Jo and Jill

Jo and Jill

On 9th December 2017 it became law in Australia that two people could marry regardless of gender. Love and equality finally prevailed.

On Friday 15th of December something truly beautiful and poignant happened; two people fulfilled a wish of a long time.  A community of strangers; family, friends, photographer, celebrant, magistrate, clerks and registrar pulled together to make this marriage happen in time. It would not be the first same sex ceremony I or others had witnessed in Australia, but possibly the first I had seen recognised by Australian law. It was an emotional moment when I read out the words of the new act; a privilege, an honour, and about time. A sacred moment on a sacred day.

Two words had changed in the Marriage Act, substituting “man a woman”, for “two people”, and for Jo and Jill that changed everything.

The first I knew of their love was a phone call on Thursday from Cittamani palliative care telling me a tale of Jo, a woman with a rare cancer, who wished to finally legally marry her beloved Jill.  It was Jo’s persistence that had kept the idea alive. Jill was unsure how it could be achieved. She had read about the one month waiting period. But how could it happen in their own home at short notice? Cittamani nurses decided to ring me and pose the question. As a celebrant I am aware that under exceptional circumstances a shortening of time can be granted by the Registrar.

I met with Jill Thursday afternoon at the courthouse. She had tried to get all the paperwork sorted, signed, witnessed and lodged with the Magistrate. It just wasn’t possible that afternoon, we needed Jo’s signature, and it was 4.30pm.

I met Jo Thursday evening. Evenings are good for her. She had energy. And her bright blue eyes and delightful smile told me all I needed to know about their resolve to be married. Witnessing Jill and Jo together was a love story, quite convincingly profound. I was taken with the dozens of photos on the wall from their 2013 commitment ceremony – a day of promise, filled with family and friends. A true wedding day. I realised I had met two amazingly beautiful women, with a deep connection and strong commitment to each other.

Jill was firm in her wish that the marriage happen, but was feeling torn. Going back to the courthouse the next day was tricky.  She wanted to stay and care for Jo.  This marriage was important. So I offered to go instead. At 8.30 am the next day, Friday, I was outside the Nambour Courthouse at opening time. The local magistrate understood immediately and faxed the application direct to Brisbane, following it up with a phone call to convey the urgency.

On the other end, the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages recognised the importance of this request, and sped through the process.

Within the half hour, the stamped approval came back. I could prepare the marriage papers right away: new formats, fresh from the Attorney General, and those important new words, “two people”. I was ecstatic. Jo and Jill were going to be married that afternoon! They were ecstatic.

Several more emails arrived from Births, Deaths and Marriages. They wished to offer a free registered marriage certificate and what’s more they would do it immediately. This is a process that usually takes weeks. I was so delighted by their care and understanding that I offered to hand deliver the papers to the Brisbane office first thing Monday morning, to help out the process. They made a better suggestion, and we made a plan.

I phoned a colleague and asked if she’d be willing to be photographer at this special event in a couple of hours. I knew she’d say yes.  Thanks to Marion Jonkers for the professional photos of this auspicious day.

A garden lovingly created by Jo and Jill as a shared passion, provided the perfect setting for a wedding; beds of herbs, flowers, rock seats and wooden doorways.  Jo’s namesake rose was in bloom. The herbs were fragrant. Everything looked divine for their wedding.

Jo’s friend cancelled all her clients, and turned up with her hair and makeup skills.  “Do what you can!” said Jo, always in good humour. Jo’s Mum and husband were there. Jill’s sister too.  They had come at a moment’s notice.

We sat in the cool of the garden.  I read from Leunig, and spoke of ceremony, love and choosing. With profound tears in my eyes I proudly read the new marriage statement.  They reiterated their vows from years ago, adding the sentence from the new marriage act.  They exchanged wedding rings, held hands and gaze. Their broad smiles were all that was needed to express a deep and sincere joy at finally being married, wife and wife.  “Hey Mrs”.

We embrace ceremony and ritual when something truly profound is happening in our lives. We do this because we need to make a space, in time and place, to honour the unseen world that we carry within us. Ceremony takes a moment away from the usual hum of life, to contemplate and warmly acknowledge an emotional world. Inner feelings become front and centre for the day. A marriage acknowledges this. It is always a special ceremony. This wedding was extremely special and sacred.

After the vows, I enacted the plan to deliver the certificates immediately.  Births Deaths and Marriages Queensland wished to honour this special occasion by delivering the registered marriage certificate that very day. The Principal Project Officer drove north from the Brisbane office.  And I drove south from the northern beaches.  We met at a roadside station, sat at a truckies’ table and exchanged the precious paperwork.

