"He wanted his tombstone to say 'husband.'" And with Wednesday's wedding inside the tiny chapel at University of Chicago Medical Center, Javier Rodriguez's wish can come true. The 23-year-old wed his high school sweetheart in front of 50 friends, family, and hospital staff just a day before he was expected to move into hospice care. Rodriguez has just weeks, or perhaps days, left to live as a result of a genetic form of heart disease that has already prompted two heart transplants during his short life, reports the Chicago Tribune. A third transplant isn't possible as Rodriguez battles complications including sepsis, according to a GoFundMe page. But as his doctor Bryan Smith tells the Tribune, the father of a 3-month-old daughter wanted to die a married man.
Preparations began Tuesday afternoon, a few days after Rodriguez decided to enter hospice care, with hospital staff decorating the chapel and baking a three-layer strawberry wedding cake. Come noon Wednesday, a bundle in white watched from a car seat as her parents—Rodriguez in a wheelchair—were married. "From this day forward, you shall not walk alone. My heart will be your shelter, and my arms will be your home," they repeated together. "I'm happy that we were able to do this" but "I'm heartbroken," bride Crystal Cuevas said later. "I didn't grow up with a dad, and that's the one thing I always wanted to give my baby girl and that's what [Rodriguez] wanted." Per the Chicago Sun-Times, he'll spend his final days with his family at home ahead of a crowdfunded "end of life celebration." (Read more Chicago stories.)