Kely and Jason’s story

“Our story begins in the 1980s amidst Scooby Doo episodes and Matchbox trucks in the sandbox of my childhood backyard. At the time, my mother was babysitting for a single man raising his two young sons—Jason and Rob.  When I was six, and Jason was eight, his family moved from the Indiana countryside to Cincinnati. Only forty or so miles separated us, but our lives took vastly different paths and that was the last I heard, saw, or thought of Jason. Until 2012.

In 2012, I was emerging from my own personal storm: a divorce after more than ten years of marriage. It was an emotional rollercoaster and, unfortunately, I was tall enough to ride. My normally worry-ridden mind was drowning with even more concerns. How would my 3, 6, and 9-year old children adjust? How would I ensure they had a wonderfully happy life, even if it wasn’t a perfect one? I had so many fears about the unknown. About co-parenting. About the future. It was the right change to make, but it wasn’t without many difficulties.

At the same time, across a state line and unbeknownst to me, Jason was surviving his own storm. As an ironworker, he suffered a fall from the steel that left him broken. He suffered a broken neck, broken back, and other injuries. He faced a long road to recovery, and what that recovery looked like was uncertain and not promised by his doctors. Jason faced radical changes to his daily life, including—at least for a while—no work. During that time, he kept his mind and body busy with hospital visits and physical rehabilitation interspersed with frustrating bouts of rest. During those times of rest, Jason reached out and reconnected with a childhood friend through social media.

That childhood friend was me. And that reconnection was over three years ago. We’ve been inseparable since—two extremely different peas in a pod carved just for us. We got to know one another. We recovered. We worked. We reveled in our good fortune. We mused. We held on tight. We sat in silence. Our children met. We all fell in love.

When I read Love Letter To the World, it spoke to me. It spoke to me as someone who loves the Earth, and, as a professional biologist, I was moved by the words. As lovers of art and tattoos and community, Jason and I quickly decided this project was something of which we wanted to be part. We chose ‘you send tornadoes’ and ‘hail and thunderstorms.’ On February 14, 2015, we sat side by side while the artwork was completed in Cincinnati. It is a daily reminder to us not only of the meaning behind a profound poem, but also of the personal storms that began our journey home to one another.

Many months following our Valentine’s Day appointment, an arbor stood in our backyard. Rugged and imperfect, it was constructed of fallen branches we drug from the woods, and was wrapped with grapevine and lace and crystals—crystals that were supposed to be glittering as they reflected the abundant glow of fall sunlight! Instead, they were clattering in a very cold wind, standing stark against a blue-gray sky. My shoulders hung. I was succumbing to my very own pity-party. This isn’t what we planned. We deserved the perfect day. I thought all the things one looks back on and feels ashamed to have thought in the first place, given the charmed and blessed life they have been dealt to lead. Jason snatched me out of that self-induced sadness with a quickness and with one solid, serious declaration: ‘I don’t care if it pours. I don’t care if it thunderstorms. I’ve waited a long time, and nothing is stopping me from standing under that arbor and marrying you.’

And that’s exactly what we did in our wet, cold backyard during an hour’s break from the days’ long rain on October 3, 2015. Because there will be tornadoes. There will be hail and thunderstorms. And come hell or high water, we will ride them out together to experience the magnificence that awaits us on the other side.”

Keli and Jason on their wedding day

Kely and Jason Wabnitz on their wedding day (photograph by Melissa Hanley Photography)