Hillary and Luke

Image 1 of Hillary and Luke

How We Met

How did we meet? On a bright, September morning in 2007, after frantically missing the bus on the first day of Middle school and my dear mother rushing me into the car, I made it to the doors of Northern Burlington County middle school. I cautiously climbed the stairs up to the 7th-grade hallway, filled with the adrenaline, excitement, and fear of meeting new people at a bigger school, and opened the door to Mrs. Graph’s homeroom. Being that I was late, I was the last one to take my seat. I took my assigned seat in front of a boy with blond curly hair and big blue eyes, who was busy making (pretty hilarious) jokes with another boy he knew well. As I listened, I laughed to myself. When Mrs. Graph called attendance, we learned that our last names were Levanduski and Lovenduski. Of course, this sprang a conversation of relation, or knowing people of the same name, wondering if even with the 2 letter difference, we could somehow be related (which of course we were not-thankfully! Haha).

Image 2 of Hillary and Luke

This quickly sparked a friendship of playing jokes on others, pretending to siblings, or cousins, or distant relatives, and youthful flirtation of who’s name was better. Luke was one of the first new people I met on the first day of middle school. I had no idea that at that moment, my life would be forever changed. Our story’s beginning: With our names so close in spelling, Luke and I were placed in every class together and alphabetically seated next to each other in every class. We quickly became close friends. Over the years, we even liked each other in a sweet way.

Image 3 of Hillary and Luke

He was my first kiss in 8th grade, and we always enjoyed each other’s company. Over time, we realized that we liked each other as more than friends. On the last day of my freshman year of high school, Luke told me he had something very important to tell me at the end of the day. We split up to take our final exams, with my head in the clouds and butterflies in my stomach thinking of what he may say. This daydreaming of course led to me receiving a C on my geometry final, but I really couldn’t have cared less at the time. At the end of the day, while students ran through the halls laughing with the excitement of summer, we met in the cafeteria. Luke pulled me to the side to tell me that he had feelings for me and wanted me to be his girlfriend.

I anxiously paced and twiddled my thumbs as I sputtered out that I felt the same way. From that day, we were inseparable- a package deal throughout all of high school. Not only first love but best friends. The story continues: Luke and I continued to date throughout the years- taking a small break at the beginning of college and finding our way back to each other soon after. We dated through college, across states, and continued to grow and learn together. We grew together like two pieces of a puzzle. Through it all, we had our share of ups and downs. In this time, we found that Luke struggled with addiction. To help Luke find recovery, he went to a long term treatment center for over a year, and then to Minnesota. As a result, we took time to work on ourselves and didn’t see each other or even speak, other than a few secret letters, for a year and a half. This time was incredibly painful for both of us but served as necessary growing pains in our learning about ourselves as individuals and together.

Image 4 of Hillary and Luke

At that time, I was also diagnosed with severe Ulcerative Colitis- leading to many nights in and out of the hospital, blood transfusions, pulmonary embolisms, and medicinal infusions. Over time, we both learned how to take care of our mental and physical health, and how to take care of ourselves. In March of 2018, Luke found his way back to New Jersey and we saw each other again for the first time in over a year and a half. When I opened the door to my tiny Bordentown apartment to see him standing in the hall, there were no words. We immediately embraced, tears in our eyes, and couldn’t let go- it was like something out of a movie! He was my person and I was his. From that moment, through everything we had been through, we knew that through everything, we were meant to be and that we never wanted to be without each other again.

Image 5 of Hillary and Luke

How They Asked

How he asked: On Saturday, September 19, 2020, Luke let me know that we were going on a big date! We had had a COVID 19 exposure scare, and because I am immune-compromised, Luke had been staying at a hotel until tests came back negative. When tests were finally returned after days of waiting, Luke was finally coming home! After all of that stress and longing to be together, we were so excited to have a lovely day together! My Luke had a perfect idea. When we were 16 years old, Luke and I had carved our initials in a heart in a tree at our local park- we always spent so much time there and loved it as kids. Luke’s idea for our date was to go and visit “our tree” and take some pictures of us with the carving. Then, to go out to a delicious dinner in the next town over where we had our first apartment together. I couldn’t wait to see our tree! We arrived at the park, and it felt so wonderful to be back in that space where we had run around together as kids.

Image 8 of Hillary and Luke

Image 9 of Hillary and Luke

We walked down the trail path holding hands and chatting. When we found our tree, Luke pulled out a tripod from his backpack. As someone who adores having pictures and videos of us, I was over the moon, and my heart warmed knowing that he was taking pictures for me. When he started the video, he asked me to talk to the camera about our tree. Eventually, Luke turned to me and said “Do you remember what I told you when we carved our initials in this tree 10 years ago?”

Image 7 of Hillary and Luke

Feeling the energy in the air, I giggled excitedly and said no. He then said “I said, one day, I was going to ask you to marry me” as he went down on one knee and pulled out the most gorgeous, sparkling ring I had ever seen. Tears of joy filled my eyes as I fell to my knees myself- overwhelmed with happiness and love and gratitude at this moment. Luke asked me to marry him. As I said “yes!” I ran into his arms- so excited to be his wife and to be officially his forever.

Image 6 of Hillary and Luke

Image 10 of Hillary and Luke

Image 11 of Hillary and Luke