- Norina and Ray Navarro have been together for five years.
- They had plans to marry, but delayed the plans because of Norina’s cancer.
- Doctors told them time was limited, so Ray organized a wedding.
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On November 29, Ray Navarro woke with a persistent echo in his head: We’re going to get married today. He walked over to his partner of five years, Norina, who was lying in her hospital bed, gave her a kiss, and told her, “We’re getting married today.” Then, he ran out the door.
“I said, ‘What? Now?'” Norina told Insider. “And he said, ‘I’ll be back.'”
Twelve hours later, Ray’s jaw dropped when staff wheeled Norina into the hospital chapel. With an updo and a sparkling white dress, she was the picture of a beautiful bride.
“I wanted to make a promise to her that our love is forever,” Ray said.
They were told they’d better marry quickly
The day before, the couple had had a meeting with Norina’s oncology team. The news was not good. Norina didn’t want to focus on statistics — she wanted to continue to give cancer “a hell of a fight.” But her oncology team had a blunt message: She really needed to do it quickly if she was going to get married.
The couple had marriage in the works: They had the dress, the rings, and even the marriage certificate. But Norina wanted to get married in a church, and Ray wanted to make that happen. It was a bit of denial, he said.
After that meeting with the oncologist, Ray knew he had to act. He had a fitful night’s sleep in Norina’s hospital bed, watching nurses poke and prod her.
“I needed more than just being her boyfriend or fiancé,” he said.
Everyone pitched in to make the day happy
After leaving the hospital that morning, Ray started making calls. He phoned family from around the state, and they started driving the hours to Memorial Hermann in Houston, where Norina was receiving treatment.
At the hospital, the ICU team was already decorating Norina’s hospital room. When a nurse asked whether she’d rather get married in the chapel, the staff searched high and low for a hospital bed that would fit through the doors. Her doctors and the chaplain checked in with Norina to ensure she had the cognitive ability to agree to the marriage, and she told them she was thrilled.
Nurses helped Norina into her dress and found cupcakes for the celebration. A friend of a friend organized flowers, and the post office worked with Ray’s brother so he could take the day off at the last minute. A friend came to do Norina’s hair and makeup, though Norina insisted on putting the final touches on herself.
“It was phenomenal,” Norina said. “The love with which everybody did it really made it a happy day for us.”
Until we are parted by death
At about 6:30 p.m., 12 hours after Ray had told Norina they were getting married, they exchanged vows in the hospital chapel while 30 family members, friends, and medical caregivers surrounded them. During their traditional vows, Norina’s voice cracked when she promised to love and cherish Ray “until we are parted by death.”
“Our vows were so, so meaningful,” Norina said. “Saying them to him and knowing how much he meant them to me —that was the most significant standout of the day. The solemnity of the commitment was really important to me.”
After the ceremony, Norina was very tired, but was able to briefly share cupcakes with her loved ones.
“It was not quite a reception, but as close to one as we could get,” she said.
Hubby and wifey
Shortly after the wedding, staff members transferred Norina to hospice care. She called each day a miracle. Being married brings both Ray and Norina comfort during such a difficult time.
“I am so happy to be married to her,” Ray said. “We lay together, and we hold hands. We call each other ‘hubby’ and ‘wifey.’ It is new, but it was a long time coming.”
Norina said that amid the difficulties of undergoing cancer treatments, the wedding was uplifting.
“For something as precious as this to occur is really, really important,” she said.