Shalyn Nelson's grandparents, Joe Ray and Billie Wanda Johnson, have been married for 65 years.

A couple of years ago, the 30-year-old photographer asked her Papaw, 86, and Mamaw, 83, to indulge her by participating in an adorable photo shoot. Now, the heartwarming photos are going viral.

This wasn't just your typical dress-up, stand-and-smile routine, either — it was a fun and playful shoot. Shalyn had her grandparents re-create today's most popular wedding photos (any Pinterest board about wedding-day poses will quickly confirm this), and the results were adorable.


Shalyn grew up next-door to her grandparents. She didn't have much of a father figure around, but she says Papaw and Mamaw filled that void throughout her life with their love and endless support.

"They have taught me the true meaning of marriage," Shalyn says. "No marriage is perfect, and my grandparents will be the first to tell you that. But they never gave up."

Mamaw and Papaw met when she was in high school and he was in college.

Their families knew each other. He asked to drive her home one day, and then asked to take her out. Young and in love, they got engaged in 1950 after just two years of dating while he finished college and got a job.

Papaw planted a rose bush outside the couple's window when they built their house on Hidden Lake Ranch in Jewett, Texas. "Billie Wanda is the rose of my life ... but it does have a few thorns here and there," Papaw said, laughing.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons.

Here are 21 beautiful pics celebrating Papaw and Mamaw's life together that will make you believe in love.

1. Just look at these two. That's amoré!

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

2. Papaw gets playful with the "I caught the bouquet" pose.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

3. Isn't a kiss on the forehead always the sweetest?

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

4. "Walking through life together, but the trail's getting short," Papaw tells Shalyn.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

5. You gotta have a shot of the radiant bride in her full, beautiful splendor.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

6. A glimpse of a touching love letter Papaw wrote to his bride.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

7. Can't you just feel the love between these two?

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

8. This "almost-kiss" shot is a must for every wedding photographer.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

9. The happy couple posing with the letters they wrote to each other.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

10. An homage to Billie Wanda, the rose of his life.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

11. The blushing bride is simply gorgeous.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

12. How cute is this pose right before the bride and groom see each other for the first time?

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

13. Peek-a-boo!

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

14. You can't argue with that nuzzling.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

15. And the veil-over-the-heads shot is also a must on any wedding photographer's list. Nailed it.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

16. You can't forget a close-up photo of the couple's hands wearing their wedding bands. The wrinkles add character.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

17. As giddy as they must have been on their actual wedding day.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

18. We now pronounce you man and wife, still — after 65 years.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

19. You may now kiss the bride ... again!

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

20. May you continue to only have eyes for each other.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

21. And live happily ever after.

Photo by Shalyn Nelson/Love, The Nelsons, used with permission.

Marriage is tough. Celebrating 65 years together is an amazing milestone.

While marriage isn't for everyone, Mamaw and Papaw are wonderful role models for those who do choose to walk down the aisle with their eyes and their hearts wide open.

They're a great example of the beautiful things that can happen if you choose to embark on that crazy roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs and twists and turns that marriage guarantees.

"Everybody can't always have their own way. There has to be a little give and take," Mamaw advises. "Just have good common sense."

If after 65 together, you can still play dress-up, act silly with one another, laugh at each other, and just plain enjoy each other's company ... you're doing it right.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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