In Love Travels Forever, Jaye Frances captures the reader’s heart with an inspiring collection of seventeen stories filled with romance and passion, the hopeful innocence of youth, and a love so strong it transcends the mortality of life. Here are just a few of the people you’ll meet:
Evan and Frankie, a loving couple traveling through life hand-in-hand, are unaware that the shadow of fate is about to tear them apart. Helpless to change their shortened future together, one of them makes a promise—a promise of devotion and courage, honoring a love that surpasses the boundaries of time.
Mark and Janice, the perfect couple with the perfect life, are on the threshold of finally seeing their dreams come true—until an unexpected circumstance changes their lives forever.
Danny, a young soldier fresh out of boot camp, is desperate to find a way to travel home and marry his sweetheart before being shipped overseas. Stranded in a train station on a three day pass with no hope in sight, Danny meets Wanda, an incredible woman who vows to find a way to bring Danny and his fiancé together.
Nora and Georgia are two eight-year-old best friends who share giggles, dolls, and secrets. But when one of them faces sudden danger, the other responds with an unconditional act of love and forges a lifelong bond between them unaffected by fear or prejudice.
So find a quiet spot, get comfy, and grab a box of tissues. You’re about to take an unforgettable journey of the heart, to a place where compassion and hope have no limits, and where love continues to travel forever . . .
Love Travels Forever
There’s something special about planning a vacation. Whether it’s a cruise to the Caribbean or a hike into the Grand Canyon, the anticipation of exploring new destinations and discovering jaw-dropping scenery fires the imagination with the promise of new experiences and the possibility of making new friends.
Many times, pictures of idyllic white-sand beaches, cotton candy sunsets, and swaying palm trees become the recipe for a second honeymoon, when the obligations and responsibilities of everyday living can be left behind to enjoy some uninterrupted time with your spouse.
Typically, we begin the process by perusing resort websites and travel brochures. We read the schedules, check the itineraries and, if budget and timing allow, make the reservations, looking forward to the departure date like a child counts down the days to Christmas.
More often than not, however, we set our travel plans aside and return to the more practical side of life, telling ourselves that some day we’re going to try that new resort in Mexico, or spend a week relaxing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean or Mediterranean.
Bottom line, we seldom associate a sense of urgency with our travel plans. We consider the comfortable accommodations, the activities, and the new sights we’ll see as luxuries, while making the assumption that the future will always hold the same possibilities and opportunities.
But life has a beginning—and an end.
It’s one of those irrefutable facts that none of us like to think about. And for a forty-five-year-old man named Evan, it became a reality much too soon.
I met Evan on a Caribbean cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale. We were both browsing in the onboard gift ship when he approached and asked for my opinion about a tie he was considering. He’d forgotten to pack one and the recommended dress for the dining room that evening was formal. After he’d chosen the conservative dark blue, we chatted about the usual topics—where we were from, the ship’s itinerary, and what we thought of the food.
“Are you traveling with family?” I asked.
He hesitated, as if not sure how to answer. Finally, he offered a resigned smile and said, “Yes, I suppose in a way, I am.”
I resisted my natural curiosity. My questions would extend beyond the boundaries of polite conversation. He must have seen the confusion on my face because he immediately offered an explanation and in doing so, shared one of the most moving and powerful memories a surviving spouse can have—the last time they traveled with their soul mate.
He called it their “goodbye cruise,” and even though his wife—Frankie—had been gone for four years, he described their last journey together with such detail and emotion, it was easy to imagine it could have happened last week.
They had received the news from the doctor without warning. It didn’t seem possible—the prognosis, the short time that remained. And when the oncologist began talking about a treatment schedule, Frankie had wanted to wait. There was something else she wanted to do—something more important.
A cruise. Together.
It was a trip they had often promised each other they would take. But for reasons that are all too familiar, they had put it off, postponing what was now the most important thing in her life—a life now measured in days instead of years.
“During the first half of the cruise, Frankie was so excited. She reveled in the quick kisses on the dance floor, the secret scoot of the proper piece of silverware as the next dinner course was served, and the short strolls we took down secluded stretches of beach. But by midweek, I noticed she was walking the decks a bit more slowly, and in the evenings, she wanted to turn in early, right after dinner.
“The last three days of the trip, she was too tired to sit through a meal in the dining room, so we had our food served in our cabin. But we were never lonely—the friends we made on board would always drop by and check on us. A soft knock on the door and Frankie’s eyes would brighten, and then she would flood them with questions: ‘What color were the flowers in the table centerpiece? Which tour excursions did you take? Did you swim in the ocean or just walk along the shore?’
“Occasionally, someone would make a comment about a particular restaurant or activity being so enjoyable that it would definitely be on the list to do again, on their next cruise. And then there was a sudden silence as everyone remembered that re-visiting the same destination was not an option for my precious Frankie.”
Evan paused as he saw the tears gathering in my eyes. He reached out and took my hand. “So now,” he continued, “I take the same cruise every two years, reliving the moments and memories—the times when we walked hand-in-hand along the beach or when we asked for a breakfast table just for two, and especially when we watched the islands pass from our balcony, talking about what it would be like to live there . . . for the rest of our lives.
“The first time I traveled alone—that first trip after Frankie was gone—was very hard. But now I can almost feel her sitting next to me, or standing close by on the deck. And even though I miss her like hell, I really believe she wants me to be here.”
We hugged. We cried. And as we parted, he left me with a special wish: “Don’t wait for tomorrow,” he said. “Live now. Travel now. Fill your lives with the joy of new people and places while you are together. Even if you can’t take that big trip, just spending three to four weekends a year with the love of your life is better than a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that never happens because, for one of you, a lifetime just wasn’t long enough.”
