Always My Valentine: The Love Story Of Zach And Lauren

February 14, 2017

This is a Valentine’s love story that could have been ripped from script of a Hollywood movie.

Lauren McCall and Zach Barrow were high school sweethearts at Northview High School. She played softball; he played baseball.  She was an Auburn girl. He, you guessed it, an Alabama boy. If you can overcome that, they were pretty much that perfect high school couple. They even returned to Northview…Zach as an assistant baseball coach and Lauren as a cheerleading coach.

They planned their perfect lives together, knew what they wanted to be in life and had their plans and goals. It was the perfect relationship.

Then insert life.

Zach was diagnosed with cancer, and Lauren stood by his side. There was a remission, a wedding proposal, wedding plans and another battle with cancer.

Zach passed away February 8, less than a week ago. had planned this special Valentines feature on Zach and Lauren, and with much thought, decided with Lauren to move forward to share her love story. And, at the bottom of the story, you’ll find one last love letter that she penned to Zach for Valentine’s Day.

After Zach’s death, Lauren’s sister-in-law Kirsten McCall summed up Zach and Lauren’s relationship in a post on her Facebook wall:

“Talk about a power couple. These two have faced every obstacle known to man, yet they still always wore a smile on their faces. They adore each other the way you see those absolutely adorable couples in movies adore one another, but their love is so much greater. Because it wasn’t acted out like on the movie screens, it was real. It was admirable. The way Zach looked at Lauren was enough to melt anyone’s heart. And mine was basically a gooey mess on the floor while taking these photos of them. There was no denying their love for each other. God put them together because he knew their story would touch hundreds, thousands of people’s hearts. Like it did mine. And yours. God knew their testimony would make believers out of people. Would turn an unsure heart right into the eyes of our Lord. The struggles this family has faced in the past few years is quite frankly unimaginable…struggles that could have turned their faithful hearts away. But I haven’t met many who have more faith then them, Zach and Lauren, the Barrow family.”

February 13, 2017 — the day before this article, five days after Zach’s death, the day before Valentines and just a month and a half before Zach and Lauren’s planned wedding day. Lauren reflected on why she stood by her high school sweetheart instead of slipping away.

“Zach was God’s will for me. The Lord put a love in my heart for Zach, and I never once felt the urge to leave. Not once even through two cancers and six years together. I was placed here to be a help to him, I truly believe that,” Lauren said.

I love looking at this picture. We had no worries, no plan, just me and you.

“One year ago today, we got told Zach Barrow was cancer free. I couldn’t be more proud to be yours. I love going through this life with you, and serving the God who brought us through tough trials. Thank you for always being my smile.” — October 5,  2015.

On October 17, 2015, Zach popped the question. Without a doubt, Lauren said yes.

“A year ago today, you asked me to be your wife. We promised to love each other through all of the good and especially the bad.. I’m so thankful to be yours and can’t wait to be Mrs. Barrow,” Lauren wrote on October 17, 2016.

“The goal is… to laugh with you forever,” she wrote in October.

In the fall, they were making wedding plans, purchasing land for the future Barrow home and celebrating Zach’s birthday in early December. On the cancer front, the news was good, with Zach’s tumor shrinking.

“You know how people say when certain people come into your life, they are either a lesson or a blessing. I think the best people-are both. Zach has taught me how to love God more than I ever have.. how to love someone unconditionally.. and how to love myself. I don’t deserve a man like him, but God’s grace is more than I can describe, and certainly can’t describe it without crying. And of course, God brings blessings upon blessings to both of us. Even during the hardest days for him, he chooses to make me smile, laugh or just fix my heartache. He is my biggest blessing and lesson. I love you forever and a day after.”

Just a few short days before Christmas, Zach was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery due to a tumor on his spine.

“Friends, I have never wanted anything more in my life than to see my fiancé healthy and cancer free. Please join me in prayer for a complete healing for him. Also, for the people who do not have Christ as their savior… I ask you… please don’t wait until you get a phone call that could change your life. Get it settled now, so that you know if something ever did happen to you… you’d have an eternal home in Heaven,” Lauren wrote.

The arms that hug me, the hands that hold mine and the man that is going to be my husband… even through every trial…. I’m still very thankful and truly blessed.

Christmas…in the hospital.

New Year’s Eve…still in the hospital. Not exactly the thing dreams are made of.