I then drove back to join the reception and hand deliver their certificate.  Jo and Jill had been approved, married and registered within one day!

When Jill was asked how long have you and Jo been together she responded, “a lifetime; and yet not long enough.”

Jo’s Mum told me, “Today is the happiest day of my life.  On the day I married my own true love, I thought that was the happiest day of my life, and I thought I couldn’t get any happier.  But actually today, I am happier, witnessing my daughter able to fulfil her wish to marry her own beloved.”

Jo’s touching speech recognised a day of love and compassion from a community made up of people she had just met, or had never met, and may never get to meet at all. The day was made possible by the goodwill of a community of all kinds of people with different roles and different commitments and different lives, wanting these two to be married in time.

Endings depend on where one leaves the story.  The tale always continues. We rest here with the newly weds, Jill and Jo, for marriage according to the law of Australia is the full commitment or union of two people.

Kari

Friday 15th December 2017

(with editing assistance by Glenda and Jessi)

Photos by Marion Jonkers Photographer 

Thanks to Cittamani Hospice, Nambour Courthouse, Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages, Russell, Marion, Tracey and Emily.

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Jo & Jill -208same sex celebrant Kari Marion Jonkers Photographer

DIY wedding at the family property

DIY wedding at the family property

with Sunshine Coast marriage celebrant – Kari

So much love, so much love, so much love.  Wow what a wedding ceremony to remember!

Here on the Sunshine Coast, there are many perfect places for a wedding.  But none seems quite more perfect for a family wedding than the property where one grew up, played by the creek, planted trees, and created memories.  This wedding day created new loving memories for Renee and Brendan on the family farm.

The marriage ceremony was held down by the creek, in an idyllic grassy glade surrounded by forest and the sounds of whip birds and tusked frogs.  A group of friends and family had created a magical haven.  Let’s wander in and have a peek before the guests arrive…..

A stump by the entry was garlanded with festoons of newly blossomed jasmine and the welcome sign.

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Daisies were tucked into the bark of trees, at the foot of saplings or behind ears.

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A circle of hay surrounded by white roses and daisies tucked into the ground formed a magic fairy circle for a sacred ceremony.

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Hay bales were arranged in arcs for seating.  More hay was sprinkled underfoot for an aisle.

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Local musician, Lee Hardisty played pied piper and led the guests to the ceremony, along by the creek.  His pure sax sound drifted over the forest, gently encouraging a meander to the forest glade.

Enter the Bride and Groom.  Groom softly greeted the guests.  Kari –  the celebrant sent hime for a wander with his mates while she briefed the guests on a surprise ending for the ceremony.

And, the bridal entourage arrived on the trailer of the tractor.  Daughter, Peaches and her cousin walked down the aisle, to Daddy.

Renee walked down the aisle on her father’s arm to the exquisite sounds of thumb piano sweetly played by Lee.

Renee and Brendan could not have been more in love.

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As a marriage celebrant on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, I witness many marriage vows; all heartfelt and meaningful. But on this wedding day, Renee’s vows to her beloved Sav nearly brought me to tears.

Amongst other things she promised to “love you beyond fear, judgement, expectations and anger….. I promise to love you so hard it changes the world…. I promise to hold you when your heart weeps, to plant trees with you and watch them grow, to help you know your own power.”

After the ceremony, guests followed the music back to the farm shed, replete with hanging floral garland, tables of colour, and taste.DIY_wedding_ceremony_venue12

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DIY wedding decor

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And they partied on in the moonlight, starlight and radiance of their family, friends and love.

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Thanks to Maggie Buckle for some of the professional images.  Instagram #@maggijeann

The early ones are my own, irresistibly taken while waiting for the guests.

This is what they said about Kari’s celebrant service:

Kari is a beautiful, warm, kind and connected woman with a sophisticated confidence that makes one feel safe in her presence. Although we had only met her in person once before our wedding day, we knew that she would understand our love and sincerely appreciate the magic that abides in such a ceremony. Her creative heart and generous demeanour left a mark on our hearts at such a special moment in our journey. Thank you Kari.”   Renee & Brendan

making poetry of legal wedding vow

When I begin planning a unique ceremony with couples, they often ask what they must do, and what they can do.

Well the answer is that the Australian marriage law is very flexible.  There is no compulsion to be in a registered marriage office, as in Europe, nor to mention God in a civil ceremony. There is so much leeway to have the wedding ceremony of your own style and tone.  

There are however a set of words that must be said.  Some by the celebrant and a sentence by the couple.  The marriage vows must include a set of words that could be considered a little dry.  Of course you can add any other words of your choice.  Have a peek at David and Amber’s Day at Maleny Manor then read on to see how he managed with those words.

