Chris and Denise first "saw" each other in the forums of Catholic Match. They interacted there on numerous occasions for months, with the occasional flirt. Then, in March 2008, Chris and Denise both attended CM St. Louis. Chris was from Illinois and only a couple hours away, but Denise flew up from Florida. They both spent some time together, and enjoyed each other's company. Chris even helped Denise find her lost rental car.
While Denise was interested in learning more about Chris, he was rather quiet and she thought he did not feel the same about her. However, about a month later, Chris emailed Denise making it clear he wanted to get to know her better. Denise's heart leaped. Other than a brief interlude when she had the stomach flu (and Internet problems), Chris and Denise "talked" to each other in some way daily from that point onward. Daily emails evolved into phone conversations, some as long as six hours! Both changed their long-distance plans to compensate. Soon after that, Chris suggested using webcams. Denise was a bit hesitant at first, but quickly grew to love it.
After three months of non-stop communication, Chris and Denise were anxious to finally see each other in person again. Denise was going to St. Louis in July for her cousin's wedding, so they arranged to meet for a picnic the next day. They spent all day together, talking and enjoying each other's company, then later spent time with their mutual friends from CM (aka the “SluCru”) for dinner.
On Sunday, Chris and Denise went to Mass with each other at the New Cathedral. Then they spent the afternoon in 95 degree heat at a Cardinals baseball game. Despite the fact that Chris wouldn't root for the Cardinals, they had a great time. Chris and Denise ended their date with dinner. Saying goodbye was difficult, but each of them knew they would see each other again.
In October, Chris flew down to see Denise. They were going to spend time with each other and celebrate their birthdays. On Sunday, October 19 (the day of her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary), they started their day by going to Mass together. At Mass, Chris seemed a bit fidgety, but she thought nothing of it. After Mass, they changed clothes and got some food from Subway and headed to the beach.
It was a windy, yet beautiful day. The waves were higher than normal, and it was high tide. Chris and Denise managed to find a place to put their blankets and eat their lunch. After lunch, as they looked out at the ocean, Chris told Denise how much he loved her. He then said that he had another birthday gift for her.
Denise was surprised because they had exchanged gifts the day before. So, Chris turned to reach for it and placed a jewelry box in her hands. Then he opened the box, revealing a beautiful ring. Denise was taken by surprise, and couldn't quite believe what was happening until he asked her to marry him. She didn't hesitate a second in saying YES! It was definitely their best birthdays ever!
Plans were underway for the wedding, which was scheduled for July 4, 2009, when they faced a serious hurdle. When Denise picked up Chris from the airport for a six-day visit in February, she was starting to deal with a headache that didn't seem to want to go away. She tried to forget about the headache since she was thrilled to be with him again. After a few hours, Denise was running a fever over 102, and was becoming very sick. She could barely walk.
Chris drove Denise to the emergency room at 11 pm. Once there, she was rushed into the back and was diagnosed within a couple of hours as having meningitis. From there she was taken to ICU. A couple days later, a neurosurgeon stopped by and told Denise, Chris, and her family that he found something unusual in her CT scan. There appeared to be a hole in her skull, and he felt this is why Denise got sick. She was taken for an MRI and his concerns were confirmed. He spoke to some doctors at the University of Florida’s hospital in Gainesville, and had Denise transferred there in order to have the hole surgically repaired.
Denise ended up being in the hospital for nearly three weeks for the meningitis, and finished recovering at her parents’ house. Meanwhile, the surgery was scheduled for March 30. The good news was she would have surgery going up her nose, through the assistance of an ENT. The surgery was successful; she spent another week in the hospital recovering, and a few weeks at home regaining her strength before resuming work.
Chris’ six-day visit ended up being a total of 22 days. The first 11 were from the day he took her to the emergency room until 10 days later. He wanted to stay longer, but her parents encouraged him to go home since she was improving and he needed a break. Then, a week before the surgery, he flew down again to offer Denise the support and love she needed. Of course, the hope was that the surgery would be within a couple of days of his arrival, but it didn't happen that way. However, Denise and Chris enjoyed finally being able to spend quality time with each other out of the hospital. Chris left a couple days after the surgery.
During all of this, Chris kept their CM friends updated through regular posts in the Oremus forum. The prayers offered by CM members were overwhelming! Several topics were filled to capacity, and about two dozen people participated in reciting the Rosary via conference call the night before the surgery.
Through it all, the love between Chris and Denise only grew. Denise's mantra when it came to the wedding was "I just want to marry the man. I don't care about the details." They know they couldn't have made it through all of this without God's help and guidance, and all of the prayers from the “CM Prayer Warriors.”