“The first time he asked me out to lunch, I told him I had already bought a sandwich. The second time he reached out, I didn’t respond. The third time Alex Heckman blinked across my Facebook Messenger like a little light, I could not resist..
I never knew what would come to grow between us. Two kids that met out of high school while working at a local company during the summers. We spent our days laughing in the mail room when we walked together each day for our departments. It was the simplicity of the beginning of our relationship, but it was what we needed – friendship, a kind soul in an office where we felt like kids.
Our first date happened almost two years after we first met and Alex first asked me out. In the years between, we had dated, attended college and grown up a little – okay, a really small amount (come on, it was only two years!).
Dinner that night was at the backup restaurant when Alex realized he had planned for us to grab dinner at a bar and I was underage. We went to a little barbecue joint near my apartment instead. I sat down next to him and let my nervous rambling take over, talking through most of dinner. He just smiled and laughed at my shaky words and anxious behavior. Over the years, he would tell me he was happy that I talked the whole time as he was nervous we wouldn’t have a thing to talk about.
Before Alex, I never knew that I could feel so much comfort with a partner. We went to an Iowa State men’s basketball game and I met all of his friends. I felt the same ease. It wasn’t just that I felt right with Alex, it was that I felt like his whole world would blend into mine seamlessly. His friends could be my friends, his life could be shared with mine. It was easy to imagine.
Alex became a comfort to me when I was in school, and it was the same for him. As he was heading for graduation, we sat up late eating crab ragoon on the counter, attended parties with his friends until even later hours, and made brunch on lazy Sundays with my friends.
Over time, I began to notice the details of Alex. He was, and still is, a man of action. A man that does something for the one he loves to prove how much he cares. The greatest proof is the pup that is currently curled up in a ball next to me, sound asleep.
Alex’s family raises dogs – vizslas, a breed known for being great hunters and even better housepets, especially known to love their owners to the extreme. When his grandmother’s dog had another litter, I visited the group and fell in love with a little rolly polly in a blue collar.
Alex said it wasn’t the right time. I agreed. I was working in Illinois at an internship and didn’t have the ability to care for a dog, especially one that was two hours away. We agreed, it was for the best to pass. But that didn’t stop me from crying on the phone and telling him how much I loved the little guy I had held in my hands the weekend before.
The following weekend, I came home to find Alex holding that little rolly-polly. Case. The red-haired vizsla that would grow to own my whole heart and Alex’s favorite dog in the world.
That was the moment I knew. Not that Alex was ‘perfect,’ but that he was perfect for me. Because even when I said that it didn’t matter, that I would move past it, he did whatever he had to do to see me smile.
And that’s what we all deserve – someone who will fight to see us smile.
Alex’s love for me was only further proven when I graduated. When I told him I wanted to stay near Des Moines for another job, he moved. He had been living in our hometown for two years then, working at a job he loved and he had bought a house. But he gave it up in a heartbeat, for me.
The impact of that decision remained with me. He gave up his job, his house, and his friends. He left our hometown and the life he was building there for us. We picked an apartment in South Ames and settled in together, but not without the reminder that everything he had done so far was for me. When we moved in, I told him immediately:
‘Next time, I move for you. No matter what.’
I never thought it would be so soon.
A year into the move to Ames, Alex and I went to visit one of his best friends based at Fort Hood in Texas. I never suspected a thing until we were at Magnolia Farms on the fifth of July and Alex was down on one knee. The scream that erupted from my throat and the hysterical tears were all that anyone could hear in the video someone took of us getting engaged.
It was perfect. We were happy, so insanely happy. Plans began the following day, plans of something great and big and shared with everyone we loved.
And then everything changed again.
We had been in Ames a year and a half. I was working at Chobani, he was working at Danfoss. When layoffs hit, Alex was cut. He looked at me and without hesitation told me that he would find a job in Des Moines. He knew I loved my job more than anything.
I didn’t want that for him. I told him to do what mattered to him, to take us home.
So, we moved again, finding our way to Muscatine. Finding new jobs at the company where Alex had been a year and a half before. Finding a house down the street from both of our parents. Finding ourselves a month away from marriage.
