Friday, August 1, 2014

Autumn + Sam = Forever | Our Engagement Story

(some engagement photos--we were so young!)

I love a good chick flick. There's nothing better than curling up on the couch and getting lost in romantic, cinematic stories... with chocolate. Of course. That goes without saying. I don't care if they're predictable, or even a little cheesy, I love them all the same. You know it's a good romantic movie if it makes you swoon, and your heart flutter ever so slightly. 

My love story with Sam definitely makes me swoon. And butterflies? A whole meadow full, the kind that would make the ultimate setting for a cheesy, classic chick flick moment. 

On this very day 5 years ago, Sam surprised me. He took a knee, and asked me to be his-- forever. And, on that fateful, beautiful, most wondrous of days--I said yes. This response shaped, and continues to shape my life dramatically.  I was young, but thankfully I had enough wisdom in me to recognize that that boy needed to be snatched up. I'm beyond grateful that I answered in the affirmative to his request.

I'll tell you the details of the proposal itself. But, first, some history: 

In the beginning, there was Sunday School. You see, Sam and I grew up in the same ward (Mormon congregation). When I was 12 and he 13, our ward boundaries were reshaped (due to an ever increasing population in our little town that was quickly becoming a suburb in its own right) and Sam and I met. We actually went to the same elementary, and we had most of the same teachers (he was just a year older) so it's highly likely that we crossed paths on the playground, but neither of us remember any such meeting. Thus, we consider our beginnings at church.

He was older (i.e. too cool)  to notice me at the time, but my first memory of him was sitting in Sunday school. I remember the teacher asking a question, to which he offered an intelligent, insightful reply. I thought, "he's cute, and smart!" And, from that moment on, he became "Saaam Duke" (with a sigh for emphasis). I actually have diary entries that talk about him.  

It wasn't until high school that I finally captured his attention. In Utah we start high school our Sophomore year, so I was 16. Sam was in a band with some mutual friends. He played the guitar. This took him from "Saaam Duke" to "SAAAM DUKE!" (double sigh). I remember him passing my best friend and me in the hall and waving to us. I was so giddy that he noticed me that I practically ran into my locker.

Later Sophomore year, his buddy invited my friends and I to a stake dance held at a local church building (a "stake" is a Mormon organizational term--a group of wards makes up a stake). That night Sam asked me to dance... FOUR times! He monopolized my time, and I couldn't have been happier. Additionally, when we were all standing outside after the dance in the cold January air, he offered me his jacket. Always the gentleman. I of course accepted and relished the moment. I was on cloud 9. 

After this fateful night when our "like" for each other became apparent, we spent a lot of time hanging out with mutual friends. Then, I asked him to be my date for the Sweethearts dance (a girls preference high school affair). He accepted. We continued to go on dates after this, and kissed for the first time right after his 17th birthday.  Next, he asked me to prom. The next day he asked me to be his girlfriend... through text. I love to remind him of this when he goes on a rant about how texting is a terrible way to communicate. Haha!

We dated for 10 months. I was madly, desperately in love. The kind of love that only a 16 year old can experience. He consumed my thoughts, as much time as our parents would allow, and he held the entirety of my heart in his hands. And then, right before my 17th birthday, he broke it. At the time I was devastated. My plan was to date through high school. He would go on a mission (a 2 year proselytizing effort for the Mormon church that is part of a man's priesthood duties) and I would swear off other guys, and bide my time until he came home. Then, when he came home we would be married and have 4 children. It all seemed perfect.

Fortunately, Sam had enough wisdom to see that my plan wasn't the wisest. We were so young. Neither of us had ever dated anyone else before. We were too serious for two young kids, and most importantly he needed to prepare for and focus on his mission. He explained these things to me, but I didn't hear them. My heart. was. broken! I was devastated. When I was 14 my dad passed away. I had been closed off to the world until Sam came along. I wouldn't... couldn't let anyone in. When Sam and I started dating, I filled that void I had felt with the love I had for him. And, when he broke up with me, I was left to face the deep, dark abyss... alone. 

Although it was painful, I am grateful in retrospect. I needed that alone time to grieve my dad properly, to move forward, to heal. Furthermore, I needed to be a kid--to date lots of boys, go to dances, social events, and have time with my friends. And Sam needed it too (only, dating girls instead of boys). After some time had passed, Sam and I were able to become friends again. Deep down I still had feelings for him, but I tried really hard to keep it to myself. I later found out that he still had feelings for me too, but felt the need to suppress them for the reasons mentioned above. Our friendship had a few ups and downs (resulting from the feelings that were still present albeit unspoken) but ultimately when he was 19 he left for his mission and we were on decent terms. He was dating someone else at the time of his departure, so I tried my best to write him off as nothing more than a friend. 

