The first column I ever wrote for Meridian Magazine focused on love stories-a pre-Valentine’s Day offering. Now as then, I believe one of the best ways to celebrate the spirit of Valentine’s Day is to share and tell stories that reflect this spirit of the occasion.
These are not just any stories, however. These are love stories. And these are not just any love stories. They are genuine love stories. By genuine I mean stories of genuine love, deep love, sacrificial love-not just syrupy, bat-your-eyes, make-me-feel-wobbly kind of love stories. Those are fine, but it is love that is committed, lasting, and true that makes all the difference when it comes to life and relationships.
So, in that tradition, this year let me share a love story with you and ask you to share your stories in return. If you share your stories with me, then I will pull some of them together this week and share them with all of our Meridian readers as well.
“I Will Be There in Twenty Minutes”
I rarely share stories that include members of my family because I’m a fairly private individual. My wife, Kristen, is also a rather hilarious writer and threatens to become a Meridian columnist and share all my funny quirks if I pass along too much personal information on the family. However, on this occasion, I share a story that has meant much to me in my life, because it helped me turn a corner toward the life that I now share with her.
In the summer of 1990, a growing relationship with my then-girlfriend Kristen had turned into a possibility of lasting love and even marriage. No promises had yet been exchanged but we had discussed our feelings and thoughts.
It is my contention that each relationship, each marriage, will face times of decision that occur naturally in the development of a relationship. Whether the events that occur are large or small, a spouse or couple will be presented with a time of decision in which the individual can either turn toward love and commitment or away from those saving virtues in a relationship. Perhaps a spouse loses a job. Maybe a husband or wife is diagnosed with an illness that will require struggle and lasting support. It may be that a fiance must choose whether to travel 10 hours and meet your parents for the first time over Christmas. It may be one of a hundred things.
Whatever the event or occurrence, it is a natural and important occasion in the life of a relationship-a test of love and commitment. These events are important because they signal to us a test of our faith, in a sense, of whether we will let our hearts be open to the challenge of trusting another with our hearts or our future-or both.
In our relationship, we were not yet engaged and yet had discussed the possibility of such a future together, perhaps even marriage. She had gone through a period of relationship doubt, as we were young and she wondered whether we were old enough to make such a decision or whether we knew each other well enough to move forward toward marriage. I had done my best to communicate my love and ease such doubts. Then, our relationship reached a point in which I wondered about the future and whether I trusted the woman I now loved, Kristen, to be with me in my future forever.
Love and trust are connected-but they are not one and the same. You may love someone but not fully trust them, or even trust them at all. Yet it is nearly impossible to have trust without love. Trust is, in a sense, an ultimate extension of mature love, or it is the flowering of love into maturity and commitment.
So, I pondered and brooded and wondered about trust and commitment . . . and making the decision to ask her for her hand in marriage. I did not know yet fully whether I could trust a future together, as my knowledge of her and her character was still growing.
One warm summer night, on a trip home from a family reunion, our family experienced a tragic accident in which a deer leaped into the road and the car with our family members in it rolled. I arrived at the scene a few minutes later with my father, and there we encountered a scene of devastation. My older brother had been killed in the accident. My mother and younger sister were seriously injured and in need of medical help.
With the help of family and friends, we dealt with the serious difficulties following the accident and made trips to the hospital, the mortuary, and eventually home. It was a Saturday evening. By Sunday afternoon, our home was filled with family members, ward members and loving friends. Here I share only a small detail, a detail that changed my life.
My aunt knew that I had not spoken to anyone outside of my family yet by late Sunday afternoon, and yet I needed some support to assist in dealing with the challenge to my family. She encouraged me to call Kristen. I told her that I did not know what to say or how to communicate the magnitude of what had happened, and that she was scheduled to work that night already. My aunt wisely encouraged me to simply call her and let her know.
The phone rang in the dorm where she was staying for the summer at a busy summer job. She came to the phone and immediately could tell that something was wrong. I could not speak into the phone. Eventually, I stammered the message in response to her questions of concern, telling her of my brother’s death and the aftermath of the accident. There was no pause, no hesitation. She said three things that I remember with perfect clarity to this day, this moment.
“Stay right there.”
“I love you.”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
There was no discussion of her work schedule, her difficulty in getting a ride (she had no car), her own emotions or concerns-only a simple message of love and commitment. At that moment, my fears and doubts about commitment and trust were erased. A young woman of 19 years had told me all that I would ever need to know about her, my ability to trust her, and the commitment we could share in a future together.
We were married 4 months later in the Salt Lake Temple-but that is another story . . .
Share Your Genuine Love Stories
Writing down and passing on genuine stories, stories of genuine love and commitment and sacrifice in marriage and family relationships, can become a gift that blesses others and generations to come. We would love to hear your love stories this season as we think about and celebrate Valentine’s Day-a season of love.