It was a difficult story to hear, and an even more difficult one to write. But it was a story full of love and compassion and it echoed the wisdom of the old adage, ‘You never know how much someone means to you until you lose them.’
My chance meeting with Evan was an incredible gift, reminding me of how fortunate I am to have my soul mate by my side. Yet I also know that life changes with the seasons. And if one day I find myself navigating this world alone, I will remember my visit with Evan and be grateful for his unwavering spirit, and especially for his story about two hearts and a love that travels forever.
A Valentine For Danny
I’d like to share my favorite Valentine’s story. It’s about a twenty-two-year-old woman named Wanda, and how she helped hundreds of couples celebrate Valentine’s Day—every day of the year.
During World War II, Wanda worked at the Fayetteville, North Carolina train station selling tickets, making reservations, and helping passengers locate their luggage.
Trains ran full in those days, and getting a ticket without an advance reservation could mean waiting on a hard bench for hours, until the next train traveling in your direction had an empty seat or someone with a reservation didn’t show up.
Servicemen on leave seldom had reservations. Traveling on a weekend pass, they took the chance of getting a coveted ticket, hoping to see their family for a day or two before they had to make the trip back. Unfortunately for many soldiers, their passes were spent entirely in the station, sleeping on wooden benches, waiting for a cancellation that never came. And because Fayetteville was home to Fort Bragg, the largest training facility during WWII, many of the boys were only days away from being shipped overseas. Being able to get a seat on the train meant seeing their family, wives, and sweethearts one last time—until the war was over.
During the first few weeks at her job, Wanda saw how disappointing it was for soldiers who had to watch train after train leave the station, not knowing if the next one would have an available seat. A service-wife herself—her husband stationed overseas—Wanda also knew firsthand how difficult it was for the waiting wives and family watching the trains pull in, praying their loved one was on board, and hoping they would be able to spend a few precious hours together.
One morning, Wanda noticed a soldier standing expectantly to the side of her window. The red stub of numbered paper between his fingers meant he was on the standby list. She also noticed that under his arm were two small tins of candy, both tied with identical red bows. And while the ribbons were a bit worse for wear, it was obvious he was trying to keep them from being crushed.
After the next scheduled train pulled out from the station—without him—the soldier stepped up to Wanda’s window and politely asked if there was any chance of getting on the next one. She explained that since projected passenger and seat counts were often in error, the conductor would have to actually check the number of vacant seats after the next train arrived. Until then, she had no way of knowing.
He smiled and thanked her, and then stepped off to the side to wait.
By the time Wanda was ready for her break, the soldier had moved to one of the benches next to the window overlooking the boarding platform. As she often did, Wanda walked through the waiting room with her cup of tea, checking on the passengers and reassuring the wait-listed—especially the soldiers—that she was doing everything she could to get them on the next departure. Occasionally, she would sit down next to one of the servicemen and spend a few minutes chatting, usually about his hometown or his plans for after the war.
Wanda told me they were always great stories, but the ones she remembered most were about the sweethearts and wives that were waiting. She said she often imagined her husband telling a very similar story, whenever someone was considerate enough to ask, and kind enough to listen.
Since this particular soldier looked as tired as he was anxious, Wanda wasn’t sure he would appreciate her company. But as she walked by, he immediately invited her to sit next to him and finish her tea. After the young man introduced himself, Wanda learned that “Danny” had recently completed basic training and would be shipped overseas in five days. The night before, he had called his girlfriend—Peggy—and asked her to be his wife. If he could manage to get home today, they would have just enough time to find a Justice of the Peace and spend one day together as a married couple before he had to return to his unit.
Wanda’s break ended far too soon, and as she shook Danny’s hand, she asked about the two boxes of candy. “One’s for my girl,” he said. “The other one is for my mom.”
Wanda silently swore she would get Danny on the next train.
She took her position behind the window and her supervisor handed her the stack of banded tickets for the next departure. After carefully counting them, she found there were 31 available seats. But the number of reserved passengers, plus those wait-listed with lower numbers than Danny’s, totaled over forty.
With as much courage as she could muster, and after turning around to make sure no one was watching, Wanda pulled the bottom ticket from the stack and slipped it under the cash drawer. She knew if she were discovered it would mean her job—a job she couldn’t afford to lose.
After waiting for the call to board, she motioned to Danny to come to her window. As she pressed the ticket into his hand, she whispered that a “cancellation” had just opened up a seat, and then shook her head and smiled, a signal that he wasn’t to say anything. He slid a few folded bills across the counter and nodded. Turning to leave, he hesitated long enough to slip one of the boxes of candy into Wanda’s hands. Before she could say anything, he was outside on the platform, and in seconds had disappeared into the nearest passenger car.
The date was February 14, 1942.
From that day on, Wanda always tried to pull a single ticket from each train’s final seat allocation—not stealing it, but saving it—waiting for the opportunity to place it into the hands of a hopeful soldier.
A good day for Wanda was getting one or two servicemen on board and headed home to see their wife or sweetheart. A great day was four or five.
I asked Wanda how many boys she was able to put on those trains. She told me she didn’t know for sure, but “it was quite a few.” I estimate that during the two years she worked at the station, it had to be in the hundreds.
And yes, Wanda’s husband finally returned from the war. He arrived on one of the very same trains that had carried so many other soldiers home for the weekend—a weekend that never would have happened without Wanda.
As I said in the beginning, Wanda’s story has always been one of my favorites. And while obviously biased, I’m also certain it’s true—because Wanda was my grandmother. And if she were alive today, I’m sure Valentine’s Day would still be her favorite holiday.