Brooke was our little princess. She was spoiled not only by me but by her father and four older brothers as well. She was beautiful and intelligent, but also compassionate and loving. She never put herself first; she lived to make others happy. She made our souls sing.
Brooke met Dan in her junior year of college. I loved her phone calls even more now. Her laughter and giggles when she talked about Dan made my heart smile.
But when he graduated, Dan took a position two states away with an esteemed accounting firm. Over the next year Dan and Brooke kept in constant contact. I could tell my daughter was in love so I prayed nightly their hearts would remain strong and true, and would someday be united as one.
Brooke graduated with honors and applied for several jobs near Dan’s home. It didn’t take her long to be offered one. Now they were not only close in heart, but also close in proximity as they shared day-to-day life. Two years passed before I got the phone call I dreamed of and prayed for.
My princess was getting married!
They set a date for the following summer. Since it was already January, we had a year and a half to prepare for this joyous occasion. Brooke and I began planning a fairy-tale wedding—the only kind fit for a princess.
But on December 2, the fairy-tale world came crashing down. A simple yearly exam revealed horrifying news: Brooke had breast cancer and it was already quite advanced. We cried for hours.
Why was this happening? Why Brooke? Why my baby? Why not me? I just didn’t understand. I was terrified, confused and angry all at the same time. But I soon brushed all my emotions aside to put Brooke first.
I assured her we would beat this thing and life would go on as planned. She would grow old with Dan and the children they would one day have. I knew my princess would be okay. She had to. She was my baby and I would not say good-bye to her. After all, this wasn’t the way things were supposed to happen.
But the doctors were honest from the beginning. They only gave Brooke a 20 percent chance of survival. Because of her cancer’s advanced stage, a regimen of drugs and chemotherapy began immediately.
After only a month or so of treatment, the disease spread and my daughter got weaker. We knew Brooke had only a short time left. My heart was broken and beaten.
Throughout, Dan remained strong. He was there for Brooke every step of the way. She had lost all of her hair, dropped so much weight she couldn’t even sit without help and could stay awake no longer than ten to twenty minutes at a time. Yet Dan was there to love and support her.
One day, Dan asked for our blessing to marry Brooke before she passed away. He had loved her so long and only wanted one thing in his life: Brooke as his wife. Even if her days left on Earth were uncertain, he wanted them to be spent as a married couple.
We knew she still dreamed of the fairy-tale wedding she would now never have. But we also knew she would not want Dan to marry her when they both knew she was dying. So, we decided the wedding would be a surprise. With help and cooperation from the hospital staff, Dan secretly arranged a lovely ceremony.
When Brooke first realized what was happening, she strongly objected. But Dan explained the most important thing in his life was her. And all he wanted was her as his wife—be it for fifty years or for only a day. Brooke sobbed, but agreed. It was her dream, too.
Dan brought a simple but beautiful white gown, delicate lace scarf and sheer veil to her hospital room. The nurses and I dressed the fragile bride, using the scarf to cover her smooth head and draping the veil gently over it. Even pale and broken, my princess daughter shined. This was her day, the day she had dreamed of and planned for.
There was no elegant church as we’d once imagined. None of her family and friends were in attendance as we’d once hoped. But her beloved Dan was there, they were getting married and that was what mattered most. The two exchanged vows and a touching, sweet wedding kiss. It may not have been the fairy tale, but it was still a dream come true.
Brooke spent sixteen days as the wife of the man she adored and loved. And it wasn’t until after she passed away that I found a letter tucked into her hospital nightstand.
In it, Brooke wrote that she had only ever wanted to love, be loved and to matter to others. She expressed her gratitude for wonderful brothers and loving parents. The day Dan married her, she said, all her dreams came true. She had truly lived her life’s dream. Brooke felt her life was complete; she was neither afraid nor disappointed. And, compassionate to the end, she wished only that none of us had to suffer her loss.
Today, we often see Dan and we love him as our son and Brooke’s husband. After all, he made our daughter a princess when she most deserved to be.