Golden wedding anniversaries are amazing occasions.
The thought of spending five decades married to someone – building a life together, raising kids together, overcoming squabbles and hard times, and surviving Empty Nest Syndrome – is a huge accomplishment.
Several years ago, my family and I travelled to Newfoundland to celebrate my wife’s parents’ 50th anniversary, and it was an awesome event. I was proud of and happy for my brothers- and sisters-in-law for organizing such a touching and enjoyable shindig.
But looking back, I’m a little jealous of them. Especially today – because on August 15, 1964, my parents tied the knot … and early in February 1993 they untied it and went their separate ways.
Today would have been their 50th anniversary, and I’m not quite sure how to feel about that. Is this an occasion to celebrate, or does the 1993 divorce obliterate the historical importance of the 1964 wedding? Is it just another day?
Yes and no.
There’s no need to get gussied up for, or stressed out about, a party or a family reunion. But that doesn’t mean we have to ignore the occasion.
The 50th anniversary of a couple who stayed together is worthy of holiday treatment – it felt a little like Christmas at my in-laws’ golden anniversary party.
But the 50th anniversary of a couple who split up before they reached the milestone has to be worthy of observance treatment, doesn’t it – maybe like Halloween, or at least Groundhog Day.
I’m planning to dig out some old photo albums this evening and have a beer to toast Marian and Henry – the couple that was, and the founders of the family that is. For more on that sentiment, I’ve decided to plagiarize some text from Renewed – a post from July 2011, when my parents gave Karen and me their Family Bible on the day when we renewed our wedding vows:
This old but untattered King James Version was given to Henry and Marian on their wedding day by my dad’s parents. It sat on their bookshelves as they bounced from one end of Alberta to the other and raised three kids together. It was with them during the rough patches of the late ‘80s and went with my dad when they separated. After the divorce, It was there through Dad’s second marriage to Elvina, their adventurous five years in Turkey and then through her illness, decline and death two years ago.
And just shy of 47 years after Henry and Marian first received it on the day of their by-the-book church wedding, they gave it to Karen and me on the day when we formally acknowledged God’s central role in our marriage.
My dad is known for his ability to exaggerate (I come by it honestly, you see), but on Saturday he showed he knows how to use understatement, too: ‘This is as good a time as any for us to pass this Bible onto the next generation…’ It was the perfect time – no other occasion could be as fitting. I was deeply moved.
Receiving this great gift of overwhelming sentimental value felt great in its own right, but it taught me a little something about God and Family, too.
God surely blessed Henry and Marian Petkau when they tied the knot in Rockyford United Church on Aug. 15, 1964. But I’ve always been a little fuzzy on how that blessing related to the life and death of their marriage. Did it ebb and flow, rise and fall, flash in and fade out?
I still don’t know about their marriage, but in addition to the gift from my father on Saturday, I got a gift from my Father as well … a reminder that, while the marriage that began in 1964 may be no more, the Family that was born simultaneously is still fully intact and God’s blessing of it has never wavered. Despite all of the ups and downs, Henry and Marian’s Family has weathered all those storms and, with God’s help, it has the capacity to weather a few more.
In the same way that God didn’t let the secularity of the KarenRob wedding ceremony stop Him from blessing our lives, He also hasn’t let the absence of an earthly marriage stop Him from being there with the HenryMarian family.
So happy (almost) anniversary, Mom and Dad!
Peace be with you.