A long-distance love story with an airport escape

ST. LOUIS – Lara Mark and Cylas Hensley’s love story has always been linked to travel.

“He from DC and I from St. Louis just happened to meet at a good friend’s wedding,” Mark said.

Their photo booth fun at this 2018 San Diego wedding sparked a long-distance relationship that’s been nurtured through conversations, texting, and travel.

“We’ve decided that we’ll fly out every three or four weeks to see each other,” Mark said. “So that was a nice direct flight.”

Hensley popped the question in Hawaii last year. Of course, newly engaged, these frequent fliers were planning a March wedding in Mexico. In November, however, those plans ran into turmoil. Mark’s mother Judi was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“She wanted us to do that and from the first day of her diagnosis until the Sunday before I left for the wedding, she made me promise that we wouldn’t change anything,” Mark said. “That we would not change our plans. She wanted me to be happy.”

She kept that promise to her mother for the most part. On March 20, Mark departed St. Louis Lambert International Airport to meet with Hensley in Houston. Inside Hobby Airport, the couple made a change to their itinerary before heading to Mexico. With a band and chaplain, a first dance before the flight, and a newlywed bond before boarding, this airport escape had it all. Mark’s mom was able to see it all in pictures and videos at home in St. Louis.

“She would be with us one way or another,” Mark said.

A few days later, Judi’s picture was prominently placed in Mexico as Mark and Hensley exchanged two yes words with friends and family. Mark soon learned that this new chapter in her life began with the end of her mother’s life.

“The next day, my aunt told me that it was about 30 minutes before our wedding ceremony,” she said. “In my eyes, she was with us in spirit, waiting to join us.”

Mark said as she lives her life, it feels like there’s a constant balance between the good and the bad.

“I feel like you have a choice of what to hold on to. If possible, try to see everything,” she said. “The good and the bad. It sure was a roller coaster ride, but I wouldn’t change it. I have to fulfill my promise to her and she has to be there. She couldn’t have been with us any other way without it happening like this.”

This flight plan that we call life is full of headwinds and tailwinds. One day you’re stuck on the bus, the next you’re flying first class. But as this story proves, the losses and love we experience along the way make it a journey worth taking.

Sarah Y. Kim

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