I never thought about what would happen to my wedding if a global pandemic struck. Honestly, nobody did. I remember joking with a vendor about the idea of a ‘natural disaster’ when we read the contract and we both shrugged it off as though it was a funny joke.
Now, it was not so funny.
I stared at the screen in front of me, reading and rereading the proclamation that was listed on the screen. Large gatherings were cancelled. Large gatherings including weddings.
My coworkers whispered their questions and concerns. They all asked me what I was going to do, if we had a plan. My brain was running rampant at the idea of what was happening.
Days before, we had realized that the wedding was not going to happen as we had planned. We knew that we needed to accept the change. At the end of the day, we both knew what mattered: each other.
I love him. He loves me. That’s all we both needed to know for that day to continue. It didn’t matter about anything else. I would marry Alex in the pouring rain in a sack dress if it meant I got forever with him.
We had agreed days prior. This marriage was happening.
I did not want to wait for my forever with Alex. I did not want to let this stop us. I remember watching his lips form the words.
‘No matter what, I want to marry you.’
I remember kissing him and thinking that all I wanted in the world was for this to not be happening. I remember thinking it was just a bad dream.
Alex is stronger than me, he always will be. When the news broke, he texted me to come home for lunch so we could talk it over. At lunch, we knew what we had to do. When our venue cancelled our event, we decided it was time to move onto plan B.
Plan B was much simpler than what we had planned. No more major venue, no more 300-person guest list. No more massive reception.
But it had everything we needed.
A little church his grandparents attended. Our parents. The safety of knowing that the people we loved would be safe from the virus. Coronavirus was not something we wanted to mess around with. His grandmother was just out of the hospital, my 96-year-old grandmother had developed COPD.
At the end of the day, we knew that it was not safe or secure to have our wedding. But that did not mean that we did not love each other.
A wedding, for us, was not about the party. It was not about the pomp and circumstance. It was not about the frills or how flowy my dress was. It was about us – the man that loved me more than I had ever been loved and a girl that would do anything to love him back just as much.
Alex’s grandfather gave us the church to use that day. He opened the doors, swung them wide and sang the Common Doxology as we entered. A moment that became forever locked into my heart as tears ran down my cheeks.
For us, that wedding was perfect. The simplicity, the sound of Somewhere Only We Know by Keane playing as I walked down the aisle with my father, the smile on Alex’s face as I spoke my vows. It was everything we needed. When we left the chapel, I was happy. I was content. My heart was overwhelmed with love.
Then, we stepped outside. The flow of love that coursed through the air as our would-be guests blared car horns and waved signs broke me into tears immediately. Alex doubled over in shock before we raised a glass to the ones that had come out for us, even if only for a moment.
At the end of the day, I wanted to be Mrs. Heckman. I wanted Alex – more than the wedding, more than anything, I wanted him. It didn’t matter who was there. It didn’t matter if it was exactly as planned.
It was still perfect.
This virus is raging around the world. As we went home that night, we waved to the 96-year-old woman I call my grandmother who lives next door to our new house. She is too sick to see us in person and I won’t risk her health. That is what this virus taught me.
I care more for the person that can’t fight this than I do for my wedding day or the big reception. Because at the end of the day, I want the ones that we love to still be here for the next party. I want happiness for them and everyone they love. I want us all to live through this poison that has infected our world.
Social distancing, quarantine, and work from home statuses are following Alex and I as we return to the ‘real world.’ We settle into our new normal as we set up the home office in our new house and find that this is what the world needs.
The world needs to be careful, because it is no longer just about us. It is not about you and your chances of survival, but about the grandfather you hear singing the Common Doxology and the woman next door you want to see make it to 100.
My heart is full to be Mrs. Alex Heckman, no matter the circumstances. My advice to others is to love the world as much as you love your partner. Remember that the people who you want with you so badly love you no matter what. They will come for another party. They will come to a parking lot and cheer for you while blaring their horns. Love each other, marry each other and remember that your love will survive this, but you want everyone else to make it, too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Grace Heckman of Muscatine, Iowa. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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