I was flying to the Cayman Islands to take a break from my life. It was just after Christmas, and the plane was filled with people vacationing. I located my seat, and then I saw the people sitting next to me – a really young couple who were holding hands.
I took a deep breath and sat down. I’ve written before about how hard it can be at times to hang out with my happily married friends. But a newly in-love couple….well, that’s a whole other ball game.
“Hi!” the girl said in the happiest voice I’d heard in a long time. She was darling, and so was the boy sitting next to her. She had on a shiny ring.
“Are you guys going on your honeymoon?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “just going to see family. We got married three years ago.”
I was surprised because they looked really young. I started talking to them about where they were from, and quickly I realized that they were still students at BYU. They were Mormon, and had both done missions and then gotten married when she was 21 and he was 22.
Just babies, really.
But they were so happy, that much was clear. They told me they managed a toy store but were graduating soon and wanted to do something with their degrees. They had big dreams – starting a new business, maybe.
I told them I too had been married young – age 25, which might not seem abnormal to them, but I noted that was quite young for a couple in DC. “When my husband and I would go to parties in DC when we were newly married, people would actually ask how old we were,” I told them. “I know, 25 wasn’t so young for my hometown, but all of our friends in DC were grad students with no plans for the future – certainly not marriage!”
They both laughed. “Well,” the girl said, “I’m sure you can imagine that people say the same thing to us. But if you’re in love, why would you wait?”
There are a million reasons to wait, of course. If my daughter came home at age 21 and said she was getting married, I’d freak out. (Never mind that I told my own father that I was certain I’d marry Shawn when I was only 23.) I know what I’d say to Claire if she came home with such a crazy idea at that age. I’d tell her “you have your whole life ahead of you” and “you can’t go ruining it by getting married too young.”
But this couple did exactly that. And really, so did Shawn and I.
I thought about this for a minute, and then I turned to the couple next to me and said, “you are lucky. You have your whole life ahead of you, and you get to do it together.”
And then I told them about Shawn.
Both of them were quite saddened by his story, but they were also compassionate, mature and thoughtful. They had seen enough of the world during their missionary work to know that bad things can happen, so they didn’t have the same shock in their eyes that others their own age might have. In fact, I think the sadness I saw in their eyes wasn’t because they worried about my financial stability or my new status as a single mom. It was because they understood that I was without a partner in this world.
The plane was about to take off, and they apologized and said they were going to put on their headphones. “We’re listening to the Harry Potter series,” the boy said. Then I watched them put on headphones and plug them into their headphone splitter. The girl laid her head on her husband’s shoulder, and he held her hand.
“Are you comfortable?” I heard him ask her.
She smiled at him, nodded her head, and closed her eyes.
And I almost burst into tears.
They are just at the start of life. They have no idea what will be in front of them. They don’t know if they will make it in their careers or if they will become overwhelmed by family life someday. They can’t predict if one of them will get sick. They don’t know if they will have 5 years together or 50. They don’t know what’s next.
But in that moment, they knew they had each other.