LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Evonne Lee and Don Tyler met purely by accident eight years ago. "He knocked on my door," Lee, 52, said. But Tyler, 53, said he wasn't looking for her.
"I went to see a friend that was her ex-boyfriend, which was my brother-in-law's brother, and he was my friend," Tyler explained.
The friend wasn't there, but he had served the purpose of bringing Lee and Tyler together. "She asked me to go to the store for her and ... we've been together since then," he said Tuesday - a bittersweet wedding day for the couple, who live in Louisville's Shawnee neighborhood.
Turns out the happy ending of this love story is fit more for an opera than a fairy tale.
Reminiscing on their time together, they said that over the past eight years one thing was clear. "It's always been, 'Let's get married,' " Lee said. Tyler added, "When we first met and we got together we decided: We're in it for life."
So they stuck together and years passed, without Tyler popping the question.
Still, they were happy. But that happiness was threatened when Lee was diagnosed in February of last year with lymphoma and T-cell leukemia. She's been in and out of the hospital since then. And now the doctors tell her that the leukemia will soon kill her.
There is nothing they can do to stop that.
It was during one of Lee's hospital stays last Christmas when it finally came to Tyler. "I was laying in bed (and) it just dawned on me, 'We need to do something' " he said.
Tyler proposed to Lee just after midnight on Christmas. "He got down on his knee ... and he surprised me," Lee said.
That proposal set in motion a flurry of activity by relatives, friends, strangers and staff of University Hospital, where Lee has spent the past three weeks. They were married Tuesday in the hospital chapel in a ceremony and reception where the flowers, cake, food, music, photography and even Lee's dress were all donated.
As pictures were being snapped after the ceremony, hospital staffers quietly affixed a handpainted "just married" sign to the back of Lee's wheelchair and tied aluminum cans to it for the trip from the second-floor chapel to the sixth-floor reception.
"Everyone who has contributed to this wedding, I just want to tell them all thank you. We both feel blessed," Lee said in a patient room decorated for the day as a reception hall.
The new couple had each echoed Chaplain Tara Reck and vowed love and faithfulness through plenty, want, joy, sorrow, sickness and health "as long as we both shall live."
They are realistic about how short that might be.
"I know I don't have long. But the time I have, I'm just going to enjoy it," Lee said.
The groom added, "No one knows but God Himself ... and I thank Him so much for giving me Evonne. I love her so much, just like He loves us."
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