“If [it] is the end of the world, can I have a table for two..?”
― Stanley Victor Paskavich
When physical contact with a stranger is a class one misdemeanor in many states, human connection often feels devastatingly scarce. But we're all finding ways to cope. And some of us are remembering who's really important in our lives—much like Kjeld and Lotte Pressler, ages 82 and 75 respectively, divorcees who decided to tie the knot again this April in light of ... you know, the apocalypse.
Rates of depression have drastically increased as Americans in almost 95 percent of states and citizens in almost 100 countries are under some kind of quarantine or social distancing guidelines, and many of us have never felt more agitated and alone. But we're also calling our parents more, reconnecting with loved ones, and, in a deeper sense, realizing how precious those important to us really are.
The story of Kjeld and Lotte is one both picturesquely rare and strikingly modern, like many of our own stories. The couple first married in Denmark, at St. Nicolai Church, on April 3, 1965.
Then, like many of us, the couple faced hardships and eventually divorced in 1989.
Kjeld was struck with cancer, and Lotte was faced with the task of rearing their four children alone. At the same time, the couple—both artists—grappled with economic and personal hardships as their small business, a pottery and ceramics shop, faced decline.
As if this wasn't enough, their house caught on fire and all precious belongings burned to the ground.
“That was another really hard blow,” their son Simon Preisler, 44, told the Post. “There is a limit to how much people can take and how much hardship they can endure. At some point, the shared pain between them got to be too much, and they decided to part ways.”
In 1989, the couple divorced after 24 years of marriage. But that wasn't the end of their partnership.
There are many kinds of marriages and many kinds of divorces—many amicable, many unendurable, and many who already find their lives so inextricably tied and their personal bonds so close that it's impossible to simply stop caring or loving one another.
Just as Lotte cared for Kjeld through his battle with cancer, Kjeld cared for Lotte when, after complications from a ruptured appendix, she found herself in a wheelchair and began to struggle with daily tasks. Despite their status as divorcees, the couple drew together and supported each other in times of need— when one needed the other, they were always there.
Then came the coronavirus. The couple, both in their 70s and 80s, knew they were at risk.
“They knew the virus could be lethal to both of them," their son told the Post, "and the risk of either of them leaving this world without officially becoming husband and wife was something they could not accept."
So 82-year-old Kjeld got down one knee and proposed.
“Even in my old age, I managed to get back on my feet again after kneeling down,” he said.
Obviously, she emphatically said yes, or we wouldn't be writing this story.
Although they'd been partners for life after 31 years of divorce, Kjeld said he'd been hoping to remarry her for years.
“...[T]he virus made me realize that the time was now,” Kjeld Preisler said. “...I couldn’t find myself without her."
Exactly 55 years to the day of their original marriage on April 3, 1965, the couple remarried in the same church, St. Nicolai in Denmark, on April 3, 2020. The ceremony was broadcast over Zoom, where their children, friends, and relatives celebrated with them from four countries.
“I’m not a person that usually cries, but this was definitely one of those moments,” their son Simon Preisler said.
There are many kinds of love, and some say that love is not simply an emotion, but a partnership and an act. It's not always that simple. But sometimes? We find ourselves at the end of the world, when time and precious moments with our loved ones feel scarce, and it's the small things that can be so remarkably large and that starkly demonstrate the basic, inherently human aching for togetherness. This defies even death, disease, time, and a global pandemic that's wreaked havoc on all of our lives, both socially and on a psychological level.
That inherent drive for human connection we all possess—the fact that we live, love, and are lonely—the fact that we miss each other, the fact that we are sad without each other, the fact that if we're in our 70s and 80s and will get married over a video conferencing app previously confined to boardrooms, corporate meeting halls, and startup brainstorms, just to be close to each other somehow, in any way, and to say "I love you" just because we want to and we can ... All of this demonstrates a fundamental level of human goodness that politics, mass tragedy, or even a pandemic cannot defeat.
In fact, these tragedies often bring out the best of us.
You cannot kill someone with kindness. You can kill someone with an infection. And while coronavirus has evanesced traffic from the streets of New York, devastated our global economy, wrenched millions into poverty, and stolen the lives of nearly 180,000 nationwide? Our stupid, silly, beautiful, absurdly profound, starkly honest, and unapologetic nature to love is something it cannot and will never take away.
Lotte and Kjeld know that.