“In all love there’s also some pain,” said the minister, as he stood at the foot of Caleb Hanby’s bed.
Bethany, his bride-to-be, clutched Caleb’s frail hand as she waited to deliver her long-awaited vows to her ailing fiancé.
He had no tux. She had no dress. In fact, her groom was the one dressed in white—with facial bandages and hospital sheets swaddling his body. His doctor was the ring bearer; his nurse, the flower girl.
It’s not the wedding most brides would dream of.
But Bethany couldn’t want anything more.
Family filled the ICU room where Caleb had been residing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center since his rhabdomyosarcoma had gotten much worse.
What started as a small toothache escalated into the incredibly rare form of cancer that created a facial tumor so large that it broke his jaw.
Just one year ago, on the day he was diagnosed with the rhabdomyosarcoma, he introduced Bethany as his girlfriend for the first time.
The two met at Prairie Life Fitness where he was a personal trainer and she worked the front desk. She had her eye on the good-looking trainer for quite a while, but it was initially difficult to get to know the quiet and reserved Caleb.
Months later, they met each other one night out celebrating her birthday. The two were inseparable that night, and had been ever since. They started working out together, but when Caleb started spending 12-hour days at the gym just to see her, she knew he really cared.
The couple also shared a passion for football and would spend Saturday watching Michigan, and Sunday cheering on the Chiefs and Lions.
Caleb and Bethany seemed to have the perfect relationship, that is, until the diagnosis hit that changed both of their lives forever. Bethany stood by his side through countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Over a year’s time, the once 6’3” 220-lb fitness buff had been reduced to a skeleton-like shadow of what he once was.
The happy couple had planned to get married in October, but realizing that Caleb may not make it that long, they decided to coordinate the wedding in the hospital. The cancer was not relenting.
As the struggle of the past year flashed before Bethany’s eyes at the bedside ceremony, the minister continued with a gripping quote from C.S. Lewis: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, and he speaks to us in our conscience, but he shouts in our pain…It is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
She could relate all too well, though their love had transcended the suffering.
“The kind of love that makes us want to put someone else first, the kind of love that makes us want to commit the rest of our moments to the well being of another, that kind of love only comes from God. And the Bible calls this agape love,” he said. “We have clearly seen that kind of love in Caleb and Bethany.”
As they went to pledge their love and devotion to one another “for every moment God gives [them],” the idea of ‘til death do us part’ took on a whole new meaning.
Bethany prepared some beautiful words for Caleb that she delivered through tear-stained eyes:
“Hey handsome. I can honestly say that I’ve waited for this day my entire life–the day I get to become your wife. How lucky am I that you chose me to spend your life with. You are the light of my life. You’ve taught me more about love in this last year than I ever thought was possible. You complete me and you will always hold the biggest piece of my heart. I am honored to have you as my husband. No matter how much time we have together, you will always be the love of my life. I love you forever.”
That ‘forever’ lasted only 7 days.
The following Monday Caleb was taken to the hospice. On Wednesday, they were finally able to secure their marriage license, which was mounted proudly at his bedside table. He wore his Superman shirt, and his red cape hung on the wall next to him.
“It’s because he’s our hero,” his mom said. “He’s been fighting so hard. He’s so strong.”
Thursday, his heart stopped.
Bethany believed that her hero had to keep it beating just long enough to see their marriage become official.
She cuddled up next to him on Wednesday as his breathing became more labored and each successive heartbeat became less promising.
She knew he was in pain, and she knew losing him would bring her pain. People had often asked her why she would do this if she knew it could only end in heartbreak.
But for her, it was never a question. “Honestly, it was never a decision to me. We didn’t want to get married because we had to. It was because we wanted to,” she said.
In his short time, he made her life worth living. She was his angel. He was her hero.
Bethany knew they would one day meet again in heaven.
And she didn’t care if she had to spend the rest of her life waiting for Superman…
The sweetest wedding you ever did see!! Mr. & Mrs. Hanby 9.24.15
Posted by Brittney Woodard on Thursday, September 24, 2015