This one-hour celebration has got to be by far the toughest wedding I’ve ever had the honor of documenting. This wedding is not just another number for me, but a new standard for my life.
At 2:45 p.m. on Labor Day, I got a message from a close friend about a 19-year-old bride who has cancer and was told she wouldn’t make it through the night, so they had to move her wedding day to that very day at 5:00 p.m. Little did I know this one day, this one wedding, and this one bride, would change my life forever.
The ceremony was originally going to take place in the small chapel within the hospital, but unfortunately Nina was too frail to walk down the aisle. So, we had to set up the ceremony location directly in her room inside the Pediatrics Intense Care Unit.
Once I got to PICU, it didn’t seem silent or sad. Everyone was full of life, smiling, laughing, making jokes. It was as if there wasn’t even an illness present in this equation and everyone was there to celebrate another magical love story.
After a little while, reality started to set in. Here are two people, Nina and Joey, 19 and 20 years old. These two amazing souls met way back at camp as kids. As they grew alongside each other and fell in love with one another, they dreamed to one day grow old together.
As the years passed and their friendship turned to love, the reality of growing old together became a faint dream. Nina was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she shared a lifetime of memories with Joey during her short existence here. Now, Nina just wished to pass peacefully as a happy wife, surrounded by those who love her the most.
The morning of the event started like any other rainy, hot Florida summer day. The torrential downpour of the storm only set the tone for the future. It was a sign from the beginning.
Shocking but in the best way possible, the wedding itself was not reflective of what the weather was outside. The room was decorated with medical equipment and monitors, surrounded by photographs of the memories and adventures that Nina and Joey made throughout their lives. It wasn’t about how grand this wedding decor was, but about how grand their love for one another is.
I wish I could remember the vows that were exchanged, but my heart was pounding so loud I couldn’t hear a thing. I do know the words Joey spoke to Nina made the entire room sob. And, while Nina was not able to verbally express her love for Joey, it only took one look to bring him to his knees. He knew. It was the kind of love where no words have to be exchanged to know what the other person was saying. The kind of love people only dream of.
Her dying wishes were to be surrounded by those she loved the most, and those who loved her most. Her family was there, her mom, dad, close relatives and the Children’s Cancer Center.
I wish it didn’t take a visual tragedy for us to appreciate life. For us to grasp how unexpected life can be, and how short it really is.
Nina’s presence, Nina’s energy, and Nina’s love for life comforted and healed me a million times over. I only wish there is some way I could repay her.
On September 6, 2018, Nina passed away and is now pain free. Before she passed, Nina had a bucket list of goals she wanted to turn into a reality. Currently, her husband Joey is doing an incredible job at keeping her spirit and memory alive, and has asked for our love and support in helping to kick her bucket.
Nina had a special place in her heart for the Children’s Cancer Center. She loved attending Teen Group, Oncology Connection Group and Family Fun Day which is why I want to thank the Children’s Cancer Center. Without their support, Nina and Joey’s wedding would not have been possible. They didn’t spare anything…from finding her perfect dress, the flowers, a musician, and a wedding cake the Children’s Cancer Center ensured Nina had it all on her special day. – Nil Patel of Patel Creative