There is nothing sweeter than a pair of childhood sweethearts living out their dream to get married.
For Nina Marino, 19, and Joey Williams, 21, this was the case. After knowing one another since childhood, they would have their dream wedding, but it would be followed by a huge loss.
Marino was diagnosed with VACTERL syndrome as a child. But this led her to Williams, who has congenital heart defects and chronic pain.
The two attended a summer camp together for children with serious medical conditions and developed a brotherly-sisterly bond.
Realizing they only lived a short distance apart, the two became fast friends.
“We basically grew up like brother and sister and as we got older, we were best friends,” Williams told Inside Edition. “We hung out all the time.”
Their friendship soon began to turn romantic during a trip to Disneyland in 2017. The two had feelings for each other, and a relationship started to blossom.
But one month before they began officially dating, Marino was given devastating news.
“She was diagnosed with cancer a month before we started dating,” Williams recalled. “It was called an undifferentiated sarcoma, which means it’s a sarcoma but we don’t know what kind.”
Because of her illness, Marino spent that summer in the hospital receiving chemotherapy and surgery to remove a tumor on the back of her head.
“We would always just try and find like something fun to do or some adventure to go on if we were both feeling up to it,” Williams said. “We never sat at home and were sad about everything. We were always doing something and she was always so happy.”
Marino got the inkling to propose to Williams at Disneyland, but became sick before she could. So instead, she came up with a Mickey-inspired way to ask.
“I walked into the ICU room and she was in bed wearing the Mickey Mouse ears,” Williams told Inside Edition. “They were made of wood, and they were laser engraved, ‘Will you marry me?’ I said yes, of course.”
But Marino learned that the tumors spread to her lungs, and it was very likely she wouldn’t make it through the night. Doctors told the couple they would need to move their wedding up from the end of the month to that very day.
Contacting a volunteer group, the plans were made to wed the couple at the hospital within a few hours of making the call.
While the wedding was to take place in the hospital chapel, Marino was too weak to walk down the aisle. So they brought the ceremony to her hospital bed.
“They got her three wedding dresses so she could pick out her dress,” Williams told Inside Edition. “They decorated the entire room with photos, they built an arch over her hospital bed for us to get married under. It was beautiful. We both loved it.”
The vows were exchanged in the ICU with the bride in her hospital bed and the groom by her side.
Marino died a short three days later according to WFLD.
Living on without his bride and best friend has been a real challenge for Williams.
“It’s been hard,” Williams said. “She’s been in my life since I was 8. I was in the ER two days ago because I got really sick, and she wasn’t there.”
Photographer Nil Patel, who captured the couple’s wedding, says the young couple’s love is one he won’t soon forget.
“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,” Patel wrote to Love What Matters.
“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.
Marino is no doubt watching over her husband, sending him love and well-wishes no matter where he goes.
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