Sixteen Wonderful Years!

Sixteen years ago, this afternoon, my bride and I faced each other, held hands, and said the traditional vows:

“I take thee to my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

The pastor, a native Bermudian with a British accent, prompted us to exchange our rings, gave the blessing, and then said: “You may seal the ceremony.” My bride gave a quizzical look. I translated: “We may kiss each other.” And we did in the presence of the pastor’s wife, a fellow named Archer who was the second witness and also the photographer, and with a number of curious onlookers at the Pink Beach Club in Smith’s Parish, Bermuda. We had a lovely private reception and a five-star Beef Wellington supper. It was a magical day as all wedding days should be.

Backing up from that day is a story in itself. My church office and hers at the State Bar of Texas, where she was the Assistant General Counsel, were only three blocks apart in downtown Austin. As often as possible, we would have lunch, take a leisurely walk, and talk about our wedding day. We wanted a small wedding, but I served a large church. So, it would be disastrous not to invite everyone. No small wedding. There were several clergy available at the church, including our favorite retired bishop, but, then, other clergy might be offended including the current bishop. My family of origin liked to drink especially at family celebrations. Her father was adamantly opposed to alcohol. And so, it went back and forth. Finally, my bride said: “Would you like to elope?” I responded with an energetic, “Yes!!!”

She asked, “Where have you always wanted to go that you have never been?” I answered, “Bermuda.” She said, “I’d like to go there, too.” I said, “You know, I’ve watched the tourist videos. The beaches there are pink.” Three hours later, she had done the research and found the Pink Beach Club. And the rest is history.

The Pink Beach Club was heavily damaged by a hurricane several years ago. They razed the property and have replaced it with a new hotel that appears to be very grand and pricey. Nevertheless, our memories of the wedding day and the days after in Bermuda will always be indelible.

We say our vows to one another often, just as we said them sixteen years ago today, except we add, “And beyond” after “till death us do part.” We also add the prior question traditionally asked by the pastor, “And I have forsaken all others and will cleave only unto thee.”

Sixteen years later, our first child, the Papillon is 15 ½, and our sweet little girl is 11. Yes, I have been asked repeatedly if I am our daughter’s grandfather. It is to be expected when you were 53 when the child was born. Just another gently humorous moment in life. My bride and I are grateful every day for our life together, and, yes, we assured each other today that we would gladly marry one another all over again. We had lunch one place and dessert and coffee another. It wasn’t Bermuda, but we were only a handful of miles from Wrightsville Beach. It’s good to be alive. My wife is my earthly home, and I am hers, wherever we are. We love Wilmington and our congregation.

I thank God for you, sweetheart.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

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The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 42 years and in May 2018 celebrated the 37th anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity (www.societyholytrinity.org). In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.