It's not every day that you see senior citizens so excited and giddy about getting married. It's a bit out of the ordinary. That's why even on the day that I met this duo in the park to capture images for their engagement announcement, bystanders were drawn to them. There were teenage girls, families and young couples who stopped what they were doing to take in this rare glimpse of an older couple whose love was so new that they couldn't take their eyes off of each other. Their love was magnetic.
Sure, people of all ages get proposals all the time and we see engagement photos on the regular, but social media is captivated by this image. Why? Because it gives so many hope that they should never give up on their dream of finding love. It shows us that new love is not just for the the young, but for the seasoned. It reveals that its never too late to believe that you will smile again, dance again, love again. This couple's love story has been shared by thousands and inspired millions, with a single image and a 7-word-headline: "It's NEVER too late to find love!"
Murphy and Lucinda's Love
One muggy Alabama evening, I met with a young-at-heart couple sitting on a bench in Big Spring Park. Even though there was a growing crowd and the band 'Jed Eye' was crooning in the background, I could hear this couple's laughter above it all. With my camera gear strapped to my back and the Huntsville humidity blanketing the late afternoon air, I walked through the park thankful that the torrents of rain from earlier in the day had finally stopped. This was the night for Concerts in the Park; there were hundreds of people there for the live performance. As a photographer, I strive to capture authenticity and genuine expression but I wasn't sure if this brand-new twosome would be comfortable sharing their "feels" with an audience of people surrounding them.
As I approached, I noticed his arm around her shoulders, and she was gazing up at him, smiling as big as the sun. They seemed a bit nervous, but I told them the goal was to capture them doing what they normally do. Relieved, they stood up and waited for me to give them direction on where to stand. As I turned my head to grab my camera and adjust my settings, I heard giggling behind me. I turned back around to see this 70-year-old man inching closer and closer to his 60-something bride-to-be's side and sliding his hand around her waist, flirting and whispering in her ear. Her giggles let me know that I would not have to prod them to show affection, but on the contrary, I would spend the entire session trying to catch up to what they were doing next. The pair couldn't keep their hands off of each other. They later shared that it was this gesture, his hand around her waist, several months earlier that was one of the first signs of a beautiful spark between them.
Cleveland Wilson, affectionately known as "Murphy," is no stranger to true love. In fact, it was at a nearby Huntsville, AL park, (Braham Springs), some 47 years earlier that he spotted a beautiful woman, Antoinette Snodgrass, whom he had met only once before, riding on a train around the lake. He called out her name, she came over and they spent the whole afternoon and evening talking and laughing. He knew from that moment that she would be his wife and five months later, they were married.
Murphy and his best friend Antoinette were happily married for 41 years until her death in 2013. Anyone who knew or interacted with them and witnessed their uncanny ability to work musically in sync as co-directors of the renowned First Seventh-day Adventist Church Inspirational Choir, she as the pianist and he, the director, knew that they were deeply in love. When she passed away four years ago, he wondered if the ache in his heart would ever heal. He knew he was not cut out to live the bachelor life, but he didn't want to go through the process of dating again.
"After Antoinette died, I had all kinds of things going on; I was teaching high school classes, directing choirs for various churches, and hanging out with my 4 grandchildren," he explained, "but there was still an empty space and it couldn't be filled with more work. My life balance just wasn't there."
Murphy did know one thing...If he were ever to fall in love again, God would have to do the choosing. "God picked her the first time I married, He's going to have to do it again," was his constant refrain, when people asked would he ever remarry.
After losing Antoinette, it was difficult to attend church, where they had so faithfully served together for all of their 41 years together, so Murphy skipped church for several months. When he returned he didn't want to sit on the main floor of the sanctuary at First Seventh-day Adventist Church, his home church for 47 years, so he sat in the balcony, where unbeknownst to him, his answer to prayer was sitting too.
Lucinda Myers, a florist and baker, moved to Huntsville, AL in July 2013, the same month that Murphy returned to church. Myers is originally from Boston, which coincidentally is also Murphy's hometown. Having been divorced and single for 30 years, she had been praying and waiting for God to send her a husband. And although the wait was difficult, and she had moments of saying out loud, "God, where is he?"...she kept on praying and doing the things that made her happy, such as cake decorating, babysitting and helping others. She moved to Huntsville for a fresh start.
Each Saturday, Lucinda sat in the balcony on the front row at church while Murphy was one row behind. For over 3 years, they both occupied the same space in church but didn't have any interaction with each other. Murphy had made it up in his mind that he was not going to talk to anyone because he really wanted God to do the choosing.
But one day, something caught his eye... "It was her hair," he said. "And then she turned around, and Man...she's got this smile. She was very attractive...I just couldn't stop looking at her."
