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Marriage at 40 years: A low-key wedding anniversary celebration

June 11, 2016

Our 40th wedding anniversary dinner was especially serendipitous since it was unplanned by me.

Our children all came home for my husband’s smallish retirement party the Saturday night before, for which I did enjoy cooking, (with a catered main dish of pork barbecue). I did not want to throw a big party because it seemed like we’d just done that for Stuart’s 60th birthday, (a post, by the way, which continues to be one of my most viewed posts. Apparently a lot of people search for 60th birthday party ideas!)

Our anniversary was the next day on Sunday, and an older gentleman from our church, who was transitioning from an independent apartment in the lovely facilities at Sunnyside Retirement Community (Presbyterian) to assisted living, invited my whole house church group to have Sunday dinner with him at Highlands (named of course for Presbyterian Scottish roots).


Jim Gilkeson, left, enjoying a buffet lunch with his guests at Highlands apartments.

I jumped at the chance—knowing my children and grandchildren would be here on our actual 40th anniversary and wanting to have a special meal with them but not feeling the finances for that, if you get my drift. (Our own daughters had already ponied up with their lovely gift of generous funds for a romantic anniversary getaway sometime soon, but I doubted they wanted us to use that to buy them lunch.) And I was definitely not wanting to cook—and while our daughters and sons-in-law cook very well, with little ones and Sunday morning stress, and needing to travel a distance to homes later …. well, Mr. Jim’s invitation was so perfect. When I told him our whole family would be visiting that Sunday, would he want them too? He smiled and graciously included them.

I was particularly overwhelmed by Jim’s invitation because he and his wife Emily go way back to our very beginning days at Trinity.


Photo from a surprise bridal shower, 1976, with Emily sitting next to me at the gift table, and fiance Stuart (with a bad case of hat hair from his work helmet, but he had to dress casually because of the surprise, which he was in on).

Jim and Emily and their family were in our house church then and although we’ve been in different groups over the years, for the last 17 years I’ve been in a group with Jim—and with Emily until she died in 2007 after wrenching years with Alzheimer’s. The evening they finally shared her Alzheimer’s diagnosis with our house church group, even though we’d all been diagnosing it ourselves, I broke down in the loudest wail of sorrow I’ve ever left out in a group. It was devastating, but Emily, dear one that she was, consoled me at that point by saying, “It will be all right.”


Foreground: Emily Gilkeson, right, chats with fellow house church members Polly Taylor and Ted Allen, while the new bride and groom whisper sweet somethings at the reception in the background of Trinity’s “Yoke” Room. 

They lived close to our church, so Emily and Jim hid our car during the wedding and made sure no one went overboard in decking it out for our honeymoon getaway. Not living close to my own parents, Emily was like a mother figure for me in the faith. For our wedding present, they collected funds from other house church members to build a small porch and steps for our mobile home, which were not in good shape at the time; Jim has always been all about “safety first.”


Posing after the ceremony with pastor Don Allen. For many years, Don’s main clerical robe was one made by Emily Gilkeson. 

I am so proud and happy to share this family photo flanked by Jim and our pastor emeritus Don Allen—who founded Trinity Presbyterian Church.


Front row, l to r: Jim Gilkeson, Doreen, Don Allen (pastor emeritus); Second row, Brian, Michelle, Jon, Sam, Tanya, Stuart, Melodie.

We were only missing two of the grandsons, whose parents felt the children would enjoy themselves more having lunch with their other grandmother Jeannie who lives nearby, and then trundled off to naps. (To say nothing of their parents enjoying their lunch more! All parents of two children two years and younger will understand that.)

And yes, we will have an anniversary trip coming up. Or two. One this summer, one next summer. If marriage teaches us anything, it is the need to stay flexible. We did not want or need a big party, coinciding as it did with my husband’s retirement. And anyone who knows me knows I have a big travel bug, always itching just under the surface. We have enjoyed many adventures together and I hope for many more to come.

For now, sitting down to dinner—and later sitting down for an anniversary serenade by the little ones—made a great anniversary.


James, age 2 1/2 years teaching little brother Henry, 5 months, how to play the piano. That’s James’ hand on Henry’s! 


Do you have a mentor in the faith–besides your own parents? I could name many more–different ones at different times.  




From → Faith, Family Life

  1. The best thing about this celebration is that you didn’t have to plan it, any of it. I see more prospects for partying if your pregnant daughter is any indication.

    I have had many mentors in faith besides my parents. No surprise since your read my posts: Grandma Fanny Longenecker and my Aunt Ruthie, whom I recall referring me to Philippians 4:8 when I was concerned about evil thoughts.

    As soon as I hit Send I’ll think of others. – Great post

    • That’s a great passage, even if we didn’t always appreciate certain reminders! Thanks for taking us there. Yes, I totally agree–not having to plan or fuss was beautiful and it certainly gives me another reason to have a special place in my heart for the Gilkesons. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Oh, Melodie, this post is a touching combination of memories, celebrations, and important messages and passages in life. The pictures are wonderful, and I love the concluding picture of the little ones at the piano.

  3. Marilyn, thanks for hopping over to read this post, and for naming the ingredients making up the reflections. I hope the piano picture adds the right “note” at the bottom. Have a good week!

  4. Athanasia permalink

    Many good wishes to you and your husband on your anniversary. I hope you do get some traveling in. My husband’s youngest sister was just married 6-4, which also happens to be our anniversary.

    I too, would say that I had and have different mentors at different times in life, even more than one at a time covering different aspects of life.

    • I think you are spot on that we are sometimes blessed to have different mentors covering different aspects of life. At work especially, I have had people who were great bosses or colleagues I looked up to, but eventually people move on. Perhaps that is why people seem to name family members most often as mentors (grandma, mother, father) because they are often there for us over many years–if we are lucky. I’m blessed to still have my mother–and although it may seem I write about my father a lot in a memorializing way–when my mother is no longer here I’m sure I will be reflecting more on the many ways she influenced me, also! Just some additional thoughts your commented prompted!

      So, you had a wedding to go to on your anniversary?? A nice way to celebrate!

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