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

“Him from DC, and me from St. Louis just randomly meeting at a good friend’s wedding,” Mark said.

Their photo booth fun at that San Diego wedding in 2018 sparked a long-distance relationship nurtured through talking, texting, and traveling.

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

Hensley popped the question last year in Hawaii. Newly engaged, these frequent flyers naturally planned a destination wedding for March in Mexico. However, in November, those plans hit turbulence. Mark’s mom, Judi, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

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

She kept that promise to her mom, for the most part. On March 20, Mark left St. Louis Lambert International Airport to meet Hensley in Houston. Inside Hobby Airport, the couple made one adjustment to their travel itinerary before leaving for Mexico. With a chapel and chaplain, a pre-flight first dance, and newlywed bonding before boarding, this airport elopement had it all. Mark’s mom got to see it all in pictures and videos back home in St. Louis.

“She was going to be with us one way or another,” Mark said.

A few days later in Mexico, Judi’s picture was prominently positioned as Mark and Hensley took two of their “I do’s” among friends and family. Mark soon learned this new chapter in her life started as her mother’s life ended.

“The next day, my aunt told me she passed about 30 minutes before our wedding ceremony,” she said. “In my mind, she was with us in spirit and waited so she could join us.”

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

“I feel like you have a choice on what you want to latch onto. If possible, try to see all of it,” she said. “The good and the bad. It was a rollercoaster for sure, but I wouldn’t change it. I got to fulfill my promise to her, and she got to be there. There was no other way she could’ve been there with us without it happening this way.”

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