In 2011, I started an online social group called Zora's Explorers, for blind and vision-impaired people. We met regularly at various locations for coffee, dinner, bowling and cinema nights. While I hoped to broaden my friendship circle, I didn't expect to find my true love, Phil.
Phil has a mild acquired brain injury (ABI). He was hit by a car at the age of 14, but with the help of his parents, he learnt to walk and talk again.
Meeting through Zora's Explorers
Phil signed up to Zora's Explorers.
I wanted to make real friends outside the nightclub, he said. I sent him a welcome email and he replied, giving me his mobile number.
Over the following weeks, we chatted for hours on the phone. I learnt that he was a musician and song writer. He seemed like a very kind, gentle man with a great sense of humour. We got on very well.
Before too long, we decided to meet up for coffee at Hahndorf's Fine Chocolate in Montrose. The weather was warm and sunny, matching my mood. My Seeing Eye dog, Zora, seemed to like him, so that was a very good sign.
Phil, however, had felt a bit nervous about meeting up.
I was excited at first, but then I started worrying that someone was playing tricks on me. To make matters worse, an elderly woman turned up in the taxi before me and Phil thought,
What have I done?! To his great relief, I arrived a few moments later.
Over the following weeks, our relationship grew. We caught up nearly every day and did many different things together. Life had never seemed so good.
A beautiful proposal and Zora's blessing
Eight months later, Phil proposed to me at Hahndorf's Fine chocolates. He did it the traditional way, going down on one knee. I was overwhelmed with happiness. Zora put her head on our linked hands, as though giving us her blessing.
I was very sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Bernie, says Phil.
I love her. Everything between us is great.
Leading up to our wedding day, we learnt a bridal dance to Guy Sebastian's, 'Angels Brought Me Here'. The words of this song, held special meaning for us. At first, we shuffled uncertainly around the floor, constantly making mistakes. With each lesson, however, our confidence increased.
Kaye from Cherry Gay Florist, made all the wedding flowers – the magnificent bridal bouquet, the lovely bridesmaid's flowers and even the men's lapel sprays - as a wedding gift to us. Phil and I were stunned by her generosity. Her heart-warming and beautiful gesture meant a lot to us.
Our parents couldn't have been more supportive. They spent countless hours helping us with our wedding preparations. Without them, the day wouldn't have been such a success.
Getting married - a dream come true
We married on 9th of March, 2013. I felt euphoric with love and excitement. I know now what people mean when they say that their wedding day was the happiest in their life. For us, it truly was.
Married life is great. We accept each other. I am totally blind and hearing-impaired and Phil has mild ABI, but together, we make a great team.
Meeting Phil has helped me to realise that love can overcome anything. Once, for me, marriage was nothing more than wishful thinking. Now I know that dreams really can come true.