How We Met: Lee and I met in college at Virginia Tech. He was a turtleman for my sorority, and we were just friends! We later reconnected.
how they asked: What makes our proposal special to us is the months that led up to the proposal. 2015 started out a fabulous year, as we brought in the new year enjoying the crystal clear waters of Puerto Rico and sipping on pina coladas out of coconuts. Truly, we felt that 2015 was going to be “our year” and we were planning on making the best of it. I was living in Charlottesville at the time and he was stationed at Camp Lejeune; the two places are about six hours from each other. We knew that Lee was set to deploy sometime in 2015, so every moment we had together was precious. In January, my photographer friend Lauren asked us if we wanted to be models for her and we did. After those pictures were on Facebook, everyone thought Lee was already my fiancé! They look a LOT like engagement photos. Aside from me totaling my brand new car, January was a blissful month for us and really the only good thing about 2015 until when Lee proposed.
Photo by Lauren McKeown Photography
About a month after the pictures were taken in January, Lee decided to go on a snowboarding trip with family. It was there that he asked my dad for my hand in marriage. Right after asking my dad if he could marry me, he fell down the slope. And I mean immediately after. How does that happen?! I remember getting texts from him saying “I think I broke my neck”. I was out with friends eating dinner and did NOT believe him! Really, come on, who breaks their neck and can send you a text afterwards saying they think they broke their neck? The texts between us when he was hurt are absolutely hilarious. He told me that he couldn’t hold his head up without his hands and my response was, “yes you can, you’re texting me.” I was in total disbelief! I even told my friends when we left the restaurant that he better have a broken neck or something because we had to leave dinner early.
When I got to the ER, the doctors had already done a MRI of his neck. The doctor came in and said, “I have some bad news. You busted your C2.” Let me interject by saying that not only did Lee not get help from ski patrol down the mountain, he snowboarded the rest of the way down, my dad drove him across the mountain 45 minutes to the ER while Lee stabilized his own neck, and they stopped at McDonald’s for chicken nuggets! When asked if he wanted sauce with his nuggets, Lee replied, “I don’t think I can.” Do men not know how to ask other people for help? However, we did tell all the first-year medical students at the hospital my dad pushed Lee off the ski lift after he asked him to marry me. They really believed that.
When all was said and done, I ended up with my own, real life Regina George for about two months. Funny thing, the weekend before the accident, we watched Mean Girls. In a majority of the pictures we took a month prior with my friend, I was also holding his neck. Foreshadowing? And, yes, we have been personally victimized by Regina because who can make wearing a halo vest look that glamorous (and comfortable?!). Carrying around a puke bucket because you have screws in your head and the halo makes you sicker than the broken neck – fetch. And sweatpants, yeah, those are really all that fit Lee then. I went from second grade teacher to nurse real quick.
Bottom line, when you truly love someone, you will do anything for them and be by their side no matter what, even if that means standing next to them in the hospital bathroom with the puke bucket if that’s where they need you most. You hold your loved one’s hand, put away any negative thoughts you have, glue that smile on your face, and let them know they’re going to get through the shitty hand they were just dealt. You don’t let go of that hand or let that smile fade either, for any reason. I don’t care what the excuse is. You suck it up and you do it for them; you do it for you. You do it because love should show its face in times of hardship, just as it should in times of blessings, and give you strength to get through it. It was when Lee broke his neck and through our perseverance of what we endured that we both knew we had a relationship that could withstand the stresses of life.
I mean, I did spend 2 months having to get hit with screws every time I wanted to kiss him, in addition to navigating what seemed like a jail cell to get to his lips. He also snored like a chainsaw for two months, but I’ve since forgiven him.
Fast forward to May, and Lee made a miraculous recovery! He was staying between Richmond and Charlottesville with his parents and myself at the time. I was also not complaining because, obviously, if you break your neck in February you can’t go on deployment that year. We made plans to go to a barrel tasting at Keswick Vineyards on May 9th. I WAS SO EXCITED (disclaimer: this is in caps because I was really THAT excited) to go to Keswick Vineyards. The vineyards aren’t what’s beautiful at Keswick. What’s beautiful is this huge mansion that I drove past every day on my way to work and daydreamed about. Think white, southern plantation at it’s finest. I mean, coming from Virginia, I think the mansion is just decadent and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Anyways, we go to the barrel tasting at 10 am with only one other random couple. No one was there because who casually drinks wine at 10 am (ME). The tasting was great, but I had no clue what the winemaker was talking about because I was just wondering if I could go see the mansion at some point and, to be honest, I just like to drink the wine (alcohol). I don’t care how you make it. I went to the bathroom about halfway into the tasting and came out to a CLUE! I was a little confused. This girl handed me a clue and told me I had to go right away. Lee had planned an entire scavenger hunt for me on the property. All in all, there were four clues he had laid out. To be honest, the only clue I truly remember is the first and the last one, because Lee had left to “go take a phone call from his Captain” and his best friend Dan appeared at the vineyard. I totally believed Lee’s fake phone call because when you’re in the military, you’re never truly off-duty no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Lee had actually changed Dan’s name in his phone to his Captain’s name to throw me off! When Dan appeared around the corner, he told me that Lee was waiting for me at the fountain in front of the mansion. LET ME JUST TELL YOU! When I found out I got to walk to mansion (the tasting room is separate from the mansion because people ACTUALLY LIVE THERE) I couldn’t even think straight! Then it hit me. Why was Lee’s friend from D.C. here in Charlottesville, and why was Lee at the fountain that I’ve always told him I loved? During that walk, I realized that the man I was in love with was about to ask me to be his wife. The walk to Lee felt like an eternity! Seriously, traversing Mount Everest would have been quicker. When I first saw Lee, the first thing I noticed was he didn’t have his neck brace on. He’d been in a halo since February and worn the neck brace after that, so seeing him without the brace on was emotional in itself. After I got to him, he got down on one knee, said something to me about wanting to marry me, and then I physically took the ring out of the box and put it on my finger because I’ve been waiting for that bad boy my entire life!!!
After the proposal, we went back to the vineyard where we met up with my little brother, his friends Dan and Brandon, and drank more wine. Then Lee informed me that we were headed to my house, where all of my friends and family were waiting to celebrate our engagement at a surprise party. The day flew by! I wish I could turn back the hands of time and redo the day over and over (and maybe drink a little less wine). Our proposal is special not just because of the actual proposal, but because of what we went through to get to where we were and how far Lee came in just a few short months! I am so grateful for him and everyone else who made our day as special as it was. OORAH!
Proposal Photos by Kellis Photography