Still not saying a word to her from week to week, Murphy became more and more intrigued by this woman... so much so that a nearby church member caught Murphy staring at Lucinda one day. After church, the woman approached Lucinda and told her that she had a secret admirer in the balcony. Lucinda was shocked because she'd had no interaction with him, so she emphatically said, "Well if he is admiring me, he has to come to me. I'm certainly not chasing any man."
And even though she dared not approach Murphy, she was noticing him noticing her. When he wasn't looking, she began admiring her admirer. And every Saturday, she made sure she was dressed to kill any desire for him to look another direction.
"I would make sure I was looking real cute," said Lucinda, with a laugh. "I positioned myself to be where he was so that I made sure that he saw me."
And it was working. One day, during the welcome-your-neighbor song at church, he got the courage to approach her and said, "You look really nice today!" She was so shocked that he had finally spoken to her, that all she could mutter was, "What did you say?" After he repeated himself, she thanked him, and made an even greater effort to make sure she was "on point" the next week, but her admirer was not there the next Saturday. In fact, he was gone for the next three weeks and she missed seeing him, so she had to find a way to let him know he was missed.
When Murphy returned to church the following month, she walked over to him during the welcome and said, "Where have you been with that pretty smile?" and followed it up with a hug.
But "It was not the typical "welcome your neighbor hug," said Murphy, smiling. "The next thing you know my hand was around her waist. I asked myself, 'what did I just do?' But I knew then that this lady liked me."
On Easter weekend 2017, Lucinda was invited to Murphy's home by a mutual friend and the two of them ended up talking all day and into the night. The mental, emotional and spiritual connection was undeniably strong and there was physical attraction too. "I thought he was cute," said Lucinda. "He was tall, handsome and had a calm demeanor." The more time they spent together, the more they were convicted that God that had led them together.
"I know this is from the Lord, because I prayed for him," said Lucinda. "I had been asking God to send me someone and Murphy is everything I've ever wanted in a man."
The couple says that they don't need tv or people to entertain them. "We entertain each other," said Lucinda. "We laugh and talk for hours...We sit down and start talking then look up and realize its been four or five hours and it's just the two of us. We just enjoy each other."
Now that Lucinda's 30-year-wait for a husband is coming to a close as they prepare for their July 29, 2017 nuptuals, she is anticipating their new life together. Although she was married before, she was only 18 when they got hitched so she has never had a wedding. She perks up and smiles anytime anyone asks if she is excited. "I am!" she says, "I can't wait! I just need him to behave up there," she said with a laugh, pointing to her husband-to-be. Murphy's daughters, Gina Wilson and Danita Jones are the wedding planners, so all the couple has to do is show up.
When asked what advice Lucinda has for a person who is waiting to find true love, she said, "Hold on, and keep the faith. Our time is not God's time...He has His time," she continued.
"Make sure that you continue to do things that make you happy. I didn't need a human being to make me happy...If God hadn't sent Murphy, I'd still be happy doing what I loved to do, but now that he's in my life, he is the icing on the cake!"
As the news of the Murphy and Lucinda's engagement was recently shared through pictures on social media, one image of him holding up a sign that read, "She said YES!!!!" resonated with so many people that the image immediately went viral on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with millions of views, likes, shares and comments, several from celebrities. Men and women from all over the world commented that the image gave them hope that love is still possible, reminded them to still believe in love or that it made them smile. It represented the fact that love is not just something attained in youth, but love can find you even in your 60's, 70's and beyond. Anything is possible!
Since the photos were initially shared, their images and love story has appeared on news websites including ABC News, Good Morning America, CNN, and news websites from all over the world.
When told that their picture went viral, the pair responded, "Viral...what does that mean?" Although they are not very active on social media, they are genuinely humbled that others are encouraged by their love story and they want to continue to share it because they truly believe it was God who chose them for each other.
"We've had two very different journeys that led us to this intersection in our lives," said Murphy. "Many people have asked me how I could love again after loving my first wife so deeply. But I can never love someone the way I loved Antoinette, but I can love someone as much as I loved Antoinette and that person that I've chosen to love is Lucinda. I love her for who she is, just like I loved Antoinette for who she was. There will never be a replacement for those chapters in my life, and the 41 years I had with Antoinette...This new love is a continuation of the same book, just a different chapter, which takes nothing away from the earlier chapters of my life. They are completely separate in my mind."
Murphy and "Cindy," as he affectionally calls her, are still in awe that they have found true love in each other. It still amazes them how much they have in common and how well they get along.
"We were both searching and what I was looking for and what she was looking for...we found it! Lucinda has given me my balance back and that's what was missing."
To view the couples wedding website, visit http://www.nevertoolateforlove.net.