Not For Just a Year, But Always

August 3, 2009 | 27 comments

They’ve loved each other for half a century. They were high school sweethearts, farmkids from southern Iowa. They were barely adults when they said “I do.” They had their first child a year later, and by 1974, had their fourth and final baby.

So here we were — four Dukes children, all grown up with kids of our own — figuring out how to honor the two who gave us life and a model for loving.

We found a way on a July evening in Colorado, as the sun descended over the mountainside. We waited until the second-to-the-last night of our family vacation to give them a surprise: a wedding to celebrate 50-year-old Love and a communion of souls.

We packed old bridesmaid gowns and flower-girl dresses in suitcases. We ordered a wedding cake in basket-weave frosting, just like they had at their first wedding. We set out old photos and candles and chilled champagne.

We were old bridesmaids, snickering and squeezing into old dresses. Our little girls — with mussed hair and red-Gatorade mustaches — zipped up fancy dresses and whispered in the bedroom until the bride arrived.

We lined up, facing the door, and then held our breath as the door cracked open.

Hand cupped to her mouth, the bride gasped, surprised by a line of daughters and granddaughters who had played dress-up for her.

We had something for her to wear, too, and could she please come in?

Granddaughters presented their Mema with a dozen scarlet roses. Daughters set a crown and veil upon her head.

We’d found the songs from their 1959 ceremony — Always, Wedding Prayer, and At Dawning — and as we finished dressing the bride, her music began to play outside the door.

We shuffled out in a procession to lead the bride, but the bride did not come.

“Mom!” I called. “It’s time.” I went back up the aisle, and into the room, to find Joy-Tears filling the eyes of a woman who first taught me love.

“It’s time,” I whispered again, letting my own tears fall, too.

She stepped out the door,
and walked down the aisle,
and she remembered her father walking her down the aisle the first time,
and she felt like he was there this time, too.

And outside, around the corner, a groom waited — a groom who was once again a 21-year-old man at the altar wondering what his bride would look like and what it would feel like to slip a ring on that finger and say “I do,” for better and for worse.

We waited, too, wearing joy and smiles, socked feet and bare toes, here on holy ground.

And they said “I do” all over again, this handsome groom and his radiant bride.

“I’ll be loving you, always …
The days may not be fair, always
That’s when I’ll be there, always
Not for just an hour.
Not for just a day.
Not for just a year.
But always.”
— From the song “Always,” sung at the wedding on July 19, 1959

by | August 3, 2009 | 27 comments


  1. Tabitha@ichoosebliss

    Oh this made me cry of joy!! What a loving gift you all gave them!

  2. Lori

    Beautiful! What a treasure.
    And, just for the record, you make me cry every time!
    Keep up the God work.

  3. isumom

    Oh Jennifer…once again you brought tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps! The love your parents have for each other is evident to anyone who sees them, and the fact that the whole family could help them celebrate it only adds to the joy. As the saying goes…"All because two people fell in love"

  4. Deb

    Awesome! What an awesome gift you gave your parents!

  5. lynnrush

    How beautiful. I have tears streaming down my face and goose bumps up and down my arm.

    Thanks for this. LOVE hearing stories like this.

  6. aubrey

    Jenn- I cried at the thought of how wonderful you must have made your parents feel! What a wonderful gift you gave them.

  7. Alleluiabelle

    My Sweet, Sweet Jennifer,

    This was absolutely the most precioius thing you could have done for your parents! It hits so close to home with me as my husband and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary on September 1. My parents got to celebrate their 50th when my dad was alive before 1999. It was and is such an amazing time.

    I applaud you and your family for making this such a memmorable time "AGAIN" for them at their 50 year marriage celebration.

    I felt like I was there.

    Thank you so much for sharing this especially today dear friend.

    I've missed cominig here.

    Love you so much,

  8. Candi

    What a magnificent idea to honor your folks! My parents will celebrate 44 years together this December. I always said, "When I find a man that loves me like my dad loves my mom, that's the one I'll marry." I did find him, 19years ago, and I married him 14 years ago on Augut 26. Thank You, Jesus, for such legacies of love! Thank you, Jennifer, for writing such a beautiful reminder for us.

  9. papa&nanaT

    Oh my gosh, I too walked right with you all as you renewed that commitment to family and love. I love Mema in her wedding attire. Such a beauty she is always. We too are blessed to feel like part of your family.

  10. papa&nanaT

    Oh my gosh, I too walked right with you all as you renewed that commitment to family and love. I love Mema in her wedding attire. Such a beauty she is always. We too are blessed to feel like part of your family.

  11. L.L. Barkat

    sweet, sweet…

  12. Runner Mom

    THis is so precious! It made me cry as well! Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing this with us! How special! Your children will remember this always!


    **The sock feet were favs!!

  13. mom2six

    Special, touching. Thanks for letting us all enjoy the blessing.

  14. Mike Franey


    Thanks for the beautiful words to describe another wonderful family event in the Dukes' family history! It brought tears to my eyes when I was there in Colorado the first time and now again along with the tingles this time.

    Keep punching that magical keyboard Jen!

    Brother in law

  15. deb

    it was such an honour to be a guest,
    witnessing such love
    thank you for sharing that, and I'm so glad I stopped by

  16. Beth E.

    Awww…how precious! This brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful surprise for your parents, and what a sweet, touching, loving idea from their children. Beautiful!

  17. Heart2Heart

    What a beautiful moment in time that you have allowed all of us the honor to share with you!

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog tonight and leaving me such beautiful comments!

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  18. Get Real Girl

    This is incredible. What an amazing gift for your parents. And what an incredible testimony they have with the love they share.

  19. RCUBEs

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful moment with us. How awesome that your family is gathered as they renewed their vows. And may God bless them with more years to come.

  20. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    Oh, how beautiful! That is just the sweetest thing.

    "MY word verification was reseek. How awesome is that. Reseeking the love from the past anew.

  21. nAncY

    i love that song…

    ok…i need a tissue.

  22. Sarah Dawn

    With tears rolling down my cheeks I say thank you. Thank you for drenching me in God's faithfulness and love today. May my life shine as brightly for my children as your parents have shined for you.

    Blessings from Costa RIca,
    Sarah Dawn

  23. Sharon Faith

    Oh my gosh! What a blessing for your parents to be celebrating 50 years of love and devotion to one another. Tears flooded my eyes as I read your post. I pray we can all learn from your parents and that no matter how bad things may get in a marriage, God will always see you through.

    Beautiful and what a blessing for you my friend to celebrate such a blessed event. God bless and keep you.

  24. Deidra

    So sweet. What a blessing that must have been. And I'll bet the sock feet and dozen roses meant even more than the first time they said "I do."

  25. James Oh

    Beautiful photos and words. I am very happy for you when I see all these beautiful things you have posted. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Dianne

    This is oh so sweet. How thoughtful for you girls to provide this for your mom and dad.

  27. Carol

    YOU GUYS ARE WONDERFUL! I felt the joy and I felt the love. I too have goodbumps. Love you lots! Carol


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest