Brandon and Kelley's Graduation Proposal

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how we met

Brandon and I met when we were fourteen years old when I was visiting my grandmother’s home on Anna Maria Island, Florida for Christmas. Brandon was passing out programs for the Christmas Eve service, and with a rush of courage, I approached him and gave him my phone number. I was visiting a state a thousand miles from home; what did I have to lose? He called me the next morning to meet at the beach, and though we had fun, we lost touch when I left for home in Ohio.

Fast-forward three years, I am in Florida for Christmas with my grandma, and I get a text from an unknown number: “Hey, this is the guy from your grandma’s church. What’s up?” We went mini golfing, got ice cream, and went on a walk on the pier. I came to find that my mom and grandma had plotted together and gave him my phone number at church that Sunday. How embarrassing! However, he thought it was charming, so I did not let it bother me much. We went out every night after that for the rest of my visit; we went to dinner, took walks on the beach, and even went to a Christmas party at his friend’s house. As I closed the door of our condo on the last night of our vacation, my mom stood there looking at me, sensing my confusion. I asked her, of all the people in my hometown, what was it about this one person that I had known for such a short period of time that made me sad to leave? Piled in the van, my family left for Ohio early the next morning, and I sat staring out the window wondering if I would ever see my Florida fling again.

To my delight, we talked every day after I left, and I booked a flight to see him that February. Weeks turned into months, and though our visits were sparse, our bond grew stronger and stronger. When we graduated high school, we both attended colleges in our respective states. Most everyone expected a wedge to form between us as we came into adulthood, but we worked harder and harder to make time for video chats and to schedule flights. We took advantage of every opportunity to be together; I spent one summer working in a dollar store to be with him in Florida and he spent the next working as an unpaid intern in my Ohio town.

As he approached his college graduation in 2015, it became unclear of what we would do. I needed to finish school in Ohio, but he needed to start looking for a job. After what seemed like months of weighing pros and cons, Brandon finally decided to move up to Ohio to be with me. He had applied for a few jobs, but at the time of his move was unsure of what he would be doing. After his move to Ohio, everything else seemed to fall into place. He found the perfect apartment near my campus and was offered an amazing job. After my graduation in December, I was accepted to Medical School fifty miles from his work, and we found an apartment to move to halfway in between.

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how they asked

The Friday before I walked with my class at the graduation ceremony, Brandon’s mom and stepdad flew to Ohio. At Wittenberg University, legend has it that if you step on the university seal located in the middle of campus prior to graduation, you fail your finals; because of this, it is tradition that when the graduation ceremony has ended, the seniors recess out and march to the center of campus to “Stomp the Seal”. I had not made plans to meet with friends to stomp the seal together, nor had I told my family to come watch the stomp. Little did I know, Brandon had rounded up my family prior to the end of ceremony and taken them to the seal. He explained to them how important this ritual was, encouraging them all to have their cameras prepared, though they were unaware of his true intentions. I headed toward the seal alone, surrounded by classmates, family members and faculty, and I wished I had told my parents about this important moment. As I approached the seal, I noticed Brandon walking toward me with a bouquet of flowers. Having always been a gentleman, Brandon’s gesture was not unusual, and I hopped on the seal and lifted my arms for a hug. The image of what happened next will forever remain in my memory…

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He smiled as he dropped to one knee and held up a ring box. My hand flew over my mouth and I began to back up. Was this really happening? I stood staring at this man down on one knee in front of me, a man whom I had loved for so long, and I began dropping everything from my hands, focusing only on his face. As he spoke the words “Will you marry me?”, I began to cry. Frantically nodding my head yes, I ran toward him, forgetting entirely of the ring in his hand, and he pulled me into an embrace. I was not the only one in shock; my mother, grandmother, and sister also had no idea of his intentions. My father was the only person who knew because Brandon had driven to my parents’ house earlier that week to ask for his blessing. I was over the moon with happiness and love, and I still find it hard to believe that this perfectly surreal moment was not a dream.

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At the start of our relationship, it seemed that all forces were acting against us. Not only were we kids in love, but we had to grow and find ourselves apart from the one we loved. We know now that these struggles are exactly what gave us the unbreakable connection that we share today. We had the love to grow together as a unit, but also the space to learn about ourselves as individuals. Though we were seventeen when we got together, I cannot remember a time in my life that Brandon and I weren’t together, and when I look into the future, I do not picture any moment without him by my side. We plan to get married next summer at the beach on Anna Maria Island, FL where we first met eight years ago.

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