found drawing faces on pieces of fruit, writing and illustrating comics that mysteriously didn’t seem to be funny to many other people, and of course, having excellent ‘girl talks.’ Wherever we were in the world, messages would be exchanged. Had I ventured into that vault, this speech would have been many hours long. I will only say that one of my favourite emails from Sam came when he was in Macau, near China, doing volunteer work, and I was starting my undergrad in Peterborough, Ontario. The email, which warmed my heart to no end, simply said, “Could you come here for a sec?”
In later years – the globe-trotting, single years – my memories of Samuel comprise long hours of preparation for this or that trip abroad: staying up all night, packing up his literal baggage, unpacking his proverbial baggage, mending his clothes, and exchanging all the music we could download from one another in the space of about ten hours. Ship-shape in the barracks, and then ship out.
So you see that I have had my share of valour on this battlefield. It has been my honour to have Samuel for so many years monopolize my time, belittle my cities of residence, malign my friends, make fun of my family, and on early mornings sic his dogs on me as a wake-up call. And it is my hope that we will once again into the fray. That is to say, I hope we will make time again for some of our creative projects, for example, now that his all-consuming wife search is over.
The battle was not always dignified, but it was always honourable! Tens of tens have been left in the dust of the unrelenting juggernaut that was Samuel Benoit, bachelor. The statistics speak for themselves: one out of all Baha’i women in eastern Ontario and western Quebec have now fallen victim to his crusade. I first learned of Safiya – or “Amusement Park Girl” as I would come to catalogue her – over the phone, after a discouraging encounter about which the bridegroom may one day tell you. Suffice to say, rather early on in their acquaintanceship, all seemed lost. And yet, victory is sweetest when one has known defeat.
But God is not heedless to the sighings of the soul. When we desire something good, Good will side with us. When we pray ardently and truly seek some outlet for the realization of our hopes, sooner or later the occasion will present itself. And later is better than never.
Never have so few owed so much to so many. Today is a day for the annals of history. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if this union is to last for a thousand years or more, through all the worlds of God, we will still say, “This was one of Samuel’s finest hours!”
Where there is unity, there is always victory. God bless you all. This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of unity between two families. Everyone, mother or father, sister or brother, niece or nephew, friend or frenemy, has done their best. Everyone has tried. Neither the long years, nor the false alarms, nor the rocky starts in any way weakened the unbending resolve of Samuel Benoit in his efforts to find a delightsome wife, and find one he has: a wife beautiful and sweet, one who has already begun to temper him, and – best of all – one who makes him look tall in photographs. Here’s to you, Safiya! [Raise drink in toast. Others should join in.]
Let us now, at the last, unfurl the standard of victory in the name of these two beloved friends! [Unfurl the standard!]
And if you’re thinking, Samuel, What on earth am I going to do with that giant flag? I do not want to keep it, then I say unto you, “too bad,” and I suggest that you might find uses for it someday – say, for example, as a baby blanket.
Thank you for indulging me this evening. Please continue with your merry-making (for a minute or two, after which we will hear from the illustrious groom).
* * *
With thanks for some of their words , which I brazenly lifted, to, most especially, Winston Churchill, and to Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Teddy Roosevelt, Publilius Syrus, Malcolm Forbes, Sun Tzu, Abraham Lincoln, and to Bahíyyih Khánum (the latter being the only words I took entirely seriously)
— APPENDIX A —
— APPENDIX B —
See the inspiration for the coat of arms here. (It was inspired by a historical coat of arms of the de Benoit family.)
Also, I submit the below photograph into evidence. The photograph shows a scrap piece of paper on which, in perhaps early 2012 (more than three years before Samuel’s wedding), I wrote down the idea for this speech.