In the second part of the three-part series, we take a look at David and Kristi’s growing love affair:
Chapter 4: “Those were my gifts I thought I could give”
Meanwhile, across the country in California, Kristi prayed for David every day.
“Gideon reached out to me and told me what was happening – when I heard about the accident, I was devastated,” Kristi remembers. “I’d been listening to David’s music every day so I felt like I knew him even though I’d only met him once. But when you’re listening to someone’s music, that’s their heart so, I felt like ‘Oh, David.’”
Kristi’s heart overwhelmed her in its keening for David’s suffering. She couldn’t understand such tragedy befalling someone so golden, or why she felt the impact so deeply.
“This was such a good guy – why did this have to happen to him?” Kristi remembers asking herself. “Gideon and I stayed in touch every day that week [of the accident]. He would call me with updates. We’d pray. We’d cry. In my head, I’d think, ‘Why am I so emotional after this? It’s like my own best friend or something … Why am I feeling like this?’ But I felt like I had a connection to him.”
Kristi’s compassion for David became too great not to connect in some way.
“At that point, I still was not dating anybody, but I wasn’t feeling romantic,” Kristi says. “But I felt very… I had an urge to do something to reach out.”
Digital correspondence didn’t seem like the ticket.
“Because I was only an acquaintance, I didn’t feel like it would be successful to do a social media thing – who knows if he’s even looking at that stuff? … He’s never gonna see that,” Kristi recalls thinking.
The kind of message Kristi wished to send called for a stamp.
“I wanted to be intentional. So I wrote him a letter because I love to write,” Kristi says. “I wrote a handwritten letter, found the address from Gideon, and sent it.”
It would be awhile before David would write a letter back.
“I didn’t expect to hear anything back, obviously, because he was surviving and going through this intense everything,” Kristi says. “Later in the summer, Gideon visited and told me, “Yeah, David received the letter, and he really liked it.’ You know guys, they’re just not detailed … But that was fine; I understood. It all came out in the wash later … I found out eventually how David really thought about it.”
David did respond to a choreographed dance video Kristi created and performed to one of his songs.
“Gideon’s sister owns a dance studio, and she reached out to any dancer she knew to ask them to choreograph to David’s music and post it on social media to encourage David,” Kristi says. “Just to have him know people are there and love his art … People really rallied around David.
“Of course I said, ‘Absolutely!’ So me and my friend choreographed a dance to one of his songs. I think he commented, ‘Nice moves.’ … And I was like… ‘Uuuuhhh it’s fine,’” Kristi laughs.
Kristi gave David the two offerings that came straight from her heart.
“Those were my gifts I thought I could give to David – writing and dancing – something more intentional,” Kristi says. “Later on, I found out he really loved the letter. He got a lot of wonderful letters and a lot of support … But who knows how to talk to someone who’s actually going through something … No one knows.”
David interjects: “Kristi knows!”
But Kristi knows the words she penned to David flowed from a deeper, more divine place than she could have accessed alone.
“I believe God was really leading my words because I didn’t know how to relate. I barely knew David, let alone had been in a crazy situation or known someone close to me in that crazy of a situation,” Kristi says. “So I really prayed about it. I wanted the words to be encouraging, but also just genuine. I admitted in the letter: ‘I have no idea how you feel.’”
And yet, somehow, Kristi did seem to know how David felt.
“A year after we were actually dating, we read it to our parents, and everyone was crying. We were all wondering, ‘Whoa, how did I know that?’” Kristi recalls.
Despite David’s initial lack of response to Kristi’s letter, it resonated with him more than any of the other letters he received.
“When David received my letter and read it, he told his parents, ‘This is the most encouraging letter I’ve received,’ … He didn’t tell me that at the time …” Kristi says.
“I felt light and encouraged and hopeful; I remember how I felt,” David comes in. “Yeah, it was really, really cool.”
After reaching out with the letter and dance video, Kristi let the space hold between David and her as she too continued to heal.
“That summer was very important to both of us in that we weren’t connected, really,” Kristi says. “He was physically healing, and I was still emotionally healing from my previous relationship; it was very fresh.”
Kristi continued to stay tuned to David’s progress from afar.
“It was perfect that summer that we didn’t meet again. I was kind of a fly on the wall,” Kristi recalls. “I would look at his page every day, and be updated by Gideon, and pray … I wrote the letter, and I did the dance – but it wasn’t until August, when he came out to the Cansado Awards.”
Cue beautiful coincidences…
Chapter 5: “Yo, are you in L.A.?”
In August 2016, four months after the accident, just as David was barely beginning to use a walker, “these random things started happening,” David says.
“The first of which was, this show called Cansado’s Place reached out to me, saying, ‘We’ve got an audio warrior down.’ They’re an audio engineering community, which is what I was doing, and they talked about me on their show one time. I was freaking out because I’ve been watching their thing on Youtube for years. Then they called my Dad and set up this big surprise they had all planned out. They wanted me to come to L.A. for an awards show.”
As David prepared to head to L.A., he thought, ‘Wait, don’t I know a certain girl there?’
“[Heading] out to the Cansado Awards, I remember this girl, and I’m like, ‘Oh she’s a tender nugget,’” David recalls. “Just to hang out and catch up … She seemed like a kindred spirit. It wasn’t like I’m trying to get into a relationship in my hot wheels.”
In some ways, David and Kristi always will have Facebook Messenger to thank for sparking their romance.
“So anyway I was just like, ‘Yo, are you in LA?’ or something, on Facebook Messenger,” David says sheepishly. “It was probably the worst message I’ve ever sent. So I wouldn’t be here without Facebook Messenger.”
As fate would have it, Kristi wasn’t in L.A. just when David happened to be coming into town.
