54th ANNIVERSARY BITTERSWEET MEMORIES
Fifty-four years ago today, (Aug. 18, 1959) Charles and I were married in the First Baptist Church of Logansport, Louisiana. Any couple fortunate enough to spend over half a century together must be grateful for the blessings bestowed upon them. However, even as I celebrate with gratitude and thanksgiving, my memories are bittersweet. So many of those who made our wedding day special are no longer with us, and we miss them greatly. I’ve been remembering them today, with joy and pain. Seeing their faces and speaking their names freshens their presence and lets them live again, if only for moments in our memories.
I can see the church and those gathered there that day. My grandmothers, Clora Frances Nolen Heard and Ida Belle Adams Jackson, were about the ages Charles and I are now. MawMaw Heard lived 9 more years and Mama Jack lived 19. Of the many Aunts and Uncles who were there, only my Aunt Edith Jackson and my Uncle Lindsey Heard remain, and we are blessed to have them still healthy and with us. My cousins Brenda Faye Jackson and Linda Gail Lemoine, who served the Bride’s cake and presided over the guest book that day, both died young of cancer. Linda Gail in 1984 and Brenda Faye in 2001.
My Mother was beautiful that day in a copper colored lace dress, and Daddy had tears in his eyes when he gave me away (after all, I was only 19). I thought they were so old, but on my wedding day they were the ages our daughters Jackie Lee and Denise are today. They had been married 52 years when Daddy died in Dec., 1990. Charles’ Dad, L. L. Freeman was his best man, and his mother, Britt Annie Nunley Freeman wore a beautiful blue dress. They were married 64 years when GrandDad died in Dec., 1990. My Mother passed away in 1995 and Nannie in 2005.
Rev. Orville Behm officiated the ceremony, and Mrs. Lois Behm played the piano. They lived to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in a beautiful ceremony in the Church they designed and built for our congregation. Paul Vandenberg played the organ. To freak me out, Paul played the Drinking Song from the Student Prince as part of the prelude; but thanks to his musical talents, he disguised the piece so well, I think only Mrs. Behm, Nita, and I realized the joke he was playing. Paul taught humanities at the high school for the gifted in Baton Rouge before he died young. He taught my niece Leslie Faye Jackson.
Anne Nixon Freeman, wife of Charles’ older brother Billy, was the vocalist. She sang Ruth’s Song, and The Lord’s Prayer so beautifully. Her voice, always sweet and true, was silenced forever in 1989.
All of Charles’ groomsmen are gone. My brother, Jacky was only 40 when he died in an automobile accident in 1983. His death was a tragedy from which our family never fully recovered. The other two groomsmen were Charles’ brothers Billy and Dennis. Dennis’ death in 2007 and Billy’s in 2012 are still fresh and painful. Jacky was a dentist who practiced in Houston, El Paso, and Baton Rouge. Dennis owned an Insurance Agency and was Mayor of Logansport for four terms. Billy was a teacher and coach and a Methodist minister, touching the lives of many.
My bridesmaids have fared better. Suanne, Katherine, Nita and Bette Faye have each known tragic losses, but they have all had rich, productive lives and enjoy wonderful children and grandchildren. On that August wedding day, they were lovely in lime green dresses. As I recall, Nita caught the bouquet, but Katherine was the next one married. She became, and remains, our dear sister-in-law.
OUR TWENTY-FIFTH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY (Aug. 18, 1984) was one of the most joyful days of our lives. Not only did we renew our vows in the same church where we were married, we witnessed the marriage of our daughter, Denise to her sweetheart, Steven McGrade. Rev. Behm officiated both ceremonies, and most of those from our wedding were with us to celebrate. Others who became our friends from New York to Wyoming to Chicago to Puerto Rico came to Logansport for that wonderful day. Our Anniversary became their anniversary, and was a doubly blessed day for 18 great years. But on Aug. 11, 2003, Steve died at age 42. With his loss, just a week short of our mutual anniversary, much of the joy of this date was lost forever. For the past ten years we have celebrated only within our family, and all of our celebrations have been tinged with grief. Even so, OUR 50 ANNIVESARY (Aug. 18, 2009) was a wonderful event. Our children and grandchildren surprised us with a family cruise. It was wonderful, and will always be remembered as a very special time together. On that cruise, our now-grandson-in-law, John Mueler proposed to our oldest granddaughter, Veronica Perez, linking another family romance to our Anniversary.
Charles and I have been so richly blessed in our lives – blessed in our families and in our friends. Each of those whose loss we mourn brought a wonderful and very special blessing to us. We miss them because of all they meant to us and all they contributed to our lives. Grief is evidence of love. We grieve only to the extent that we love. Therefore, the bittersweet memories that have haunted our thoughts today are only proof of the great joy that we have shared with those for whom we grieve.