• Sun, Nov 24 - 5:20 pm ET

In A Story Straight Out Of ‘A Walk To Remember’ Make-A-Wish Gives A Dying Bride Her Dream Wedding

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I guess today is an official “feels” day, because this next story is like something out of a Nicholas Sparks book (you know, if they weren’t terrible). Thanks to the Make-A-Wish foundation, 18-year-old Leslie Rivera was able to marry her high school sweetheart in a touching ceremony, after months of battling an aggressive form of leukemia.

Leslie, from Murrieta, California, was diagnosed with leukemia back in April, and the diagnosis is grim. When she was referred to the Make-A-Wish foundation, the only thing she wanted to do was marry her boyfriend, Daniel Mendez, before dying, which they made happen this past Thursday.

The couple’s love story is also like something out of a novel. The two met in an anti-racism group at their school last October, and have been attached at the hip ever since. After they graduated from school back in April, Leslie was forced to spend the majority of her time at the hospital, undergoing treatments for her cancer. Daniel stayed by her side through everything, and the two spend a good deal of time watching the show My Fair Wedding, who Make-A-Wish reached out to for her wedding.

David Tutera, from My Fair Wedding, quickly got on board and a number of vendors were also willing to help, and together they put together a beautiful ceremony for the couple. According Make-A-Wish representative, Sarah Pizzaruso:

“Watching Leslie absolutely radiate in front of her guests, greeting people with a smile, staring so lovingly at her new husband as they toasted the crowd – you would have never known the challenges she is going through. And watching Daniel care for her, assisting her walking, holding her hands during the vows – there is no question these two are meant to be together.”

I’m not usually a huge fan of weddings (they’re beautiful, just not my cup of tea), but I was truly touched by this story. I think every parent (even ones who don’t typically like the whole “white wedding” thing) at least considers the day that their daughters might get married, and I’m happy that this family was able to realize that dream before Leslie passes away. Leslie is currently in hospice, according to the Make-A-Wish website.

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  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    This is really beautiful, but so sad! Poor kids!

  • Mel

    I realize this makes me sound like a huge jerk. I really do. But for this couple, unfortunately, this wedding was simply a party. Don’t get me wrong, a party for a dying woman is a wonderful thing if she wants it. But a wedding is supposed to be the kickstart to a marriage, not serve as a pageant. Sadly this couple will not get to have a marriage. Now this poor man is not only going to be devastated but he’s going to start his adult life as a widower. I’m so truly sorry for these people and everyone that loves them. I just feel like this made a joke out of a wedding in some twisted way. I’m fully prepared for people to disagree and I understand it makes me sound heartless. I’m really not, but these are just my honest thoughts on this particular matter.

    • DaisyJupes

      I completely understand where you’re coming from on this. But I know for me, I would rather marry my dying boyfriend than to always regret never having the chance. I suppose it comes down to what the survivor would feel after their passing (from the people in my life who have done this, it seems to be a source of comfort) and what the one dying wants to do. I would say that’s it’s not a real wedding in the normal sense, like you pointed out, but it’s a comfort- whatever it is.

    • Mel

      That makes sense. I guess I’m only looking at the practical matters, but watching a loved one die surely makes practical matters not matter so much anymore. I’m not condemning the choice per se. I’m just more of a realistic person instead of going on just the feels. It can surely be traced to my mother who is an unfeeling narcissist. That’s not an exaggeration. Regardless, I’m just so sorry for these people and am genuinely glad for any joy they can have.

    • keelhaulrose

      I don’t know the religion of the couple, but it may be more making a commitment to God to love each other to death do them part, even though that will most likely happen sooner rather than later. But that commitment to each other in front of God may be really important to them, and in this country that usually comes with a party after.
      And that’s not even touching the possibility that they were committed virgins until marriage, where, if that’s the case, I can see why they’d want a wedding while she still has the strength for intimate relations. I’m sorry if that sounds crass, but it is something some people do, and while they aren’t marrying for the tax reasons there are aspects of a marriage they can enjoy with the time she has left.

    • Mel

      That’s entirely possible, of course. Not being a religious person myself, the rationale doesn’t really add up. But, the point of religion and spirituality is often believing in the possible or magical rather than the rational and practical. Even though it’s nothing something that appeals to me, if that brings them or you some peace and joy, then I’m for it :)

    • A different Mel

      There are no guarantees in life. You could get married and have your spouse die in a freak accident a few days or months after the wedding. It happens and it’s horrible but that doesn’t make it any less important to those who made the commitment. I get what you’re saying about it being about it being a big party but I don’t see your point about being a widower. If he loves her enough to marry her, the impact will be the same regardless of the paperwork. In fact, having gone through with the paperwork may actually bring him some peace and comfort after she’s gone.

