On July 17th, Harlan Ober and Grace Robarts were married in the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Earl Redman’s book on the Master’s travels recounts the event in these words:
…the friends gathered at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s house at 309 West 78th St for the usual meeting. Instead of a meeting, however, Edward Getsinger announced that there would be a surprise. A few minutes later, Harlan and Grace came down, Grace dressed in a white dress and carrying a large bouquet of white roses. Juliet Thompson was present as well and recorded her impressions: ‘Grace and Harlan stood together, transfigured; they seemed to be bathed in white light. Mr Ives, standing opposite, married them. Back in the shadow sat the Master… At the end of the wedding He blessed the marriage’. Howard Colby Ives remembered: ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá rose…He swept the room with a glance at once enfolding and abstracted. He raised his [sic] hands, palm upwards, level with his waist. His eyes closed and He chanted a prayer… in tones to me unequalled in all experience, mellifluous (honey-like), is the nearest descriptive word, but how inadequate… my heart certainly moved far more by the chanting Voice and the flowing musical periods, than by the interpreter’s version of the wedding prayer, beautiful as it is.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was not only present during the wedding, but He was also its matchmaker while Lua Getsinger acted as the messenger. She brought the idea to Grace, who dismissed it — twice. But Lua gently reminder her that the Master did not make suggestions lightly. Grace was unsure how to proceed so Lua, who had taught Harlan the Faith, wrote to him with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s suggestion. He came to see Grace immediately and he proposed as they walked together in Central Park.
In a third-hand account, Grace’s experience of the wedding is described thus:
The next morning they were called into Abdu’l-Baha’s [sic] bedroom… Abdu’l-Baha was there, with one or two others, waiting to perform the marriage ceremony. Grace remembered, afterward, entering the room. She remembered the look of warm love on Abdu’l-Baha’s face; she remembered the bands of sunlight on the floor and the bowls of roses on the tables and the next thing she was aware of was lying on a couch with Harlan bending above her asking if she felt better. She then discovered that the marriage had been performed–a marriage that, with no faltering, she had gone through with Harlan at her side then, when it was over, she had swayed a little and they had suggested she lie down. Abdu’l-Baha, smiling and serene, was watching her with great love knowing perfectly well how overcome with the spiritual force of these great moments she had been and knowing that the whole experience only proved her great spiritual susceptibility and capacity. So were Grace Robarts and Harlan Ober married by Abdu’l-Baha.
Such an account makes me wonder at the spiritual force of the great moments that surround us for although the Master is not with us physically, He is ever nearby spiritually. He said:
O ye who have turned your faces toward the Exalted Beauty! By night, by day, at morningtide and sunset, when darkness draweth on, and at early light I remember, and ever have remembered, in the realms of my mind and heart, the loved ones of the Lord.
Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son Reginald Grand Barrow, http://bahai-library.com/ives/
‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst
Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Photo of the International Teaching Centre by Paul Netherwood, www.nineteenmonths.com