After Becoming Paralyzed, Josh Didn’t Think He’d Find Love—Until He Met Grace
By Sara Gaynes Levy
Josh’s About Me section on his Bumble profile said, “I always win at musical chairs.” Grace, a teacher, didn’t get what he meant by that, but she thought he was cute, so she swiped right.
After they matched, Grace messaged to say hello. Josh, who is in tech, replied that it was interesting that she’d messaged him that day—the sermon at his church that morning had been about grace, and now here was Grace in his Bumble messages. Grace responded that the sermon at her church that morning had also been about grace, and the two quickly realized they’d been at the same service in their town of Richmond, Virginia.
Bonded by their shared congregation, Grace forgot about the musical chairs line. “We had been talking for about a week and a half when I brought it up,” she says. “I was like ‘that’s kind of a strange thing to brag about!’” Grace recalls Josh responding: “Oh, well I love playing games—ever since my accident, games are one of my main hobbies.” That was when she found out Josh uses a wheelchair.
Seven years ago, Josh was paralyzed in a swimming accident when he unknowingly dove into a sandbar. “I thought nobody would love me after that,” he says. “Once I got the courage to date I started using Bumble, but I wasnʼt too optimistic.” Then, he matched with Grace.
“I liked him before I knew about his paralysis,” she says. “It wasn’t really a factor.” Grace says her only concern was how she was supposed to act on their first date: Do I take his chair out for him at the restaurant? she wondered. Am I supposed to open the door for him?
When they met in person, she learned that Josh prefers to do most things himself. And after a great dinner, they met up with Josh’s friends for a board game night. “All my friends liked her,” says Josh. “She fit right in.”
Their relationship was put in the fast lane when just a few weeks after that first date, COVID-related lockdowns began rolling out. “We’d hung out probably four or five times before lockdown, and I think it was the perfect amount of time,” says Grace. “We felt comfortable being at each other’s houses, and we were forced to figure out what we could do if we couldn’t go out on dates. We ended up staying awake until 3 a.m. playing [board] games—our favorites are Codenames and Mad Gab—almost every night.”
During that time, they also learned how deeply compatible they are. “He really grounds me,” says Grace. “He’s a very laid-back, relaxed person and I can be a little more uptight and nervous.” Josh adds that they make an “impeccable team.” “We balance each other out very well,” he says. “She supports me no matter what and allows me to have the confidence to believe in myself and my dreams.” And then, one morning, Josh realized Grace was the woman he wanted to marry.
It was a pretty standard Saturday morning; Grace was making breakfast, and the couple was hanging out around the house before going to the park. “I thought, ‘this is my ideal weekend,’” says Josh. “‘If I fast-forward five or ten years, I can see this happening again and again.’” That morning, a year and a half after their first date, he decided to propose.
While Grace had a sense that a proposal was in the works—her engagement ring contains her grandmother’s diamond, an heirloom she had to make sure Josh had access to—he had one big surprise still in store for her: he wanted to get down on one knee to pop the question. He had an idea to use an exoskeleton, a device that helps people with lower-limb paralysis stand and walk, to help him kneel.
Josh emailed his physical therapist to ask if it was possible, and even though she’d never done it before, the physical therapist thought they could work something out. So he secretly went over to the hospital to practice, running through the process of getting on one knee in the exoskeleton a few times until he had the hang of it. He then sent Grace out to get a manicure while his physical therapist came over to help get the device set up on the deck at Josh’s place.
As Grace walked up to the deck where Josh was standing, she was so overwhelmed she began shaking. “It was surreal,” she says. Says Josh: “As cool as it was for her to see me on one knee, I think it was cooler for her to see me stand up. She’s never seen me do that.” Looking up at him for the first time, Grace was completely overcome with joy. Without hesitation, she said yes. “It was perfect,” she says.
Just a few weeks later, the couple became legally married. In lieu of a traditional wedding, the game-lovers are hosting an elaborate, immersive Halloween murder mystery party this October for a handful of friends called Til Death Do Us Part—with a wedding reception theme, of course.
Despite their real-life connection attending the same church, Grace and Josh are both so grateful that it was Bumble that brought them together. “It made it less intimidating,” says Josh, who had been worried about dating initially. Grace agrees: “I believe everything happens for a reason.”