Kari and Clay are each the youngest of their siblings, and they met years ago when they were both young and growing up in Central Illinois and waiting to see where life would take them. They actually met through their older siblings – Kari’s sister became good friends with Clay’s brothers while they were in college, and the older siblings joked about how they hoped Kari and Clay would end up dating someday.
Fast forward some years and the two of them both ended up attending the University of Iowa, and eventually the thing their older siblings joked about and hoped for actually happened – Kari and Clay started dating. But from here, Kari and Clay’s love story became their own; they established their own group of friends at college, and they continued to grow up and figure out who they each were alongside one another. After that, they learned both about independence and commitment as they became a long distance couple when Clay went to ranger school in Georgia. They eventually had the chance to live in Colorado together for some time before Clay had his first deployment, which was followed by his relocation to Kansas, and eventually another deployment as Kari continued to live and work in Colorado. These two have been in the unique situation of not only being far from their loved ones in Illinois, but also being far from one another on and off for years, which made this opportunity to have so many of their friends in family in one place together for their wedding that much sweeter.
I think these experiences, though incredibly challenging, seem to be a big part of what have made Kari and Clay not only who they each are, but also who they’ve become together. They are both laid back and thoughtful and patient and kind-hearted, and as their older siblings toasted to them during their reception, it was clear that they’re deeply admired by each of them, despite being the youngest of their bunches.
I’ve been thinking a lot about family and connection and love with everything we’re in the midst of this week, and when I look at these images, it feels like a reminder of brightness and energy and pure, uncomplicated joy. I think these are a few of the many things that fuel us as humans – the things that get us through the scary, hard shit that life will undoubtedly bring our way. Though we’re in a strange time right now where we don’t know what tomorrow or next week or next month will bring, we do know that we have each other. We have phone calls and video chats and ways of showing each other we care despite distance. We have the memories of days like this when our hearts were filled to their absolute brims, and we have hope in each other, and we are reminded that connection isn’t always in person – sometimes it’s long distance, whether during a deployment or a pandemic. And someday soon, we’ll all be bear hugging and laughing into one another’s faces and squeezing each other tightly on dance floors again, and as Clay and Kari know quite well, going through all this will make those eventual moments that much sweeter.