My family has sort of weird backstory. I used to not tell people about it when I first came to college because I thought it was kind of strange. However, now that I’ve gotten over myself, I enjoy telling the story of my family’s history.

My family has all gone to the same college. [disclaimer: no one was forced and we are all happy with our decision] I went. My 3 brothers went. My parents went. They came, they met senior year, they were apart for a year living off Ramen noodles, and then they got married. But most interesting of all, even my one set of grandparents went to the same college that me, my brothers, and my parents went to.

Yessir. They sure did. My grandpa came to college later than usual after serving the United States military as a medic. My grandma came to college for a two year secretarial training position at age 18. They came, they met. My grandpa was a star football player, my grandma a beautiful young lady with probably way better manners than I have and surely the same caring heart and kind disposition that she still has. So they came, they met, and best of all, they fell in love. And because they were two college kids in love, my grandpa decided to declare it to the world and carve their initials into the side of a big oak tree near the chapel on our college’s campus.

Even more cool is this extension of the story: one of my brothers met his wife during his college years, and they got married in that chapel on campus. One of their wedding photos was a picture of my brother and his wife standing by that tree that grows near the chapel and pointing to the stretched but visible initials of my grandparents from nearly 60 years ago. It’s a cherished photo in my family, a photo that captures the unique history of my family and my college and the paths that we were led on.

Just this past month, the tree where my grandparents carved their initials about 65 years ago suddenly was cut down. It was pretty startling, and I’m kind of sad about it. It’s a bummer to lose that tree, but I’ve also been thinking about how cool it actually was that my grandpa was such a rebel and spent the time to carve his and my grandma’s initials into a tree. How neat. What a guy!

That tree is gone, but my grandparents and their story of dedication and loyalty and God-centered partnership lives on. That tree is gone, but I’ll never forget how the blessings and bond of marriage endures. That tree is gone, but the message and story of my grandparents and their love and their marriage will not be forgotten.

They’ve been together for over 65 years–to Brazil, all across the United States, raising 4 kids, spending summers at the lake with their kids and then their grandkids, growing and tending to a massive garden together summer after summer and letting us eat the sugar-snap-peas right off the vine, retiring from a busy career, cooking for holidays, cleaning the house, teaching and singing and creating– living life. This is a snapshot of the marriage that came as the result of the love that two people had for each other. 65 years, beginning with one handsome guy who met one pretty girl at a small, beautiful college and decided that he liked her enough to carve it permanently into a tree.

Yeah, that tree got cut down. But you can bet that I will never let the story Harold Kelly and Peggy Samson be forgotten.