In just a couple of months, my wife and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. I have referred to that day as the day “when we complete 39 years of a life sentence.” I only speak like that when Cindy is not around. However, that cannot hold a candle to the celebration this weekend when my wife’s parents, John and Bette Douglas, observe their 60th wedding anniversary.
To mark the occasion, the John and Bette Douglas clan, and those related by birth and/or marriage, are all journeying to the Fayette/Coweta area for what will be a limited reunion and an anniversary bash.
John and Bette, who both hail from Lake City, Fla., were wed in a Baptist church amid much celebration. John had graduated from the University of Florida and was about to begin a stint as an Air Force officer. Their first child, Cynthia Scott, was born on an Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyo., less than two weeks prior to John’s discharge.
The family settled in Kingsport, Tenn., and three other youngsters soon joined the flock: Julie, Mark, and Jeff. Over the years, the children grew up, graduated from high school and college, got married (Cindy to me), and began families of their own.
All the Douglas children were raised in Colonial Heights Baptist Church and all are active in their own local congregations today.
Cindy and Jeff did medical missions (she, a Ph.D.-trained nurse and university professor, served in Africa and South America; he, a medical doctor specializing in infectious diseases, served in South America and China), Mark, an MBA who is a stock broker and financial planner, became a Baptist deacon who teaches and fills the pulpit occasionally, and Julie, a Baylor University graduate in medical technology, taught science in a Christian school and was, and is, extremely active in her church.
The family branched out: Cindy and I had three children who married and gave us 11 grandchildren (or great-grandchildren for John and Bette). Julie married Winston and had a daughter. Mark married Connie and their son just graduated from high school. Jeff married Linda and they introduced to the world a son and three daughters. Counting John and Bette, that’s 33 in the family if I did my math correctly, counting spouses.
Almost all the family will be with John and Bette this weekend with two notable exceptions: Winston Bland passed away unexpectedly a few years ago and his absence will be felt keenly. Micah, son of Jeff and Linda, is in his first summer at the United States Military Academy at West Point and cannot attend. All the rest — from Georgia, Tennessee, and New Mexico — will be in attendance to wish John and Bette a happy 60th anniversary.
Appropriately for this devout family, we will celebrate the event in a church fellowship hall. I suppose there was never a time that John and Bette weren’t in church. If they weren’t, none of us remember when. They have been teachers, servants, and leaders as long as anyone can remember. They have been people of the scriptures and people of faith who were “not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” Those of us who are family — by birth or by marriage — have been blessed to have them as mentors, role models, helpers, and friends.
Although I jokingly referred to marriage as a “life sentence,” John and Bette have demonstrated that a life-long commitment is not only possible but it is do-able. Perhaps that’s why none of their children have been divorced (“So far,” as my wife sometimes reminds me when I talk about things like “life sentences”).
Happy 60th anniversary, John and Bette, the patriarch and matriarch of Clan Douglas! We love you, we honor you, and we are so proud of you.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec,org) He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]