“I was in Guatemala on a mission trip, and we barely had Wi-Fi so I’m surprised I got it,” Kristi says of David’s message. “So thank goodness it was Facebook Messenger because if he had my number and texted me, I wouldn’t have gotten it … It was ironic – he’s in California, and I’m out of the country?! Gah!”
But fate was fleetingly on their side, giving David and Kristi a brief window to reunite in person.
“We figured out the day I was getting back and the day he was leaving, we could meet up,” Kristi recalls.
They met at the airport.
“I literally rolled out to her in my wheelchair,” David says. “And she’s like, ‘I forgot how cute he was.’”
‘My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, I forgot how cute he was,’” Kristi confirms.
“She didn’t say that at the time, of course,” David laughs.
“But in my head, I was like …” Kristi’s voice is a grin.
Kristi and David connected like old friends and chatted away for a few hours before David’s dad gradually – and physically – began to edge in on the conversation.
“Slowly, his dad inserted himself,” Kristi laughs. “He was sitting close by, but not talking to us, and then at one point, he started being involved in the conversation…”
“And I was getting annoyed,” David remembers. “I was like, ‘Dad, quit getting in the middle of this! I’m with a friend, and you’re stealing her conversation!’”
“Eventually, he just pulls up a chair,” Kristi chuckles.
“And Kristi’s just lookin’ at my Dad like ……??? And I’m just watching this,” David recalls the scene. “I’m like, ‘What? Dad!?! What?!’”
But without the insistence of David’s Dad – John – David and Kristi might have missed their chance at a rapid and intimate reunion soon after.
“At least he invited her to this [Kabboo] festival we were going to the next month in San Diego,” David admits. “Kristi ends up saying, ‘Wow, I’ve never been to a music festival.’ And my dad says, ‘Well I can probably get you another ticket.’ So the next month, we’re set to meet up again. I’m thinking, ‘What is going on?’ … I wouldn’t have invited her because that felt very forward, but my Dad…”
Chapter 6: “We Called It The All Day Hug”
“The Kabboo festival was now the pivotal moment,” Kristi remembers. “We had two and a half days of hanging out.”
During these two days, Kristi began to comprehend the degree of David’s selflessness … and of his care for her.
“Both nights David stayed up late talking with me out in the hotel lobby. I knew he was uncomfortable sitting – remember he has the skinny legs. And his back – all the things, But he never once complained,” Kristi recalls. “He just kept asking me questions, and genuinely listening … I remember thinking, ‘This guy’s in pain right now, and all he cares about is getting to know me.’ I thought that was the most awesome thing.”
For the first time in her life, Kristi directly experienced the difficulties of life in a wheelchair, stunned at how challenging it made even the simplest tasks.
“At the festival, I started pushing him around in the wheelchair. For me, that was the moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a step right there, or a hill, how are we going to [navigate?]’” Kristi says. “Wheelchair life came into view, where before I had no idea. I didn’t even think about that kind of stuff, and now, all of the sudden, the world was this huge obstacle course. That was very humbling for me. Ever since then, everywhere I go, I think: ‘How would someone in a wheelchair get up here?’ Or, ‘They have a ramp, that’s so awesome.’”
Being in a wheelchair at a music festival made it difficult to see the shows.
“Everyone’s standing at a festival – hundreds of people – so David’s Dad and I would get on either side of him and hoist him up and hold him” Kristi recalls.
“My Dad’s idea,” David interjects.
Circumstances accelerated intimacy.
“This is the third time I’ve met or hung out with David, and my arm’s just wrapped around him, holding him up. That’s how we spent most of the day,” says Kristi. “Eventually, his Dad would start leaving so I had to hold David up. If I let go, David would crumple to the ground.”
Two people hardly can spend a whole day in such close physical proximity without emotional closeness budding as well.
“Afterwards, we called it the all day hug,” Kristi laughs. “But if you’re that close to – kind of a stranger – by the end of the day, you’re gonna know each other. It’s like a human experiment.”
David didn’t mind being so close to Kristi.
“It was fun, too, because after a little bit, I’d put my arm around her, but she’d put her hand up on my hand,” recalls David. “It was super tender. Then one time we were sitting down, but I put my arm around her. I was like, ‘This is for emotional support.’”
The light went off that this might be something a little more than friendship.
“That was the first time I think we both were like, ‘What?!’” says David.
“What is this?!” chimes Kristi.
If Kristi had any lingering doubts about the depths of David’s authentic affection, their goodbye following the festival utterly dissolved them.
“The last morning, I figured we’d say goodbye in the hotel lobby, and I would go out to my car and leave,” Kristi says. “But David said, ‘Let me walk you out to your car,’ like it was the thing to do. He had his walker that morning, and he had just started using it. It was mainly his arm strength shuffling his feet along. So here’s a guy – the hardest action for him to perform is walking – and yet, he wants to walk me out to my car. As he walks me out, I’m trying not to cry because it was such a huge – I don’t even know the word – action.”
Instantly, David confirmed he stood above all the rest.
“I thought, ‘Man, he’s way better than any guy I’ve ever dated, for this moment alone,” Kristi says of her realization at the time.
Once they reached the car, they both could feel this wasn’t the end, but the beginning.
“He hugs me, and we don’t let go,” Kristi says. “Then he said, ‘I really like you, and I look forward to seeing where this goes.’ It was an open ended, let’s keep in touch type of thing. That was a huge moment.”
The emotional floodgates opened.
“So then, on my way back [to L.A.] from San Diego, I listened to his music, which was an awful decision. I was crying,” says Kristi. “Like, ‘I’m feeling, I’m feeling!’”
Up next: In the final installment of this three-part series, we’ll take a look at David’s journey to “American Idol,” the couple’s fairytale wedding, and their plans for the future.