Today is the anniversary of my first marriage. On February 10, 1968, my dad walked me down the aisle of Decatur First Methodist Church and through tear-filled eyes gave me away to David Hampton to become his wife. As I look back, I realize that this is one of the most important milestones of my life.
David was a teacher and coach when we married. However, the Viet Nam War changed our plans for our married future as teacher deferments were cancelled, and David found himself enlisting in the Coast Guard. After four years in the Coast Guard, there was graduate school for him at UGA, work with the Georgia Extension Service, and then the call into the ministry, which led to three more years of post-graduate work. During this time, we had two beautiful sons, and moved from Georgia to New Jersey, to Florida, to North Carolina, back to Florida, and finally landing in Georgia again. After theology school, we settled in Virginia, where we lived for the next fourteen years of our married life.
As I look back on that wedding day, I see a girl who thought she was grown-up and mature, and ready to face whatever life sent her way. There wasn’t an inkling in her mind of how her life would actually unfold or the adventures she would have, both good and bad. She thought she was going to live a blissful life in small-town Georgia as a teacher’s wife, and raise her children in a lovely little home on a quiet tree-lined street, much like the one where she grew up. If she were to meet the sixty-five year old version of herself and hear her own life’s story, she would never believe it!
The marriage didn’t last a lifetime, as I thought and vowed on that cold February day. I promised “till death do us part,” a promise that I was unable to keep. After twenty-four years of marriage, my sons were grown, I was weary of life in a parsonage fishbowl, and I wanted to pursue a career or profession of my own. I wanted something to do that would be meaningful and something I could call mine. David wasn’t able to understand this, and a month after I began graduate school to become a librarian, he filed for divorce. “Till death do us part” ended with an official document and a signature. There was very little to divide. After seventeen years of parsonage living, we didn’t own very much in the way of material possessions.
While the marriage didn’t last a lifetime, and I don’t celebrate this anniversary anymore, it remains an important day to me. This was the day that I flew from the nest of my parents’ care and began a life of my own. It hasn’t been what I dreamed of on my wedding day, and I’ve had some experiences I wish I could have skipped. But it was on this day that I stepped through the doorway from being my daddy’s little girl and entered the world of adulthood. And I can thank David for being my husband, for being the father of my sons, and for always being the good man that he still is today.
I have a great deal for which to be thankful on this anniversary day.