When Jathyis LaJuett got down on his knee to propose to Jahaysia Graham a few weeks ago, the thoughts racing through his mind were likely the same any guy would have at a moment like that.
“I didn’t know how she would react or what the answer was going to be or how her mom or anybody would feel,” the 20-year-old explained.
But he had something much more troubling to consider: Jahaysia is battling cancer and is under hospice care.
The two met about four years ago, when Jahaysia’s family moved across the street from Jathyis’ mother in Schenectady. Jathyis said he thought Jahaysia was wonderful from day one.
“She’s the sweetest, most beautiful [girl],” he said. “She’s very generous, loving, caring, everything you could think about. She is, in my eyes, perfect, too. I look past the sickness. You know, it’s not really about that.”
A little over a week ago, he popped the question.
“It wasn’t really nowhere special,” he lamented. “It was at home.”
But Jahaysia didn’t seem to mind. She was very surprised and emotional, he recalled.
Her answer was “Yes.”
Jahaysia, who’s 19, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in January 2013. Her mother, LaToy Sheffield, said the disease has made her middle child weak and short of breath. Fluid is building up in her daughter’s abdomen and must be drained.
The good news is, Jahaysia is in love, and there is a wedding in the works. Sheffield is trying hard to focus on that.
Aware of how serious Jahaysia’s illness is, the newly engaged couple decided to plan their wedding quickly. It will be held Friday.
When The Community Hospice staff got wind of their plans, they offered to help organize the event and support it with money from the organization’s Wish Fund. Fueled by donations from the community, the fund is tapped to help people achieve their goals and dreams while under hospice care.
The Community Hospice put up a Facebook post about the upcoming wedding Saturday night, complete with pictures of Jahaysia trying on wedding gowns. The post went viral.
“I’d say our average post gets maybe 80, a couple hundred ‘likes.’ That’s our norm,” said Laurie Mante, executive director of The Community Hospice.
Within 13 hours, the post about the wedding had already received about 150,000 likes and donation offers were flooding in from all over the country. As of Tuesday afternoon, the post had racked up more than 346,000 likes and had been shared close to 12,000 times.
“We were overwhelmed at how much people were just willing to jump in and be part of it. We had people offering to bake cakes who were in Colorado,” Mante said.
A woman who owns a children’s boutique in New Jersey is sending a flower girl dress. Someone in Arizona is shipping a guest book and ring bearer’s pillow. A donor in Florida is making personalized wedding favors. Local businesses have stepped up to contribute attire, food, rings, flowers, entertainment, tents, chairs and more.
Jathyis said the outpouring of support has blown his mind. Initially, the couple had envisioned a small wedding with maybe 40 or 50 guests.
“But once we put it on Facebook, everybody wanted to come and see and is excited. A lot of people will be there,” he said.
Jathyis said he’s excited, too, but mostly for his bride-to-be.
“She’s getting everything that she’s wanted, and she’s happy,” he said.
Sheffield said she’s very pleased with the young man her daughter has chosen to marry.
“Just to be the age that he is and come into my daughter’s life and just want to be a part of enjoying every moment, every day, every minute with her, rather than to be, you know, going off and doing what other 20-year-olds do at this time and age, I just really appreciate him,” she said. “He’s with her 24-7. I feel like he almost postponed his life to be there for her, and he doesn’t even take a second thought. He doesn’t even bat an eye at it.
“I’ve been with the both of them when she’s in the hospital. He just constantly rubs her and asks her if she’s OK and kisses her on the cheek and calls her beautiful. It’s amazing.”
This story was originally published for The Daily Gazette.