“If I had to sit here and tell people 2016 has been easy, I’d be lying. I thought it was going to be filled with wedding planning, going on random adventures with Zachary because he was healthy, working in a new job, and getting ready to move in with my future husband! Instead God saw fit to change our lives once again. This year has been stressful beyond imagination, but as I sat next to Zachary this morning and we prayed together before his first physical therapy, he thanked the Lord for this trial he set before us. It’s very hard for me to thank the Lord for putting us through this, but I know there a reason behind it. Life hit us with something unexpected this year, but I am so incredibly thankful for a man who leads me closer and closer to Christ and is a fighter through and through! I truly believe God will bless Zachary and me, so until then… we’ll keep pushing and fighting.”

By the middle of January, that nesting syndrome that every bride to be gets had set in. Zach was in the hospital, where romantic dinners consisted of strawberries, Jack cheese cubes from a bag, and crackers. Anything beats hospital food.

“Help please! Zach and I are wanting to build a metal barn/home on our new land. I wanted to see if anyone knew of reputable contractors that may could help us, any ideas?”

A few days later, in a flashback to their carefree days as high school sweethearts, Lauren posted a photo taken on the Northview baseball field:

Lord, take me back to this day…please.

In January, Zach was back in the hospital, his mother Joanna Barrow battling cancer in the room next door. She passed away January 30.

“I sit and look at Zachary and I’m just so overwhelmed with the love God has placed in my heart for this man,” Lauren said at the time “It’s more love than I could have imagined I could feel for another person. Honestly, there is bad in the world-our family seems to be surrounded with it. But today, I don’t want to be angry or bitter. I’m choosing to just love God, Zach and my family just like I’ve been doing. God has so much planned for Zach and I, we’re just patiently waiting to see what that is, and when God shows us… I can only imagine how awesome it’ll be.”

Nine days after his mother Joanna lost her battle to cancer, her middle son, Zach, joined his mother in heaven. He was 23.

February 8th, 10:48 a.m. A day that is one of the worst/greatest days of my life. My best friend, my soul mate, my smile and my superman left this earth to be with our Savior in paradise where he is no longer hurting, sick, sad or longing for anything. My heart hurts, but to have the peace of knowing where the love of my life is makes it easier. “I’ll love you forever and a day after.” He will forever be my forever and always my sunshine on a cloudy day.

Lauren has written an open Valentine’s letter to Zach:

“To my Superman and my Sunshine, This is my thank you to you and a few others. First, I want to thank your mom and dad. Two beautiful people, who you admired so much. Your dad, a man that taught you how to play ball, how to love a woman and how to serve the Lord like a Christian should. Your precious mother, a woman sent straight from God it seemed like. She was a warrior just like you were. She taught you how to fight a good fight and win it. I also want to thank your brothers. These two men fought, argued and played in the yard with you almost every day of your life. Men that have promised to take care of me for the rest of mine now that you’re gone. Men that are now my brothers.

My sweetheart, I want to thank you for just being you. You were the man that me and my parents prayed for every day since I was born. Your walk with the Lord inspired me to be a better person and a better wife for you. Thank you for loving me more than I deserve. A man is supposed to love their wife like Christ loved the church, and sweetheart you did just that. You loved with every ounce in you. I did not deserve you, but God’s grace is more than I can describe. He sent you to me almost six years ago, and put us through a fair share of trials. Cancer. Not once, but twice. The thought of cancer terrifies me and shakes me to my core, but you Zach, you took cancer by the horns and just rolled with it. Even with cancer, you led me just as a Godly man should’ve. Cancer did not beat you my love. Cancer was a huge part of your testimony. I don’t know why the Lord decided to choose you to carry this burden, I don’t want to and will not question God’s choices. You were and are the strongest person I’ve ever known. Zach, you have fought your fight, and you have finished your course. I’m sure when you met the Lord, he met you with a smile and a “Well Done.”

Thank you for letting me be a part of your wonderful life, because you will always be a part of mine. I will carry your testimony however long the Lord allows me to. There are not enough words to describe how much my heart longs to be with the Lord and you where grief and sadness is nonexistent. Until that day, I have a job to do down here, but I will see your beautiful face again.

Thank you for being my sunshine.

Thank you for being my superman.

Thank you for leading me.

Thank you for being Zachary Thomas Barrow.

I love you and will miss you always,

Lauren McCall Barrow”

A benefit “Breakfast for the Barrows”, which was planned prior to Zach’s passing, will be held this Friday evening at the First Baptist Church of Bratt beginning at 6:00. Tickets are available in advance at Byrneville Elementary School or at the door. The meal includes pancakes, sausage and drink.


