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The man is dressed to the nines, in a tan suit. The woman looks even better, in a simple white dress and a big smile.
The reporter introduces himself, asks to sit in on their wedding, hear their love story. Says the man, “It’s quite a story.”
Officiant Toni Gore launches into her script: “This is a civil marriage, not a religious one. It is a contract….” Halfway through, the man notices his Bluetooth is still stuck in his ear—-he pulls it out, half-embarrassed. They exchange rings. Gore’s instructions are precise: “Put it on the third finger of her left hand.”
The woman goes to sign the marriage certificate. “Have you been practicing your new name?” Gore asks.
“No, I have not. This is the first time!” she replies.
Now for that story: The couple has been living together for 15 years, the man explains. She teaches, he’s in corporate management. Finally, late last year, the two decided they’d get hitched. They came down to the courthouse, got a license, set a date—-no big deal.
Then she got sick—-gallbladder trouble. Last week, she got the diagnosis: terminal cancer.
The wedding went on as scheduled today. “None of our family know this is what we’re doing,” she explains. The thinking goes, she says: “Let’s make sure we do all the things we have to do to make it right….Sometimes you just do what you know you should have done a long time ago.”
(To protect the couple’s privacy while they continue informing friends and family of her illness, I have agreed to keep their names and other identifying details private.)
The wedding was supposed to be a low-key affair, and it was. Both had married before. “We’d gone through the ceremonial hoopla,” he says. She adds, “Been there, done that.”
Her daughter flew in from out of state. “We were just gonna call her and tell her that we got married,” he says, but he decided to have her come up so they could break her the news in person. She’s the only person with them today, snapping pictures of them smiling, beaming into each other’s eyes.
He reflects on why they decided to get married in the first place: “As you get older, you realize you’ve got to take care of legal things, make sure your house is in order.” They’d “procrastinated” on those sorts of things, she said.
She says it’s been harder on her husband. He’s the one who has had to tell most of their friends about the cancer. “He’s taken the weight off of me by telling everybody,” she says. “You just relive it every time you say it.”