I am writing the next part of our story with lots of thought and careful word choice. I want to tell the truth, but I also want to be respectful of the people who were so closely tied to the situation I will include here. Life is wonderful and beautiful, but it is also hard and filled with horrible things we don't understand. With this in mind, this is the rest of the story.
Two days after I returned from Nashville, I sent Jake a text message.
Me: I would like to take my fabulous boyfriend on a lunch date today or Friday. Could you please let me know if he is free either day?
JT: I would love to do that today. Where can I meet you?
It was a beautiful day, and I wanted lunch somewhere with a patio. El Gabacho, he suggested. I thought it sounded like a made up place, but he insisted that it was real, and it was. We had lunch, and we talked about things like jobs and moving. I made it clear that he was not allowed to move without me. He nodded his understanding, and I think we both silently agreed that this relationship was headed in the "make no big decisions without the other" direction. After lunch, we shopped at the little boutiques around the restaurant. We headed back to my office at the church and spent a little more time together. It was Thursday, and I had girls Bible study later that night. I went home to rest, and Jake went to run errands.
I had just woken up from a nap when I saw his text for me to call him. It was sort of formal sounding, and I admit that I was a little nervous. I tried to call him, and he didn't answer. His next text just said "This is really bad". I called again. No answer. Finally, he called me back. In the calmest of voices, he went through what had taken place that afternoon after he left me. He had gotten a phone call that no one was answering the phones at North Pointe Baptist Church where he worked, so he went by to make sure things were okay. When he arrived, Jake and two others unlocked the church to find that the church's ministry assistant and Jake's pastor and friend, Clint, had been the victims of a robbery and physical attack. Clint had not survived.
Tragedy is a funny thing. Everyone deals with it differently. I didn't know what Jake needed or wanted at that moment, and honestly, I don't know if he even knew. We were in a very new relationship, and I wasn't sure what my role was. I just knew that I wanted to be where he was. I quickly canceled my Bible study, and I told Jake that I was planning on coming to the church to be with him and that if he wanted me to go away, he could just tell me. For five hours, we stood outside the church. I saw him concerned for everyone but himself. He expressed concern for all of the people that would be affected by this horrible situation, giving no thought to the fact that he was affected as well. He gathered his church family together in a parking lot filled with police cars, detectives, and reporters, and he prayed with them, acknowledging that no one had answers but that God was still God and still good. And in that horrible situation, he showed me who he really was. He wasn't trying to impress me. We weren't on a date. He wasn't putting his best foot forward. This was who he was.
The days that followed this one were strange, to say the least. They were wonderful in that I met so many of Jake's friends and family, and I loved having this insight into his life. So many people loved him. There was a viewing and a funeral and I accompanied him, not having any idea what to say or do, but hoping that being there would be enough. And we talked. A lot. We talked about life and marriage and we decided that we knew enough about one another to know that we wanted to be together. Permanently.
In the midst of all of this, we went ring shopping. I wanted a vintage ring. An old ring, not just one that looked old. We checked pawn shops and antique stores and eventually stumbled across one jewelry store that had a good selection of estate jewelry. I tried on rings. I secretly looked at price tags and dismissed the pricey ones almost immediately. The ones that I really liked, I tried on twice. Jake is a smart guy, and I figured a second try-on was a hint that he would get. And he did.
We had talked proposals already. We had come up with a list of cheesy ones. We had ruled out proposals that included food. I am sort of clumsy, and I could imagine myself swallowing an engagement ring that was hidden amongst a pile of french fries. And no text proposals. That was another stipulation.
The day before my birthday, Jake and I were planning on spending most of the afternoon and evening together. Though he had made comments about needing to shop for more rings and still needing to talk to my dad, there was a tiny part of me that thought that he might be acting. When it was time for dinner, he asked where I wanted to eat. This did not sound like we were setting the stage for a marriage proposal, so I chose to put the thought out of my head and go eat a very unromantic hamburger. Then we headed to get ice cream, another spur of the moment decision. Then he said he needed to go by his apartment quickly. In my head, there was a possibility that we would go up to his apartment, and he would have the stage set for a grandiose proposal and that would be that. I got a little nervous thinking about it. Instead, we pulled up to his apartment, left me in the car and ran upstairs alone. At this point, I decided to wipe all engagement thoughts from my mind.
We got back to my apartment, and Jake decided to help me go over my list of "34 Things I will do before I turn 34", which, by the way, was kind of a dismal failure. I am still working to finish them. I WILL finish them. I was lying on my living room floor with my legs propped up on a table... most unladylike, really. He was sitting beside me on the floor. He read each one, and we checked off those that had been completed. After he read the last one, he said "There's one more". "Nope", I argued. That was the last one. He insisted that one more remained. I grabbed the paper from his hands, and written in pen, in perfect Jake Turner penmanship, it said "Say yes to the man who asks to spend the rest of his life with you". I laughed and said "Well, I will when you ask me". I looked up and saw a shopping bag shaped ring box dangling from his fingers. He said "I am going to need you to stand up". I believe I said "If you are messing with me, Jake, I am going to be so mad at you". I have no idea what he said next. Really, I don't. He kept talking, and I kept thinking Oh my goodness, he is really proposing. At some point, he put the most perfect vintage ring on my finger and I yelled "But you haven't asked me anything!". He pointed out that if I would stop talking, he would. I did, and so he did.
Julie, will you marry me?
And I said Yes.