DC widow blogger Marjorie Brimley with late husband Shawn Brimley
Missing Shawn

Young Love

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.


      • Rhonda howard

        Hi Marjorie…I’m Rhonda and I came across one of your stories speaking of trying to date again after your loss ..well I’m in that same situation its been five years for me now but I just want to say thank you for your time and writing ..it helps me and I smile with everything you write because I so can relate and here I thought I was the only one going thru this…
        You are the best and please continue im sure there’s many more out there like me whom your stories help thru another day.
        God bless you and continue to strengthen you..

        • Marjorie

          Thank you so much for writing this. I love when people find my blog because they read something I wrote about dating. It’s been the hardest thing to write about, but it’s also maybe the most important because these taboos need to be broken. But it’s complicated – both to do and to write about! Thanks for your sweet comment, and for reading.

  • Melanie

    You are so correct, Marjorie…none of us know what is in store for us and although we naturally worry about the future, there is something to be said for living in the moment. Once upon a time people probably looked at you and Shawn and my husband and myself as you did at this young couple. I was married at 19 (!) and Philip was 25…so much more mature than I was, haha! But it was so right. He did so much for me throughout our lives, we were so in love, and he truly was the best thing that ever happened to me which I told him when he was in my arms dying. I hope that young couple enjoys a fraction of the happiness we each had with our beloved husbands.

    • Marjorie

      Exactly – and it’s one of the reasons that it’s hard to conceptualize the idea of getting remarried. How could I get that love again? It’s something that’s special when it starts so young, that’s for sure.

  • Laren Tolbert

    We were 19 and 21. Children! But it allowed us to have almost 50 years before she died. And that was still too young! Yes, I know the envy that comes with PDA’s of a couple at any age. We had had our ups and downs, but I loved her at the end more than I ever had. I saw “Mary Poppins Returns,” and I love the part where Mr. Banks recognizes that his wife is in all his children. I keep looking at pictures of my children and grandchildren, and I see her in their eyes. It’s the only way I keep going.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, and when you get married so young, you grow up together – which, for me, has meant it’s hard to know how to make decisions, move through the days and plan for the future without my second half. But yes, like you, my children are what get me through. They all have my husband’s eyes.

  • Carol

    The Garth Brooks song comes to mind:

    The Dance

    Looking back on the memory of
    The dance we shared beneath the stars above
    For a moment all the world was right
    How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye
    And now I’m glad I didn’t know
    The way it all would end the way it all would go
    Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
    But I’d have to miss the dance
    Holding you I held everything
    For a moment wasn’t I the king
    But if I’d only known how the king would fall
    Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all
    And now I’m glad I didn’t know
    The way it all would end the way it all would go
    Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
    But I’d of had to miss the dance
    Yes my life is better left to chance
    I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance

  • Kate

    I got married to my husband when I was 20. We were married for 28 years when he died. We grew up together and we build a life. My Dad told me the other day that I will probably never have this again, but that doesn’t mean that a new love or life will be less meaningful. But I will most likely never have this kind of bond with another man again. This type of relationship takes time. Time to grow, to nurture and to learn. When you are young and in love, everything feels like an adventure. I am not that person anymore because he helped me grow into the woman and mother that I am now. I really like this new woman and while he is not here to see me grow old, I am thankful for the time that we had. Some people never experience this love in their entire lives. And I am curious what this life still holds in store for me. I have experienced so much – joy as well as intense pain and I hope that my experiences will perhaps help others. That will be my purpose….

    • Marjorie

      I agree. Shawn and I grew up together – every single adult decision I ever made was with him. So, by definition, I won’t be able to find someone like him because I won’t be at the same life stage as I was when we were falling in love. Maybe that means that any new love will just be totally and completely different – like something I can’t even imagine yet.