...I say "try" because let's face it. He was my first boyfriend, my first real kiss, my first love. I compared every guy that I dated to him. No one ever measured up. He stole my heart when I was 16, and, although I didn't want to admit it at the time, I never really got it back. 

While he was on his mission he started writing me. He even sent me presents and had his mom call me to check in (LDS missionaries are only allowed to write letters, emails sometimes, and they can call their families on Christmas and Mother's Day). I was surprised by his advances, because I had assumed he was taken. I bluntly asked him about the other girl, and he assured me that she wasn't waiting for him--that they had simply agreed to see how things went after the two years. He indicated, however, that he wanted to date me if I was available when he got home. I was as giddy as a school girl, but I tried to suppress these emotions as much as possible. After all, he was the only boy who ever broke my heart--I was still a little wary of this Sam character. 

We continued to write, and as we did so our letters became longer and more meaningful. There is something incredibly romantic about corresponding through the written word. We discussed everything--life, family, religion. He was a missionary--devoting every ounce of energy to the Lord's work. I had just--for the first time in my life--been truly converted to the gospel in the fullest sense. We were both so excited about God and our Savior that it strengthened our affection for each other. I saw Sam in a new light. That smart boy in Sunday School was becoming a wise man, a spiritual giant, a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was becoming the kind of man I hoped to share my life with. At that point I decided that if I didn't end up with Sam, I wanted to find someone just like him. He set the standard, and he set it high. And, throughout our old-fashioned snail mail correspondence our understanding of one another reached new depths. Our love grew to new heights. 

Finally, in May of 2009, he came home. He arrived home on a Wednesday and called me that night. We talked as if we had never been separated. He asked me out that Saturday. I explained to him that I already had plans with another guy. He brazenly told me to cancel my plans and go out with him instead. I did. Saturday night he showed up on the doorstep of my college apartment, with that short missionary hair and new clothes his mom had helped him pick out to assimilate back to civilian life. He smiled, my heart skipped a beat. I knew that I was done for. He had my heart, he always had. 

From this point on (despite a distance of about 40 minutes between us) we spent a lot of time together going on dates, attending church and the temple together, and spending time with each other’s families (it helped that we already knew the families). A few weeks after he came home we kissed for the (second) first time, and it was such a perfect, surreal moment. I teared up. My heart was in his hands, and I needed to know where we stood. Up to this point our relationship had been really open and honest, so I asked him point blank “So… now what?” I explained that I had too much invested in this to not know where we stood. If he wanted to take some time, date other girls, I would totally understand… but I needed to know. He took a moment (which felt like an eternity) then he smiled, and asked “will you be mine?” I, of course, obliged. From that moment on, we were essentially inseparable.

In June we drove to a nearby temple and simply sat outside—admiring its beauty and the symbolism therein. Sam held me close in his arms, and told me that he hoped it wasn't too forward, but that he really felt like he was going to take me there someday to get married. That was the first time the idea of marriage was brought up, and we were both surprisingly calm about the topic. Despite how young we were (I now realize just how young we truly were), it just made sense. In July we decided to take a class together at the LDS institute of religion (a religious college adjacent to the University I attended). As we read through the potential list of classes, I saw that there was a “preparing for an eternal marriage” course offered. I joked that if we took that class together, it would essentially seal the deal. Everyone would expect us to get married. He said, “then let’s do it.” The deal was sealed.

From this point on we were basically engaged, just without the ring and a proper proposal. We knew we were going to end up together. There was no question in my mind that it was the right thing to do. When you know, you know. And I knew. We both did. God had never been so clear about anything in my entire life.

We looked at rings online. I showed him some that I was particularly fond of, but we agreed to go shopping in person. I “accidentally” read an email Sam sent someone about how he wanted to propose to me sometime in August. Afterwards I felt guilty and admitted to him that I had read it. Apparently this prompted him to try and do it on July 31st, because he was decided on the idea of surprising me and I wouldn’t expect it. He bought his favorite of the rings I had expressed interest in when we were browsing online, and proceeded to surprise me.  

The day before he proposed (when he already had the ring mind you) I asked him when we would be able to go ring shopping. He stopped me, and told me that I needed to stop talking about it because he was trying to save up the money but that it would take time. He said he felt bad, and it was hard on him that I kept bringing it up all the time. He laid it on real thick, and I believed him. I was sufficiently sorry, and it was pretty awkward for the rest of the night.

