‘One of my NYPD officers comes in. ‘Hey Lieu, you’re a single guy. Why don’t you try TINDER?’ I looked at him and literally laughed out loud.’

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“This love story began in the spring of 2014. I was sitting in my office as a newly promoted Lieutenant within NYPD when one of my officers comes in and says, ‘Hey Lieu, you’re a single guy… why don’t you try TINDER?’ I looked at him and literally laughed out loud. I said ‘Tinder… what’s that!?’ and he began to explain how it works. I took his advice and downloaded the app in hopes of finding someone I could talk to and have genuine conversations with. I was looking to build a friendship before ever becoming romantically involved. I had negative experiences trying it the other way around. Eventually, I came across the profile of a beautiful angel wearing a Mets jersey. I saw her interests, her hobbies, her quotes and could immediately tell just how genuine of a person she was. I immediately thought to myself ‘this could be interesting’ and swiped right! A few days later I received a notification ‘It’s a Match!’ and the getting-to-know process began. Elizabeth Grace was truly a breath of fresh air. She was everything I never knew I wanted and much, much more. I honestly didn’t feel like I deserved someone as pure as her. Everything was so organic from the very beginning. It was literally like I was watching a motion picture unfold right before my very eyes. I had always prayed and knew deep down inside that he would bless me with my soulmate, but I had my reservations. At this point of my life I was a 34-year-old divorcee with a 4-year-old son, and I didn’t feel worthy. I felt as if the stigma of being a divorcee would haunt me forever, but I’m glad that the storms of life today just make way for the beautiful sunrises tomorrow. My prayers were answered the day Elizabeth Grace swiped right into my life!

Courtesy of Michael Almonte

After 6 weeks of getting to know each other and 2 or 3 dates, I finally managed to build up enough courage to ask her to be my girlfriend. My son, Michael Jr (MJ for short), whom I had joint custody of, was introduced to her a month later. On the day they met, MJ brought two of his favorite hot wheels as a gift for Elizabeth. It was such a cute gesture on his part and his way of saying thank you for making my Daddy so happy! They literally had each other at ‘hello’ and from that point forward became inseparable. He now calls her ‘Mom’ and his biological mother ‘Mommy’. Their relationship blossomed and was truly beautiful to witness. The way she took MJ under her wing and gave him unconditional love was definitely one of the reasons that made me fall in love with her that much quicker. Another reason my love grew was because of how her family embraced both MJ and I with arms wide open. They made us feel welcomed, loved, and most importantly they made us feel safe. They also introduced us to so many ‘firsts’ like kayaking, fishing, sledding and making s’mores over a bon-fire! Now you may laugh but I grew up in the inner city, in a rough neighborhood and honestly had never made s’mores before in my life. Hiking? Yup, you guessed it… that was a first too. We even adopted our first fur-baby, Wrigley, a coonhound and pointer mix. These were all incredible firsts that I’ll cherish and never forget. We took road trips to Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and even Cancun.

Courtesy of Michael Almonte

Prior to us meeting, Elizabeth was in a long 8-year relationship and I had experienced a tumultuous marriage that ended in divorce. My son was literally ripped out of my life a week before Christmas of 2010. However, both of us recognized that we were under-appreciated, and it made us evaluate our self-worth more. I spent the previous four years doing some serious soul-searching and honestly falling in love with God. My faith grew, my strength grew, and my love for life grew. It all came together when Elizabeth showed up. Right then and there, I truly knew I had discovered a diamond in the rough. I knew that God had prepared me for this moment, and I wasn’t about to let it go. I knew that our paths had crossed for a bigger PURPOSE but even with all that said, I still searched for red flags just to make sure. I searched and searched and couldn’t find a single one. So fast forward to May 28, 2015. It was not only our one-year anniversary but also the day I had planned to propose for months. My plan was to propose using a flash mob proposal right in the middle of Bryant Park. Bryant Park was somewhere I would go to find peace. It was such a serene place for me and the fact that there was a building named GRACE right across the street was the icing on the cake. I knew it was the spot that I was destined to propose, and I knew it was going to be perfect because honestly everything up to that point with Elizabeth Grace was perfect!

On that day she was under the impression that we were going to Bryant Park for a picnic but she was in for the surprise of her life. As we strolled through the park a flash mob suddenly started to perform. Elizabeth and I had watched countless proposal and wedding videos from Michael Justin Films. We were obsessed with his work and attention to detail and how he made love stories come to life. I contacted Michael back in March of 2015 and hired him for the special day. Dancer after dancer joined in and they moved to the beat of songs from ‘Grease’, Elizabeth’s favorite movie! The songs then transitioned to ‘A World with You’ by Jason Mraz, our favorite artist. As she watched in amazement, our friends and family started to appear. I got down on one knee for a moment in time and it felt like we were the only two humans on earth. All of the memories came flashing back from her childhood. She was always in love with the idea of love and it had been her lifelong dream to be a bride. It was my lifelong dream to find my soulmate and she was finally here! She obviously said ‘Yes!’ and we even got a cool shout out from Jason Mraz himself!

Three months prior to our wedding my son went on vacation with his biological mother to the Dominican Republic. Unbeknownst to us, her plan was to never return.  In August we got the message that crushed us to the core. As I sat in the kitchen of my in-law’s house, with my head buried in my hands, my wife and her mother gave me the strength I never knew I had. My soon-to-be wife sacrificed herself and our finances in order to get him back to the US and back in our lives. She totally disregarded how this would burden us and affect the wedding planning. She instead put Michael Jr first in the most selfless act I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, Michael Jr didn’t arrive back in the US until November of 2016, a month after our wedding but all good things come to those who put their faith in the Lord. After a nine-month long custody battle, we were awarded full custody and never looked back. We know just how blessed we are to be able to have him home every night, tucking him into bed, giving him all the kisses and love in the world. Fast forward to February of 2017 and Elizabeth once again managed to take my breath away and drop me to my knees. She broke the news that we were expecting a baby and I started crying like a baby LOL. All of my dreams were coming true. I had always cherished the family structure and now she was giving me one of my own. Our beautiful baby girl, my princess, was born on September 26, 2017. Skylar May. Her middle name represents the month I asked my Queen, her mother to be my girlfriend and now our daughter will always carry that piece of history with her. We also added another fur baby to our clan, Annie the Golden-doodle.

Courtesy of Michael Almonte

Elizabeth Grace is so much more than just my wife or my soulmate or the mother of our children. She is our super hero, our protector, our cornerstone and the glue that holds this family together. She is the one behind the scenes making sure this train doesn’t go off track and for that I am forever grateful. She has never missed a first or last day of school. She attends his parent/teacher conferences. She tucks him into bed, prepares his lunch and reviews his homework on a daily basis. Not to mention all the while taking care of a 16-month-old baby. She is the definition of Superwoman. She supports me in everything I do and is my biggest cheerleader. I wouldn’t trade her for anything or anyone in the world. We face every trial and tribulation together, side by side, like soldiers in an army. She is truly my best friend and there is no one else on the face of this planet that can compare to her. I always tell her that when the kids are older and are off to college it’ll be just me and her. Us against the world. We are the foundation of this family and continue to build on our relationship, never forgetting how truly blessed we are to have swiped right!”

Courtesy of Michael Almonte

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michael Almonte from New York. Follow him on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories.

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