Penny Umbers and Mark Bethel knew they were meant to be the instant their eyes met.
It was love at first sight, but their paths were obviously star-crossed because they were only teenagers. Penny was 16 years old when she met Mark, a 17-year-old exchange student from Nassau, Bahamas, at the Nottingham private school where they both went.
Their relationship lasted all the way through high school and college. Mark even returned to England to accept a scholarship at a London university, while Penny continued her romance at a nearby college. Then one day, Mark came to Penny and abruptly ended their relationship.
Penny dropped out of college and struggled with her mental health. She went on to marry and divorce twice more, but she couldn’t stop thinking about Mark.
Mark tracked Penny down on Facebook and sent her a note 39 years later. They began to converse, and it seemed as if no time had passed. Mark had also married and divorced, and Penny’s heart ached all over again as he informed her why he had ended their relationship all those years ago.
Penny’s father, it turns out, had objected to their connection because Mark is black and Penny is white. In high school, he had taken Mark aside and told him, “You’ve had your pleasure, now move on, boy.” Penny’s father went to Mark’s university, pulled him out of a lecture, and threatened to pull ties to have his scholarship taken away if that didn’t work.
This article first appeared on InspireMore.
Mark remarked, “I didn’t have much power.” “I was in a new nation, 3,000 kilometers from home.” My scholarship was my only source of income.”
Mark dissolved the relationship because he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. “I had to make the most difficult decision of my life, and I had to do it alone.” He described it as “heartbreaking.”
That’s why, years later, he was desperate to find the one who had eluded him. Due to COVID regulations, Penny had to wait another 18 months to see Mark, but she ultimately travelled to Nassau to meet him.
“I suppose I shed a tear or two when we first saw each other,” Mark admitted. “I couldn’t believe she was in my arms in my own nation.”
Penny is traveling to the Bahamas to marry him, and the two have picked up just where they left off! Penny’s father is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and she is unable to confront him about his betrayal all those years ago. The pair is instead concentrating on their future. They’ve even written a book called “Thirty-Nine Years in the Wilderness” about their experience.
“We’ve had 39 years of wasted time, but we’re looking forward to a bright future,” Mark concluded.
It’s terrible that her father’s inability to see past Mark’s skin color stood in the way of their love, but we’re glad they’re on the right track today. Some things are truly worth the wait.