From a romantic blind date to over sixty years of marriage, the love story of Barbara and David Nelson (aka Babby and Papa) is one for the ages. Last week we said goodbye to my sweet grandmother, Babby, who lived life to the fullest during her 93 dynamic years on earth. As much as we celebrate her life and many accomplishments, so much of what I will treasure about her story is her commitment to love. And it all started on a blind date.
Even from her days as a little girl, Babby had a passion for adventure, so after she graduated from Cornell, she headed out west to Denver, Colorado. She had just turned down a good marriage proposal from a local Pennsylvania boy and needed a change of scenery. The Rocky Mountains and 300 days of sunshine did the trick!
Shortly after her arrival, she received a phone call from David Nelson. He was also new to Denver from the East Coast and asked her out on a blind date. The rest is history. They had a whirlwind romance of three weeks, and Papa simply said, "Hey, Babby, why don't you and I get married?"
Without missing a beat, she replied, "What took you so long?' Five months later, they became man and wife. Less than a year later, the happy young couple welcomed their first daughter.
In some sense, Babby and Papa had a seemingly happy life. They lived in the foothills of Denver with the Rocky Mountains as their backyard. Their four children lived a life full of hiking, skiing, and other adventures. But so much of it came crashing down when their two-year-old daughter, Laura, was killed by a boy in the neighborhood.
Especially during the 1960s, there was no book or instruction manual to deal with the grief and heartache of losing a child. Even the best marriages can crack and disintegrate when a time of loss comes, and their hearts break under the weight of sorrow. But Babby and Papa refused to let this tragedy define or envelop them.
Instead, during the darkest hours of their relationship, Babby and Papa stood together and became stronger.
Even though she was once an incredibly active woman, Babby developed macular degeneration in her eighties. She had to depend on Papa for many simple tasks.
But he never made her feel helpless. Instead, ever the life-partner, Papa doted on her and served as her eyes when she couldn't see. Of course, I think that her lack of physical vision actually gave her deeper insights into the heart. She could see and appreciate beauty, in others, and in Papa, in new ways after her illness.
We were all delighted to share in the tremendous celebration of love as Babby and Papa celebrated their 60th anniversary. Not even Papa's walker could keep him from dancing with his bride, who still looked as fresh in his eyes as the day they met.
But the morning after a night of revelry and celebration, Babby was sent to the hospital. When Papa looked at Babby, he didn’t see any I.V.s or oxygen tanks. He just looked at his bride and saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Then, he looked in her eyes, held her hands, and she told him how much she loved him. He replied with a signature one-line, “You know I love you.”
Because after sixty years of love, heartache, and pure joy, theirs was a love that was stronger than death. And even now, I like to think of them dancing together with the sweet music of heaven (or perhaps Cole Porter) accompanying their unforgettable dancing.
As beautiful as it is to see a bride walk down the aisle at her wedding, or the delighted parents proudly introduce their little boy or girl into the world, there's something so much powerful about experiencing a love story that's weathered the test of time.
Because all relationships have their ebbs and flows. But in the end, we look to the couples who weather those storms together. Rather than breaking in the midst of them, they lean on one another and stand firm.
Really, is there anything more beautiful than the story of a couple who has enjoyed over sixty years of marriage? What beautiful love stories are part of your family? Share with your loved ones on your favorite family app or tag us on social #getfamilyapp!