A golden moment in time
IIn just a few days, I am going to live an experience that fewer and fewer people will have the opportunity to have in their lifetime. My parents did not have that experience. None of my children or grandchildren has had the experience so far. It is safe to say that very few people who have known me since I was a 20 year old young man thought I would see that day. But God willing, I won’t have this experience alone. In fact, it is virtually impossible for a lonely individual to have this golden experience.
On September 6th my wife and I will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.
I was 20 and my fiancee was all 19 when we got married at Mountain View United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, by Reverend Fred L. Austin. We actually approached him to have a “secret” wedding but, to his credit, and as an indication of his integrity, he refused. He insisted that we tell our parents. What we have done.
To this day, I regret giving these dear people only two weeks’ notice before our Labor Day afternoon wedding. On the plus side, we saved them a ton of money.
It was a small affair with only family members and my witness, the late Stephen Duncan, present. But, as Selina Gomez sang, “the heart wants what it wants”. No one could dissuade us from doing so. We said our vows, had a little reception, and then, unable to afford a honeymoon, we returned to our tiny furnished apartment in a seedy part of town and began, hesitantly, the first few days of our day. trip.
It must have been a difficult journey for many years. We had no money, no proper education, and very low-paying jobs. In fact, I would often say, “I entered the castle on my broken down donkey, wearing my rusty armor, and saved the princess from a life of superficial materialism. She belonged to the upper class; I was from the working class. We were both the oldest children. Not a recipe for success.
I’m reasonably sure that literally no one thought we would be together for long. I would say married life was happy, but people who have been married for more than a minute would recognize this lie. It is said that Mrs. Billy Graham has already been asked if she has ever considered divorce. His response was: “Divorce? No. Homicide? Yes. ”We could probably both relate to that feeling.
We moved fourteen different times in the first ten years, trying to improve our lot. We both took years to go back to school, work and raise kids like we did. We had help from his parents when the going got tough and, to a lesser extent, help from mine. But we paid for our own education with off-campus jobs, scholarships (for her, not me), the GI Bill (for me, not her), and a few small loans. I completed the education process owing about $ 1,000; she ended up debt free.
After graduating from college in social work, I was assigned as a pastor in four churches where I earned $ 5,200 that year. I used to walk along the rural road to find soft drink bottles to hand over to the general store for a dime each so we could buy baby food.
While I was doing this, she got her associate’s degree and became a registered nurse. Most of us were still broke, but at least we had one foot. She would go on to earn bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, all in nursing, and all without ever getting a “B”. I married an extremely bright and focused girl!
It would be a little later before I finish my seminar and my university training. In the meantime, we have had three sons.
I served churches in Tennessee, Virginia, Colorado, Illinois, and Georgia while she worked as a nurse most of the time. Eventually we settled in Georgia permanently in 1983 and about 24 years ago she became Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of West Georgia before becoming a Full Professor and Associate Dean of Tanner Health. System School of Nursing at UWG. She retired a few years ago. She was recognized for her work and achievements by her first alma mater, East Tennessee State University, and by the University of West Georgia.
I also had a few successes and accomplishments along the way, each of which would have been a great source of amazement to my high school teachers who thought the best I would ever do was work in one of the local factories. I like to think that as a couple we have accomplished more than we would have done as lonely individuals.
In addition to our sons, we have three wonderful and adorable stepdaughters, three grandsons, nine granddaughters, and not too long ago we became great-grandparents. I hope they can all be with us on September 6 as we mark the occasion. After all, it only happens once in a lifetime, if ever.
My mom and dad haven’t quite reached their 50th birthday because my dad died of cancer 25 years ago. They celebrated their 49th birthday and are just four months away from their golden anniversary. Cindy’s parents are well over that milestone and will both turn 92 later this year.
In our 50 years, one or both, mainly due to our respective professions, have traveled to Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Australia, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Paraguay, Chile, England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium and most of the states in this country.
It’s not too bad for two kids that no one gave a shadow of a chance to come down to something once we got married with such disabilities.
It was not easy. In fact, most of life was, if I think about it, much more difficult than I had imagined. We didn’t get rich, but overall we did well.
People sometimes ask, “How have you been doing all these years? I think they expect to hear a formula or stories of miracles or a heroic tale of perseverance and everlasting devotion. The real truth is simple: we haven’t stopped.
As hard as it is, as much as we have endured, we have not given up. We just haven’t done it. We were both stubborn and we were both stubborn. We haven’t given up and we haven’t given up. This is why we will have, assuming we both live a few more days, this once in a lifetime golden moment.
Our married pastor, Reverend Fred L. Austin, now lives in Pearisburg, Va., And is nearing 90 years of age if he’s not already there. To him I said, “Thank you. Thank you for blessing our awkward ceremony in 1971. Thank you for seeing the possibilities that even we did not see on our own. Thank you for being there for us as an encouragement, an example and a role model. Thank you for trusting us in God. To you, as a tribute to Rocky Balboa, I say, “Yo, Reverend Freddy! We did it!”
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemic, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at [email protected]]