A young woman with terminal cancer has passed away just days after marrying her fiancé from her hospital bed.
Twenty one-year-old Joey Williams met Nina Marino at summer camp when he was just eight years old.
The pair began dating in 2017, just one month after Marino was diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma which spread to her lungs.
After seven rounds of chemo and surgery to remove a tumour from her head, Williams asked 19-year-old Marino to marry him; determined to make the most of their life together. As Marino’s condition deteriorated, Williams stayed faithfully by her side, documenting their life together as they tackled items from their bucket lists on their Facebook page, The Chronic Travelers.
The couple had planned to marry on Sept. 4 in the chapel of St. Joseph’s Children Hospital in Tampa, Fla., but on the eve of their wedding day, doctors gave the devastating news that Marino might not make it through the night.
In an interview with PEOPLE, Williams recalled receiving the news.
“The doctor encouraged us that, if we wanted to be married, we should do it that day,” he said. “It was a lot at once. Nina just said, ‘OK, let’s do it.'”
Within hours, family, friends and the staff at St. Joseph’s transformed Marino’s hospital room in intensive care unit into a makeshift wedding venue, with twinkle lights, candles and music.
Nil Patel, a local photographer received the last minute call from a friend of the family and captured every beautiful, joyous, and heartbreaking moment from the ceremony.
Marino lay in bed in her wedding dress, wearing her flower headband holding Williams’s hand.
“It wasn’t the wedding of our dreams but it was the wedding that made our dreams come true,” Williams said. “It was really important to her. It was one of the things she absolutely wanted to do, one of the things I wanted to do.”
Marino made it through the night, but passed away just six days later.
“I was really happy because I got to marry my best friend. I had wanted to do that since we started dating,” Williams said. “It’s something we’ve known we wanted to do. I didn’t want her to die, but I knew that it was probably going to happen. So I wanted to do everything that we wanted to do. She said in the hospital that she didn’t want to die without us getting married.”
In an article for the blog Love What Matters Patel says the young couple’s wedding was a transformative experience for all who witnessed it.
“I wish I could remember the vows that were exchanged, but my heart was pounding so loud I couldn’t hear a thing, Patel wrote. “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,” he continued. “The kind of love people only dream of.”