The next day (Friday the 31st) he asked me to come over and spend time with him. I decided to wear my black dress and glasses (his favorite) as a peace offering for the night before. When I got there, he was particularly affectionate and romantic. I figured he was also trying to make up for the previous night. He surprised me and drove us up to a point on a mountain overlooking the entire valley—the same location of our (second) first kiss and where we had decided to become exclusive. Once we arrived at our destination, he asked me to get out of the car, and had me sit on the hood of his jeep with him. He grabbed his guitar and proceeded to sing me a song that he had written just for me, all about me (it’s called “The Autumn Song”). I thought to myself “wow, he was kind of rude last night but this is a pretty impressive apology!”

After he finished serenading me, I kissed him and jokingly asked him why he didn’t save it. Puzzled, he asked what I meant. I replied, “Why didn’t you save it for the proposal? It would have been perfect.” At this point, he thought perhaps I was onto him and started to worry. He replied “that’s not my style.” Still expecting the proposal to happen sometime in the distant future, I continued, musing “what if I beat you to the punch? What if I got down on one knee right now and asked you to marry me?” He just kind of laughed, wondering if I was alluding to something. Hoping I hand't somehow figured it out.

He changed the subject and told me he had another surprise for me. He slid off the hood, put in a cd mix he had made for the occasion, rolled down the windows, and turned up the music. The song “Realize” by Colbie Caillat started playing. I still didn’t realize what was happening. Sam walked back over to me, extended his hand, and asked me to dance. He helped me off the hood, and as the sun was settling behind the mountains, casting a beautiful tangerine hue, we danced. He held me close. I thought, “Wow. He’s really outdone himself.”

Then, suddenly, he stopped dancing. He cupped my face in his hands, locked his gaze with mine, and began making promises to me. He promised to love me forever, to always be there for me, to honor his priesthood, to be a good husband. I was elated, of course, but it still didn’t dawn on me what was happening. “This is quite the apology” I thought. “A little over the top, but impressive all the same.”

Then, he lowered himself to a kneeling position. I laughed and told him to stop joking around and to get up. It wasn’t until he pulled that little white box out of his back pocket, that I finally realized what was taking place.

He. Was. Proposing!

He asked me to be his, and I said yes. YES! Of course! He slid the ring on my finger, and the rest is kind of a blur. I know there was a lot of crying, hugging, kissing, stolen glances at my ring… but the memory is all just kind of a whirlwind of emotion. Joyous, happy, perfect emotion.

We went back to his parents house where his family was waiting with a camera and ice cream (my favorite) to celebrate. The pictures they took were complete with crying eyes and my red, kissing rash face. I soon learned that Sam's family had been in on it all along. And, so had mine. He had asked my mom for her permission and blessing. Even some of our friends knew it was going to take place. Yet, somehow, I couldn’t figure it out until the very moment a ring appeared. He definitely surprised me.
This night, 5 years ago today, I promised myself to the love of my life. No, the love of my existence. I’m convinced that I had been waiting for Sam, anticipating our love since before I was born. Sam is my destiny. Three months later we were married in the Salt Lake Temple for all time and eternity. He truly is my other half. I am not complete without him.

I thank God every day for guiding me to him.

I owe every good thing in my life to Sam and my decision to marry him.

Sincerely yours,   


  1. autumn, i loved reading this story. you & sam are such incredible people! this was such a sweet love story. (and i was laughing so hard that he toootally surprised you! that's the best!) thanks for sharing. xoxo

    1. Thank you Kayla! I totally didn't expect anyone to actually read it since... you know... it's practically a novel. You are the best! I love reading your blog and you constantly inspire me. Thanks for reading! Also, I know... it's so funny how oblivious I was!

  2. The way you wrote about your eternal companion here five years later speaks volumes about your love! Happy happy anniversary!

    1. Thanks miss Jessie! I do love him kind of a lot... is it that obvious? haha you are so sweet! I'm so glad that we've connected in this little blogging world.

  3. Aww, I think it's so cool that you guys got to know each other from a very young age! And these old photos of you are too cute!

    1. Thank you, Rachel! I'm glad I've known him for so long. He's been such a positive force in my life. Thanks for all your great comments, you are sooo sweet! I

  4. This was the CUTEST thing ever Autumn, I got a little teary! :)

    1. Thanks Miss Alycia! I am... so humbled that such an awesome blogger like yourself came to my little blog and read this post. Haha love ya!

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