Thanks to LM Images for the amazing photos.

Amber and David’s is a love that grew over time, having begun when they first met on the hospital touch football team. As they got to know each other, through social outings with mutual friends and through their work at the hospital, Amber and Dave discovered that touch was just one of the many passions that they had in common.  Both being doctors, they have a wealth of education to draw inspiration from.  

David is an especially creative soul with words.  He managed to take the legal sentence from the marriage vows and turn it into poetry. David promised ……

I call upon the people here today,

To witness these words I’m about to say: 

I, David Liu

Take Amber Peckston – you

To be my lawful wedded wife 

Starting today for the rest of my life

I will be your partner in all things

No matter what challenges life will bring

I promise to help you cook and clean,

And try my best to stay reasonably lean

I promise I’ll try to stay alive 

When I’m hanging out with these 2 guys 

(at this point he gestured towards the groomsmen, his partners on adventures of the extreme kind!)

I promise to amend and shake my fist

When people call you a psychologist 

You’ll never fight your fights alone 

I’ll share your dreams like they are my own 

I promise in 50 years I will still say

I love you, as strongly as I did today.

It was a delight to work with Amber and David, in creating their wedding ceremony

What they said of Kari:

David and I would like to sincerely thank you for all of the hard work you put into creating a beautiful ceremony for us. You were always there when we had questions and so prompt with your replies. Your interactions with our guests and your delivery of our ceremony was flawless.

Amber & Dave

Walking River Pilgrimage

Walking River Pilgrimage

Walking River – a pilgrimage

This year was the tenth anniversary of an extraordinary pilgrimage; the Long Yarra Walk, as told in Maya Ward’s book The Comfort of Water.

She says of her book,

The Comfort of Water: A River Pilgrimage is the story of my three-week journey along the Yarra River. I walked from the sea to the source, through city, forest, farmland, following an ancient songline.  In the book I tell of those 21 days and 20 nights, but since it was a journey through my home city, a place I’d lived all my life, I also include anecdotes from before and after the pilgrimage…

Cover photo of the book, of Comfort of Water by Maya Ward

The Comfort Of Water

The book begins:

Walk the path …………………….. And journey to the source

These are not metaphors …………………. They are instructions.

Maya Ward, the author,  is an extraordinary woman, walker and writer.  She invites us to listen deeply to the path and to the voices of nature.

This modern reinvention or re-exploration of pilgrimage explored the lessons of River.  River can teach the importance of the path of water, and all who live along it’s way.  River teaches history and story; connection to place, the importance of flow. Walking a river pilgrimage is essential to understanding all of this.

The ritual of walking a path evokes extraordinary learning, deep understanding and great forgiveness.  This is pilgrimage.

Maya’s book is both a true tale and a guidebook for path.  I loved following her journey as I imagined my own.

Recently a kindergarten teacher was inspired to use Maya’s text as a guide for a program of education for very young children.  A film was made about their learning.  Songlines of the Yarra, is an 8 minute short film which explores the children’s intimate relationship with the Yarra River and their sense of belonging to time and place.  It has been selected to screen at the Little Big Shots International Film Festival for Kids, Australia’s major annual and travelling children’s film festival.

Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival fire lighting ceremony

Ritual and friendships

Maya is my friend.  She has also been a mentor for me in the field of ritual.  We met at a wonderful community ritual celebration some dozen or so years ago.  The community event was the annual Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival held at CERES in Victoria.  We were both a part of the artistic team who created the event.  Maya inspires me always to do better, and to think more.  She is one of the most connected people I have ever met when it comes to understanding place, and environment; deep ecology and connection.  Maya helps me to understand the importance of ritual, and the many layers of ritual.

Let me diverge

…to tell the story of a creek.

Another River Ritual

The Merri Creek runs into the Yarra River not far from the centre of Melbourne.  A twenty minute tram ride will get you there.  Maya took much longer walking the river  trail, for the Yarra winds around many bends through the city before you come to Merri Creek.

Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival children's dance

Merri Creek

Decades ago the poor Merri had been reduced to a trickle such was the degradation of the environment.  Industry poured raw effluent from pipes directly into the creek.  The steep banks had been denuded of vegetation.  It was used as a tip.  The creek could not flow any more.

Sacred Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher’s cry had not been heard along the creek for many years.  He had simply flown away.  Wouldn’t you?

A community turned their love to the creek and put a stop to the decline of the Merri.  The clean up began with bulldozers to remove the rusted car-bodies, rubber tyres and discarded washing machines from the creek bed.  Work continues to this day with countless hours by community volunteers, revegetating, weeding, caring.