    • Mel

      You’re absolutely right about the possibility of losing your spouse quickly. That’s not the same as a guarantee of losing your spouse immediately. The unfortunate and terrible facts in this case are that this wedding/party has legal ramifications, if that’s a good word. I’ll say again, that I can’t imagine the knowledge of knowing your love is about to die. I do know what it’s like after it happens. My first love died. It was horrendous. I can only be somewhat glad that there were no legal effects of this terrible loss. It has affected my life to be sure, but didn’t leave me a widow. Again, the practicality of the situation is what doesn’t work for me.

    • elle

      I actually kind of see what you are saying here. For married people there is a lot of stuff that goes into uniting 2 people….how will this affect health insurance for her, does she have any medical debt or will she that will then transfer to her husband etc. There is a lot of unsexy stuff that you have to consider before marrying and while I love the idea I also worry how it will affect his life…. (I’m an accountant! This is the kind of things we think about!)

    • whiteroses

      IMHO- if Kim Kardashian can get married and it’s touted as the wedding of the century, then get divorced 72 days later when the cameras are turned off? If people can get married over the weekend then divorced 48 hours later? Some people already treat marriage as a joke, and they have much worse reasons to do it than this couple does. I have a hard time seeing how a couple who seem to genuinely love each other shouldn’t get married, no matter the time she has left.

      I love my husband just as much as I did when we got married. The only thing that’s different is that our relationship is universally, legally recognized. This man will be heartbroken either way. At least this way, he can let his wife go knowing that he helped her fulfill a wish she never would otherwise have had.

    • Mel

      I wasn’t really comparing this wedding/marriage to others that are nonsense. I had assumed that even if I think a legal ceremony was ill-advised, that it was certainly genuinely undertaken. When you start comparing one marriage to another, the argument gets so broad that I can’t even wrap my tiny brain around it :) I’ve known couples who were married for years, but one or both were lying and cheating and it all went to shit. So, if I were a betting woman, I would certainly place my money on the idea that Kim K. and others entered into their marriages lightly, that’s just not something I can really know, now can I?

      Basically, I would never question anyone’s reason or intention for entering marriage. Someone’s marriage/love is a private matter, even if they share it with the media. So, I guess there was really no point in replying to you, since you and I are having two different conversations. You can decide the validity of peoples’ marriages, and I can just express some questions as to whether an official legal ceremony for this particular couple was a wise decision. And, we’ll both end up in the same place since we’re just commenters and they’re the ones actually living their lives.

    • whiteroses

      I’m not deciding validity of marriage, though it’s hard for me to believe that someone takes marriage seriously if they get married and then divorced in less time than it takes for me to go through a bottle of nail polish.

      My point was simply that other people have gotten married for far worse reasons than this couple have done. Whether or not this was a wise decision is, as you say, completely up to them. Presumably, all things being equal, they’ve considered all the possibilities and in the young man’s case, he’s decided that it’s more important to him that they are able to be together for whatever time she’s got left. More power to them, I say.

    • Jessica

      I think regardless of whether they’ve married or not he’s going to be devastated. A spouse has more rights than a boyfriend, so if/when she’s hospitalized he’ll be able to be in the room with her all the time, not just during visiting hours. Any opportunity for her to have any joy is so important and if a wedding makes her and her family happy, I say go for it.

    • Aldonza

      That’s what I was thinking. This will allow him to be recognized as family, where boyfriend status, legally, does not.

    • Mel

      That’s a really good point, Jessica. I hadn’t thought about the practicalities of visiting rights. Thanks for bringing this up.

    • Rachel Sea

      It doesn’t matter how much time you get it matters that you had it. My best friend’s husband dropped dead a few days after their wedding, to the shock of all. If she had it to do over again, she’d still marry him, because they had that beautiful day.

      The only people who can decide for a couple what the wedding means is the couple. If it wasn’t a joke to them, then it wasn’t a joke at all.

    • Mel

      I’m so sorry for your and your friend’s loss.

    • footnotegirl

      A wedding is a ceremony where two people confirm the promises and feelings they have in their hearts and have already spoken to one another in their private moments. Do you think he’d be LESS devastated if they didn’t get married? That somehow that would make the loss of their young love easier to bear? They’ve already been through more together than many couples who have been married years and years.

    • Mel

      Clearly that’s not what I mean. There’s nothing that could make this terrible loss easier or harder. If you actually read what I wrote instead of jumping down my throat you would see that I said that I was thinking about the practical matters only and that I’m so sad that they won’t get to share a longer life together. Disagreeing with me is obviously fine, but shouting at me with the capital letters and posing snarky, rhetorical questions to imply that I have no idea what I’m talking about is not a really good way to discuss a matter like this. Thank you for your reply and have a good night.

    • tpeazy

      This young lady went to school with my daughter. I watched her graduate this past summer. This week she died. Sad for all involved. So comforting to know the Bible holds out hope of a resurrection. John 5:28,29.

  • Paul White

    OK, I’m crying.

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