There are heartwarming Valentine's Day stories, and then there are ones like this: A teenage cancer patient who married her best friend on Feb. 12 died early Wednesday morning.
As first reported by the El Paso Times, Lydia Rodriguez, 19, married her best friend, 21-year-old Joshua Ordoñez, in the El Paso Children's Hospital just a few days before Valentine's Day. Rodriguez suffered from advanced-stage kidney cancer, having been diagnosed just four years earlier at the age of 15, and it had spread to her intestines and lymph nodes. Recently, doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized to her lungs, and Rodriguez decided to stop all treatments. Then, Ordoñez asked her to marry him.
She said yes. "Because I love him," she told the El Paso Times.
"She broke out in tears and then said yes. So I guess yes, that is the hesitation. But other than that, she said yes, right away," Ordoñez told a local ABC News affiliate. Ordoñez and Dominguez had met online in 2017 and in person in November, "We got together and we were happy. And then we found out she was getting sick again. We just didn't focus too much on that. We focused on how we could make each other happy in the days that we had together," Ordoñez said.
The staff at the El Paso Children's Hospital worked quickly to put the couple's nuptials together — they did it in four hours, in fact — decorating a room on the hospital's 10th floor with red roses and inviting the duo's families and friends. Dominguez wore a white wedding dress and dressed her hair with flowers, and even managed to walk down the aisle with her parents.
"It's what we've always dreamed of doing, and to be able to give her that, with whatever she's going through — it's a perfect moment for us," Dominguez's father, Michael Dominguez, told the El Paso Times.
Robert Warmath, a pastor from a local church, performed the ceremony (which was technically a "marriage commitment," since the two did not have enough time to obtain a marriage license). "I ensured both families that I knew the days and weeks ahead would be very difficult, and I wanted to be available to provide any ministry or comfort that I could," Warmath said to the El Paso Times. Dominguez and Ordoñez also exchanged vows, with Ordoñez saying of his young bride, "They tell you to marry your best friend — she's my best friend." He added, "I love her with all my heart, and want her to keep fighting until she's ready."
But though Monday's occasion was a happy one, Dominguez's condition deteriorated fast. She died at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, reportedly in her new husband's arms, while surrounded by her family.
"This morning she woke up and said she was hot and she needed to do her hair," Audrey Garcia, director of marketing for El Paso Children's Hospital, said in a statement to news affiliate KHOU11. "So mom put up her hair in a bun. She got a bit weak afterwards and laid down. She turned to look at her husband and smiled. She sat up and gave him the biggest hug. She then laid back down and all her family told her it was OK ... she could let go. And in two breaths, she was gone."
While Dominguez's time with Ordoñez was brief, he said he cherished it. "She brought everything to the plate, all of her emotions. She opened up like no one else could. She had me open up like I normally don't do," he told the ABC affiliate. And her mother, Marisa Sanchez, said Dominguez's spirit and dying wedding wish managed to bring her own nuclear family back together, since she and Michael Dominguez are divorced.
"Divorce can do some crazy things. And my daughter brought it all back, but with more — a bigger family, a bigger blessing and more love than we could ever imagine," she said.