The Return of the Kingfisher

One day the Kingfisher was heard along the Merri again.  Ki Ki Ki Ki They had returned!

The Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival is an annual community celebration welcoming the Sacred Kingfisher back to its original habitat, along the banks of the Merri Creek in Brunswick. For the CERES community, the Sacred Kingfisher bird has become a symbol of “hope” connecting people and place.

Community River Ritual

It is a community ritual and a working relationship or collaboration with the Wurundjeri people, various cultural communities and performers of all ages and abilities. As long as the Kingfisher returns each year in Spring, it is a sign that we are taking care of our local environment and the home of the Sacred Kingfisher.

The Sacred Kingfisher on it’s annual migration also stops at the Sunshine Coast, my home of twenty years.  Each year I measure the first day of Spring, from the first urgent call of the Kingfisher in my tiny forested garden.  It was the Kingfisher festival, and this team of artists who taught me most about ritual and celebration.  I bring this experience to all of my work as a celebrant.

River Ritual – Creek Celebration

Kingfisher follows River.  Waterways are the arteries of our land.  River and Creek are characters in our lives.  Ritual can connect us to these pathways. Kingfisher invites us in.

Return of the Sacred Kingfisher festival - fire dance
Unusual readings in a marriage ceremony

Unusual readings in a marriage ceremony

Unusual Readings

This story is about readings for your wedding ceremony.  As an example let’s look at the wedding Danielle and Karim, married at Tiffany’s looking out over the Glasshouse Mountains.

But first let’s glimpse their wedding day….

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Meeting your love

It is one of life’s richest surprises when a chance meeting of two people on a stairway leads them to love.  It is one of life’s finest experiences when this love grows into a permanent relationship.  It is a sacred day when these two people realise that they wish to make it forever in a marriage.

And it is joyous day when the wedding arrives and family gather from all over the world to marry on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in the presence of spectacular views from the Maleny Range.

This meeting and this growing are what led to the wedding day for Danielle and Karim, who indeed met by chance five years ago on a stairway in a hostel in Scotland. The pipes may have played for them that day, or the angels sang, for they both knew that they had met someone special. Through being ruthlessly and wonderfully themselves, they fell in love and chose to get married, to begin the journey and ride the waves of life together.

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A wedding ceremony in French

Now being French, Karim wished to make sure his mother could understand the service.  So when this couple came to me it was with a special request, that their ceremony be in English AND French.

I am always happy to include other languages in a ceremony, and indeed speak French and Indonesian.  However I have been known to get training to use other languages in a wedding ceremony.

Readings are often a part of a marriage ceremony.  You can choose to have a close friend or relative to read, or indeed ask your wedding celebrant to read for you.

A reading can expand on your reasons for marriage, or describe the feeling of love in a way we may never be able to find the words to say out loud. A reading is a moment to pause in the ceremony and and reflect.

For this wedding, Karim’s mother, Nelly chose a poem for this special day.  And of course it was in French!  AND of course it is about love (l’amour)!

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A Poem in French

Éloge de l’amour   par Jean de La Fontaine 

Tout l’Univers obéit à l’Amour ;

Belle Psyché, soumettez-lui votre âme.

Les autres dieux à ce dieu font la cour,

Et leur pouvoir est moins doux que sa flamme.

Des jeunes coeurs c’est le suprême bien

Aimez, aimez ; tout le reste n’est rien.

*****

Sans cet Amour, tant d’objets ravissants,

Lambris dorés, bois, jardins, et fontaines,

N’ont point d’appâts qui ne soient languissants,

Et leurs plaisirs sont moins doux que ses peines.

Des jeunes coeurs c’est le suprême bien

Aimez, aimez ; tout le reste n’est rien.

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A Reading from Bob

The second reading they chose is from Bob Marley, in English this time:

Only once in your life, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more.

You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful.

There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life. A phone call during the day always brings a smile to your face.

Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and soul mate, who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they will be part of your life, forever.

There are so many beautiful texts to help illustrate a wedding ceremony.  I keep a folio of ideas and samples for my couples.  I also have several books with unusual readings and quotes.

You may find something from a song lyric, a film script, or written on a graffiti wall that inspires you.

Thank you to Focus Films for the images of Danielle and Karim’s English/French Wedding ceremony.

For other stories on French Weddings:

Something Very French

With a French touch

Totally in French 

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Creative writing

Creative writing

creative writing for your wedding

Creative writing

This story will be about a dance, eventually.  But it starts as a story about creative writing, something as a marriage celebrant I do all the time for my couples.  Every wedding ceremony is unique and new written just for two people. Often I seek ways to hone my writing craft.

