Celebrate love this holiday season

Olivia Fellows, Associate Print Editor

Courtesy / Olivia Fellows

This year has thus far been a year of turmoil, confusion, loss, anger and change. During the course of the year, we have searched far and wide for new ways to find positivity and celebrate the good in life amidst such upheaval. Among the most consistent trends I noticed among friends and family were people getting puppies, and as it turns out, many couples getting engaged or married. During COVID-19, celebrating love feels more important than ever.

Early on during the summer, one of my closest friends, Isaac Dedenbach, sweetly asked me to be a grooms-woman in his wedding to his fiancée Emma, making it the first time I’d been asked to participate in a wedding. They won’t be getting married for a while, but my heart always leaps when I think about the love and celebration to come.

My family also learned this summer that my eldest brother, Ben, was planning to propose to his girlfriend, Megan. Just after the start of the first semester, I traveled home to participate in their engagement during a beautiful summer day at our home on Lake Leelanau. He proposed on our family’s boat, and I won’t ever forget being able to capture such a special moment between my brother and his partner. I can’t wait until the day I get to have yet another wonderful sister.

Most recently, as I made plans to quarantine and see my family briefly over Thanksgiving, I thought of another one of my best friends, Gerardo Vasquez, and his plans to propose to his girlfriend of nearly five years, Kira Metcalf. I still hadn’t been sure when he was going to propose, and as it turns out, to my delight he ended up doing the deed over the break.

Gerardo and Kira have been an integral part of my life since I can remember. We grew up all together at our high school in Leland, Michigan, and made memories as we got older and graduated. Both of them currently attend Grand Valley State University, as does Isaac, and I feel fortunate to have such good friends so close.

Gerardo and Kira started dating our junior year of high school, and everyone in our friend group realized quickly that these two were smitten with each other. As the years passed, I watched their love grow from that of two teens in starry-eyed crushes to adults so in love and devoted to one another, you almost never see them apart. Gerardo, a big-hearted, big-smiled lovable goofball, and Kira;, a sure-footed, smart, and caring soul.

Here’s the thing you need to know about this couple: they love Scrabble and they are both massive romantics for each other. Each anniversary or birthday, I’d always hear the latest plan for handmade gifts that incorporated their common loves or inside jokes. Knowing Gerardo, I knew his proposal was sure to be something spectacular, and it sure delivered.

In the months following up to the proposal, Gerardo wrote, practiced and mastered a song for Kira. It detailed their love story, and where he hopes their future will go. It really is a beautiful tribute to a love that has been growing for so long. Along with the song, Gerardo also had a custom ring box made resembling a wooden scrabble piece with the letter ‘K’ on the top. I’d never seen anyone go to such lengths to make a ring box so personal and touching.

“Preparing for the proposal took months, and I had involved all of my family and her family to help set up the location,” Gerardo said. “I also involved several of my best friends to help me with the proposal. I had one of my best friends teach me how to play the guitar and one of my friends to help me practice while being down in Grand Rapids. I asked a close family friend who is a professional photographer to help take pictures. Mind you, all this was happening during a global pandemic, which made it all that more of a difficult to keep it a secret from her.”

The proposal itself went flawlessly. The song was sung, the ring box opened, the tears shed and the ‘yes!’ uttered. I wasn’t able to be there for it, but seeing the photos made me feel like I had been, because you could just feel the love radiating from them. Their parents even had t-shirts made for everyone to mark the occasion.

When I asked Gerardo after he’d come down from his engagement high how the entire experience had felt, he was honest that he’d been more nervous than he’d ever been in his life. Knowing him, I knew that Kira was one of the few things in his world that could make him feel that way. Hearing him talk about her is like watching a puppy when their favorite human comes home. Utter favoritism and love. I respected it.

Kira, on the other hand, admitted that the proposal had come out of the blue. She said they’d discussed marriage in the past but had no idea that he’d been planning the moment for months.

“When he started playing the guitar, I couldn’t help but smile and cry, he learned to play the guitar and wrote a song for me,” Kira said. “I also couldn’t believe that our families had kept it a secret for so long. It was a really special moment for all of our family to be there, especially after such a stressful year.”

As a college student, I can say with confidence that COVID-19 and online learning has not been too kind to us. So many kids are struggling with school on top of the turmoil of the pandemic, and finding ways to stay positive and on track is more difficult than ever. Thanksgiving often reminds me of the things and the people in my life that I truly prioritize, and this year was no different.

For me, finding comfort in the good and the happiest moments in the lives of those around me is what has kept me going for these past few difficult months. The thought of the possibilities to come, the celebrations to be had. It reminds me every day to do everything I can to keep my loved ones safe so that we can have those celebrations in the future. I don’t want any empty chairs or empty glasses when I toast to my brother and his soon-to-be wife, my two best friends and their wives, and all of our families.

During the changing of the tide in our lives and the emotions we share, seeing new change in love and creating and celebrating possibilities for the future is what I am holding on to. In a time when we can’t hold on to each other, we can find comfort in the memories we’ve had and have hope for the ones to come. Because no matter what happens, or how far or close apart we are, love always ties us together. Gerardo summed it up pretty well to me in describing what his proposal meant to him, his fiancée, and their families.

“This moment meant everything for all of us,” he said. “It meant that even in the worst situations you can still have something beautiful come out of it. I believe spreading happiness is how we get through hard times like we are facing now. I believe that the story of our engagement helps share some of our love and happiness with those around us.”


See the author’s personal WordPress blog version of this story to see photos of the couples mentioned in this story.