Best man

May 20, 2006

I’m sitting upstairs at the Shaughnessy home in Cleveland, looking out the window at the verdant Metroparks valley below, and I’m marveling at the beautiful dogwood blossoms next to the house. This home and its glories are a testament to the hard work of Dan and Joanne.

Nearly ten years ago, Dan and Joanne invited many of you to gather here to celebrate Erin’s and my wedding. That was a perfect August day, and our marriage has been the memorable journey we thought we’d be embarking upon that day. I love Erin. Day by day, I fall ever deeper into love with her.

At dinner under the tent that night, Joe Cimperman stood to give the traditional best man toast. Joe was my friend from college, and from the moment I met him—on the way to a Vocational Awareness Group meeting of priest-wannabes—I was inspired by his intelligence, his passion, his smoldering commitment to social justice and his limitless leadership talents. In his toast, Joe told a parable of two lovers dedicating themselves to each other. While I can’t recall the story in any detail (we have no recordings from that night), I’ll never forget the rapt attention of everyone under the tent as Joe spoke, and the gratitude I felt to be listening to a true orator.

In the years since, I’ve often wondered what I could say in a similar situation: how would I honor Joe on his wedding day? I’m not a great public speaker (I embarrassed myself yesterday when speaking to my work colleagues), but in all the years I’ve been rehearsing a toast to Joe, I have little to show for it.

Today, Joe will marry Nora, and they’ll gather their family and friends at the home of Nora’s parents. The mayor of Cleveland will be there, and other Cleveland politicians. There will be college professors, lawyers and doctors. All of them can certainly speak more fluently than me.

So I’ll just write what I’d mean to say, as difficult as it is to put my admiration for Joe into words. Joe is a unique individual. He is a dynamo, and the energy spinning in him radiates out to all the people he meets. I love to be in his spell. That passion, that drive, that intensity, that heat, it’s been an inspiration to me. I’ve cherished our friendship. Joe strives to make his world better, and in the process he’s made me more observant of my own world.

Today, I’m happy for Joe. Nora is perfect for him. As they embark on their own journey together, I wish them all the best. May they fall ever deeper into love every step of the way.

Anton Zuiker

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