Family, friends, strangers and members of the media crowded under and around a white tent on the lawn of Schenectady’s Rose Garden on Friday.
The Rev. Henry Frueh blessed the marriage of Jahaysia Graham and Jathyis LaJuett, and the young Schenectady couple, both in white sitting side by side in wooden chairs, kissed. Then they kissed again.
Cheers of “Amen!” and “Allelujah!” and applause rang out.
“And we’re not even quite done here yet,” said Frueh, a chaplain with The Community Hospice, which organized the wedding.
Hundreds were in attendance to witness the marriage of Graham, 19, a hospice patient who is battling cancer, and LaJuett, 20. The wedding came together quickly over the course of the past few weeks after LaJuett proposed. The
couple wasted no time due to the seriousness of Graham’s illness; Graham, who has a prosthetic leg, was diagnosed in January 2013 with osteosarcoma, a disease that has weakened her and caused her to become short of breath.
While the wedding was a joyful event, Graham’s health became a part of ceremony when Frueh, reading through the vows, asked LaJuett to repeat the words “For better or for worse.” LaJuett choked up and had to pause before continuing.
Graham, when asked to repeat the words “In sickness and in health,” also cried.
When Freuh presented the newly married couple, Zair Sheffield, 5, Graham’s nephew and the day’s ring bearer, ran crying to his aunt and gave her a hug.
“I’m so sad,” he said as the crowd applauded the newlyweds.
After her daughter walked down the aisle arm-in-arm with her new husband, an emotional LaToy Sheffield said she “always tries to do more than everybody else thinks she should do.” On Friday, Graham was set on walking down the aisle without her oxygen tank, which she relies on at all times, and was successful.
Sheffield said she asked God to help her daughter make it to her husband-to-be, who stood solemnly at the end of the aisle.
“I said, ‘You must be her oxygen all the way up there. I need you right now,’ ” Sheffield said. “And he did it.”
The Community Hospice contributed money for the wedding from its Wish Fund, and donations from other local sources and across the country flooded in after the couple’s wedding plans went viral on social media. Frueh made note of the couple’s strong fanbase, as well as their family and “host of friends who have come to know you and embrace you.”
“There is an entire virtual world out there also who have an interest in you,” he said during the ceremony. “Last I knew, there were some 10 million views on the Facebook page and 350,000 likes for your wedding dress alone. What a wonderful cloud of supporters for you.”
Before the wedding, as LaJuett stepped out of a white limousine, Mary LaJuett rushed to give her grandson a hug.
“I cried. He didn’t know I was coming,” said Mary LaJuett, who traveled from Kentucky for the wedding. “I’m very proud of that boy. Very, very proud. He’s got a good heart.”
Latrisha Scruggs of Niskayuna said Graham, a friend she has known since before middle school, deserved to be happy.
“This is amazing,” Scruggs, 18, said. “Jahaysia deserves this. She’s going through a lot right now, so this is something that is good for her.”