26 Responses to “Always My Valentine: The Love Story Of Zach And Lauren”

  1. Julie on March 1st, 2017 7:47 am

    I was one of many of Zach’s nurses. The love that I saw between Zach & Lauren is unfathomable. It has no ending. The day I heard Zach passed away my heart broke & rejoiced. It broke for Lauren, it broke for Zach’s friends, but it broke mostly for Zach’s family. It broke for Zach’s family because I also learned that his lovely mother passed away just a week before him. BUT my heart also REJOICED! It rejoiced because I knew this sweet boy was no longer in pain. It REJOICED because I know in my heart that this sweet boy is EXACTLY where he wants to be… Jesus’ side with his mother waiting for the love of his life, Lauren.
    Lauren, you have a sweet Angel watching over you. I PRAY for you to continue to find peace in the live that you & Zach have & that you continue to do good for this world & tell people your love story. You never know one day your love story may just very well be the start of a another love story. Someone’s love for God. Much love, hugs, & prayers to you & the Barrow family.

  2. just sayin on February 21st, 2017 11:39 am

    Just read this entire story again for the second time since it first appeared. Tried to make it through the second time without tearing up. Didn’t make it. What a touching and up-lifting story. So sorry for this family’s losses.
    Lauren I wish you much happiness.

  3. Kim on February 18th, 2017 2:06 am

    Prayers and huggs to this great family, loved ones and friends. I remember him and his sweet family. I’m a nurse. His great smile and loving family just stole everyone’s heart.

  4. Britt on February 16th, 2017 11:28 pm

    I moved to century 2 years ago and fell in love with the whole family and so did my girls. My prayers are with the Barrow Family as they go through this hard time. This is truly a beautiful story as it is sad since I came to know them so well. My heart is with you maw maw and paw paw.

  5. Bam on February 16th, 2017 12:37 pm

    What a beautiful and sad story. My heart goes out to her.

  6. Jessica Bloodsworth on February 15th, 2017 11:28 pm

    This is utterly beautiful. Seeig and reading about the love they had for one another is amazing. Lauren you’re open letter brought tears to my eyes. My thoughts and prayers are with you. If you need anything, don’t hesitate. We’re family, War Eagle!

  7. sandie on February 15th, 2017 10:02 am

    This is a very beautiful love story, it made me cry. I’m so sorry it ended the way it did, that was so very sad. I know how it feels to watch a loved one battel cancer. My dad passed away in 2014 after batteling cancer just a few short months and its never easy watching someone we love going through so much pain. my heart breaks for you and the family. my prayers are with you all

  8. Touched on February 15th, 2017 8:12 am

    This one of the saddest yet most uplifting stories I have ever read. I cried my eyes out reading it! If only every person in the world could experience this type of love. Not only the love they had for each other, but the love they both had for God. This could so easily be made into a Hollywood movie. I’d pay to see it! I will pray for both families. Lauren, you are a very special lady. And you’re right, God did choose you for Zach, that is quite apparent. He knew what he was doing. And you did not disappoint him, I can assure you of that. You are a testiment to every young person in the world. You have a stronger faith in you than most people have in a lifetime! God is surely smiling down on you. Just reading these comments, your story has touched so many people in our small community. Maybe this was God’s plan-for you to tell your and his story-in order to wake people up in this world we live in and to make them realize that tomorrow is not promised to any of us. We all need to stand up for God and to praise him, even when it seems so difficult to do so. You never questioned Him and why this happened. But this story has opened peoples eyes. I thank you for sharing this with all of us. I do not know you or Zach, but would have loved to. Anyone who knows you, should feel blessed to even be in your presence because you are a walking testiment for God. Keep telling your story Lauren, the entire world needs to hear it! God Bless you sweetie and I will pray for the healing of your broken heart. I can picture Zach and his mother with their arms around each other smiling from heaven, so very happy as everyone is reading this story and knowing how many lives it is changing right now. It is so very apparent that your and his love was so very REAL! Not everyone in life gets to experience this true love and I am so very happy that you did. I know this has truly blessed my heart and renewed my faith in the younger generation. Thank you for that and may God continue to bless you for the remainder of your days here on this earth.

  9. Pop on February 14th, 2017 11:48 pm

    Saddest story I’ve ever herd! Just remember Job in the bible he lost it all my friend.

  10. BG on February 14th, 2017 10:34 pm

    Sometimes you want to ask……WHY LORD
    May the Lord Bless You Young Lady

  11. chris in Molino on February 14th, 2017 7:39 pm

    This is so sad and so very beautiful at once. These young people are salt of the earth and everything a young man or woman should strive to be. Thank you so much for sharing this to all of us. I read it aloud to my wife as we both shed tears. I shall never forget this story or the both of you. More importantly, i now question my own relationship with the Lord Jesus and looking at how much more i should be doing as a man of God. Again, thank you.

  12. Anominous on February 14th, 2017 6:37 pm

    I had the pleasure of knowing this young man as he was fighting this cancer he was a very strong person and kept fighting. I am very touched by his story and my heart goes out to his family and fiance who have been there for him till the end. Sometimes we can not understand why things happen like they do but be strong and always keep him in your heart. Live on Zachary you will be remembered.