Creative writing is key to a great wedding ceremony. As your celebrant, I practise writing to hone my skills for your wedding.

Recently I attended a creative writing workshop with marvellous teacher, Glenda O’Sullivan.

Writing Workshop

A few months ago, a dear friend of mine and an inspiring workshop queen, ran a creative writing day.  Glenda invited several budding writers to gather.  She invited us to open our minds and let loose our pens.

I don’t usually call myself a writer.  Perhaps I imagined one has to be pumping out novels, or contracted to a magazine to claim that title.  Of course there are many more writers in the world than one would imagine.

On reflection, I realised I do write.  Every day in fact.  I write this.  A blog, a collection of stories really.

I write wedding ceremonies. I write eulogies.  I write for couples.  I write for families.  I write for people.  

Yes, I write every day.

So, with a little trepidation, I went along.  

The gift of writing

Glenda gave the group a wonderful gift that day.  She took us along the road to writing creatively.  She began with simple tasks to get our pens sliding over the paper.  Then she upped the ante, interrupting our train of thoughts with unusual stimuli; a gesture, a flower, or a compulsory word or two.  As the day progressed we played word games, wrote lists, turned the lists into prose, the prose into poetry, and back again.  Each time we had  to produce a piece of writing on the spot, on paper, and on time!

I’d like to present some of the pieces I wrote that day.

Word Games

We played a word game.  The game produced a list of words.

Write, she said, using all the words on your list    … and she gave us 10 minutes…. Speed writing is very creative writing!

So I wrote.

my darling, my darling, my love

A necklace for your sanity … my darling, my darling

Your neck will just surrender … my love

Relegate sizing to your tailor … my darling, my darling

Measure your team of suitors … my love

__

I salivate with surprise … my darling, my darling

Your tears send a sinuous shiver … my love

Lean to my sincerity … my darling, my darling

Tenuous yet necessary … my love

__

Undulate, manipulate .. my darling, my darling

Ululate the timing … my love

Sing your man a lullaby … my darling, my darling

Be my eager minstral … my love

__

 

Round and round the duckpond … my darling, my darling

Mad as a team of yabbies … my love

Eat my words on Sunday … my darling, my darling

And tell me that you love me … my love

*****

writing creatively for your wedding helps your story lift off the page

 

Writing wedding ceremonies

Some couples might wonder just how I create unique wedding ceremonies.  I draw on creative writing skills to achieve a perfect marriage ceremony for you.  I chat with you and we laugh.  I get to know you.  We talk about life, meaning and wedding wishes; about family and feelings.  You tell me your stories. I tell you mine.  You get to know me, and feel comfortable with me as the person who will conduct the ceremony on your wedding day.

From all this I weave a tapestry about you, your love story and  your  wedding day.  You also get chances to alter and change, delete and add.

a story lifts off the creative writing page

Creative writing workshop

The poem above, is by no means part of a marriage ceremony.  It was written within a different context; a creative writing workshop.

If your wedding celebrant can write creatively, you know you can expect a truly unique ceremony, all about you, and your ideas on your marriage.  Not just any old ceremony with your names slotted into the gaps.

You want something that is a reflection of you.

Something meaningful, to you.

Something memorable for your family and friends.

Something just a little different, pitched right.  Your style in words.

Contact me if you’d like a ceremony written just for you.

And to finish this article, here is another piece I wrote under time pressure that day…. about the dance.

*****

creative writing with a lily behnd the ear for a tango piece

Tango Lily

The floor is smooth.  Wooden floor boards polished by feet.  Slide together after every step.  Bring the left together with the right, across the boards.  Smooth the timber.  Caress the wood.  Foot does not leave floor.  Slide… together…slide … together. Ready for whatever may come. There is no past. No future.  Just now.  Just this moment. Just this step. Then that step.  That’s Tango.

 She tucked a lily behind her left ear.  Not the right ear.  It would get in the way.  She wore a flower on the right once.  Never do that again.  Well it was a fake rose anyway.  But it tickled and scratched his face when he took her into the close embrace.  He fluffed and blew it.  She had to throw it away; out of her hair, onto a chair, to dance.

The flower was on the left.  A lily; simple, plain, a tiny bit jaunty. Like the tango.  She was the lily.  And the lily was the dance. Subtle but with intent.  

This year I have begun to learn Tango.  I may never finish learning Tango.  I relish the opportunity to let go of control; to release, to stop helping, to simply allow someone else to lead the way.  To follow the lead, to rest my head on a shoulder and allow my steps to follow.