Many couples who got married last year had to downsize their guest lists tremendously, and some had already postponed their ceremonies for some time.
Fred Paul, 84, and Florence Harvey, 81, have them all beat: They waited nearly 70 years.
But not because of a pandemic. Paul and Harvey were high school sweethearts in the small town of Wandsworth in Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province for two years before life drew them in different directions.
The lovebirds were separated by a bay, so every evening Paul would wish Harvey a good night by flickering the front porch light before going to bed.
When Paul was 18 and Harvey was 15, Paul moved to Toronto for work. When he visited a year later, Harvey had moved away.
Decades passed. They married other people. They raised families. They had their own separate lives.
But in 2017, Harvey’s husband died after the two had spent 57 years married. In 2019, Paul’s wife of 60 years died.
Harvey was the one who reached out first. When she heard Paul had lost his wife, she called to give him her condolences but also to reassure him that things would get better — she just didn’t realize that she would be part of that.
The call happened to take place the day after Valentine’s, which was a bit of foreshadowing, though Harvey never dreamed it would go beyond a friendly call.
“I never thought it would go past that,” she told CNN. “But we went from talking once a week, to twice, to three times, to every day for hours. We had really reconnected even though we hadn’t seen each other in all those years. I knew this was it.”
Harvey took initiative a second time when she decided to surprise him for his birthday by visiting him in Toronto.
“When I found out she was in town and was coming to me, it was 10:30 at night,” Paul recalled. “I ran out of bed and got dressed and wrote ‘Welcome Florence’ in chalk on the driveway and when she arrived, I walked to the car, gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and I held her hand and I knew right away that she had taken my heart.”
Three days later, they knew.
Paul had stomach cancer and would start treatments soon, so they decided to start their life together even sooner, holding a small, special ceremony at the Norval United Church in Georgetown, Ontario, on Aug. 8.
The event was moving. The church’s minister, Paul Ivany, said that out of the hundreds of ceremonies he’d been a part of, this one was the most “profound.”
“And now, with all the wisdom they had gathered up in life, through all of life’s joys and sorrows, life’s ups and downs, they were ready to say those vows again,” Ivany said. “Not with the naive emotionalism of young love but out of the depths of lived experience.
“They were willing to say those vows again. And mean them, again. It was so powerful.
“There were tears in the eyes of all gathered. You couldn’t help but feel you were watching a real, live miracle, that you were witness to an unimaginable love story.”
The couple planned to revisit their teenage stomping grounds, reminiscing on their beginnings.
“She was my first love,” Paul said. “My first girlfriend and my first true love.”
“You were the first young man to walk me home in my teens,” Harvey said during their ceremony.
“I guess you’ll be the last man to walk me home.”
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