  13. anne 1of2 on February 14th, 2017 3:47 pm

    I like to think, that there is the great picnic table in the sky, where our family and friends are greeted each time one of us passes. Imagine the surprise for Zack’s mother when he arrived so soon after her passing! This is a beautiful, if short, love story and it sure reminded me of the movie by the same name. Only better, because it happened in this community so we could all be fortunate enough to read about it! Thank you for sharing this with us. God is so good to show what true love looks like when it starts in his name so we know how to carry on in faith when life changes our plans.

  14. patti on February 14th, 2017 3:08 pm

    AMEN! What a beautiful LOVE story, not just for the two of you, but for GOD also. One doesn’t hear about Jesus & God, how they’re in one’s life, one’s love. I thank you for sharing your LOVE story for all to see! May God richly bless you! He isn’t finished with you Lauren, so don’t give up!..AND – THANKS!!

  15. Patti on February 14th, 2017 3:00 pm

    I have goose bumps and chills thru my whole body reading this… What an amazing testament to our lord and to true love. What this family has endured and never lost faith is what it is all about. My love and prayers to you all in your losses. May god give you the strength to carry on theses next days, weeks, and months.. Thank you for sharing such an incredible love story with us today.. My heart is very full at this moment…

  16. Janet Horn on February 14th, 2017 9:49 am

    Thank you Lauren for sharing your heart and love story with us. I didn’t know all of you personally, but I have been praying for Joanna & Zach for a long time. Recently, I have prayed especially for you, and the great loss you must feel. This Valentine love story has encouraged my heart that you are trusting the Lord through all that has happened, and that you see it as a chance to share God’s love in it all. God bless you as you continue your walk with the Lord!

  17. Terrie Langham on February 14th, 2017 9:40 am

    Lauren…I read this article about your sweet and courageous Zack. We had the honor of meeting you two at the closing of your property in Century. We want you to know how sorry we are of his passing. We take comfort in knowing your story and the love that you two shared. This kind of love is truly an inspiration. You were so blessed to have him, and especially him having YOU. May God help you through this difficult time, and help you to replace your tears with wonderful memories of precious Zack.

  18. Random Bystander on February 14th, 2017 9:39 am

    God knew what he was doing when he put these two amazing people together. His love shined through them so much, and now Lauren is continuing to show God’s love even in the darkest times. Some how this love story needs to go viral, the more people who see it the more God’s love will be spread. It breaks my heart to see this happen to Lauren, but I know she has a amazing support system. Praying for the Barrows and McCall families during these troubled times. Maybe this will love story will go viral.

  19. JustMe on February 14th, 2017 9:33 am

    Thanks for making me realize just how precious life is. Every day one takes for granted the very things that can be taken away in an instant. People love those in your lives, be kind to those in your lives, and keep god first.

  20. Beth Smith on February 14th, 2017 8:57 am

    This family has truly been an inspiration to me. The strength of their faith puts me to shame. Instead of questioning and blaming, they are using this heartbreaking experience as a testimony to their Lord. You have inspired me to strengthen my faith and overcome my fears. I continue to pray for you every day.

  21. Ramona on February 14th, 2017 8:12 am

    What beautiful love these two have for each other. Every time I would see Zach and say “hey Zach, how are you doing” his response to me was always the same..”better than I deserve”. As a Christian I knew what he meant. I cannot imagine how many lives that Zach and Lauren’s story has touched, and in every moment they gave God praise, and for that, the reward will be beyond measure. I love both of them, and my prayer is God’s comfort to the family that remains here on this earth…..until they are all reunited!

  22. David and Jackie Johnson on February 14th, 2017 7:56 am

    Praying for you Lauren and the Barrow family. Thank you for sharing. We love you.

  23. Peggy Barrow on February 14th, 2017 7:52 am

    Lauren you are truly an inspiration to be shared. The love you have for my grandson is so beautiful. Love you forever.Zachary (as all my grandchildren) is truly a precious gem in our lives. Love you!!!!

  24. Jan on February 14th, 2017 7:26 am

    Truly a love story we should all take to heart. In these turbulent times which seem to be all about our differences rather than what we share, this couple is a potent reminder of the power of love and faith.

  25. DM on February 14th, 2017 7:22 am

    Thank you Lauren, for sharing your love story. You have been in my prayers and will continue to be.

  26. There's power in the blood on February 14th, 2017 7:05 am

    This story is full of so many different emotions of sadness and joy and love that it is overwhelming. I love this family. I will keep all of you in my prayers. Thank you for the powerful example of your love for Christ.

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