A few months after a battle with COVID-19, which sent her to the hospital, a Lusby native made the nearly 3,000-mile trip of a lifetime across an ocean to marry her long-distance sweetheart.
Jessica Thorn, 24, a Patuxent High School graduate, made the journey from Lusby to Kevflavík, a town in southwest Iceland, this September. It wasn’t her first time making the trip, but this time, it was permanent.
Thorn had met her husband, Guðjón Örn Halldórsson (her family calls him “Gideon” or “Groovy man,” lovingly) more than a decade ago online, after she had sought friends who wanted to talk about the same anime show in a chat room.
Thorn said the two used to “Skype call all the time,” but had fallen out of touch around 2010, when she turned 14.
The two reconnected about eight years later, though.
“After we reconnected, we started to talk a lot,” Thorn said. “We would have really long phone calls.”
After about a year of their reconnection, other feelings started to develop.
“I started to think, I really love this guy,” Thorn said.
Eventually, Halldórsson, who is now 25, was able to visit the U.S. and meet the family for his first American Halloween in 2018.
“My mom seemed a bit wary about it when I told her I was dating someone from a different country,” Thorn said. But when he came to visit, Thorn’s parents “absolutely adored him.”
Thorn’s mother, Katie Grazier, said Thorn had initially wanted to journey to Iceland alone.
“I said, ‘No, he’s coming here first,’” Grazier said. “He came, and we immediately fell in love with him.”
The two visited several times, spending two Christmases and a summer trip together in Iceland, and eventually decided to take the next step, planning this January to make a permanent move to Iceland this August.
Then a novel virus found its way around the world. In May, Thorn caught COVID-19 and was hospitalized.
“It was a terrifying experience,” she said. She had been struggling with breathing and had a high fever, and had to be put on oxygen once hospitalized. She recovered by the end of the month.
In September, Thorn went through deserted, “surreal” airlines for 24 hours to make the trip to Iceland to marry her sweetheart.
The two were married in Iceland last month, in a service livestreamed to family and friends. The couple plans on holding a bigger reception in the post-coronavirus world.
While she misses her family, friends and American fare such as Waffle House, Thorn said she is happy to be in Keflavík with the love of her life.
“He has the biggest heart ever,” she said, and a “really nice accent.”
“The very first words he taught me [in Icelandic] were how to swear, and then how to say ‘I love you,’” Thorn said.
Thorn said she is still adjusting to the culture on the Nordic island, but had experienced some holiday traditions, like eating fermented fish for Christmas, or watching children sing at stores for candy on Halloween. Halldórsson’s family will be throwing the couple an American Thanksgiving to make Thorn feel at home, she said.
And although Thorn brought her own Old Bay seasoning, it was unneeded — they had it in stock at the local Costco.
Starting a new life there, Thorn said she is a stay-at-home wife for now, but hopes to become a mortician. Halldórsson currently works at a fish plant.
Thorn said for couples in long-distance relationships, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, closing the gap is “worth the wait.”
“It can be tough, it really can, especially being in different continents, countries, there are tears, especially when you’re leaving,” Thorn said.
But even during a pandemic, it’s an excellent time to close the gap. “Coming in such a turbulent time makes it better, because we’re with the one we love,” she said.