A Tale of True Love in the Face of Tragedy

by A-Badgero

Bethany and Ryan only had a short time together but they lived every moment they had.

Bethany Schmidt and Ryan Smith met their freshman year while attending the University of Oregon in 2005 and  instantly they became inseparable. After graduating they moved into a one bedroom apartment and began planning their life together. They were at that time when most young adults are just starting to get their lives together, moving in together, traveling, starting new jobs, acquiring a new pet and making big plans for the future. Bethany and Ryan felt like the world was at their finger tips when suddenly they received news that brought their world to a stop.

In early January of 2011 Ryan was diagnosed with a rare and particularly aggressive form of testicular cancer but the young couple and their families stayed hopeful that he would recover. Dedicated to the love of her life, Bethany took time off of work to be at Ryan’s side and support him through countless intensive chemotherapies, surgery and strenuous hospital stays. They tried everything they could to ensure they would be able to continue their lives together.

The two had always planned to get married but were putting off the occasion to focus on Ryan’s health and so they had lots of time to plan. Knowing it would be the only way to surprise her, Ryan proposed during his illness. On a road trip home to visit family he asked that they pull over so he could stretch his legs. As they walked the shoreline Ryan suddenly dropped to one knee and instantly realizing what was happening, Bethany’s knees buckled and she joined him on the ground and said,“YES”.

Despite their best efforts Ryan was not getting better and doctors discontinued his treatment in November and told him he should focus on treasuring the 6 months he had left. Hearing this news the couple decided to begin planning for a wedding in the next two months. Unfortunately, Ryan’s heath took a turn for the worse and his 6 months turned into a couple weeks as his organs were beginning to shut down.

Knowing their time together would be cut short, all the mattered to Ryan and Bethany was getting married. With the overwhelming support from family and friends and even some strangers a wedding was planned in just three days. The wedding took place in the restaurant they went to after Ryan proposed. The restaurant owner, Ariana made sure they got whatever they wanted saying,”You two had to bear so much in this past year I just wanted to be able to say yes to whatever you wanted.”

It was not a typical wedding ceremony, they were no bridesmaids or groomsmen, fancy themes or cake cutting, it was simple and very personal. The backdrop where they said their “I dos” was a chalk board with quotes from the letter Bethany gave to Ryan on their one year anniversary, “You will not believe how glad I am to have met you”  All that mattered to them was that their love for each other was shared and their relationship made official. One of Bethany’s favorite parts of the night came near the end. Ryan was unable to stay for the dinner due to feeling ill so he left to go lie down. Despite his struggle Ryan returned closer to the end of the evening. This part of the evening was the most intimate for the couple as they sat with the small group left and took turns sharing memories, stories and reflections that brought both laughter and tears. Looking back at the ceremony Bethany says, “There was more love in that room than I have felt my entire life”.

Just six weeks after they were married, Ryan was gone, he passed away January 24th at the young age of 24. Bethany has no regrets, “Although it was way too short, we were able to be married and celebrate our one-month anniversary, and that’s a gift that no one can take away.”  Now a grieving young widow, Bethany recalls memories of her late husband, “the most wonderful person I have ever known” and is just happy to have known him and to have been able to cherish every moment together as husband and wife. It seems like something out of a Hollywood romantic tragedy, two people so in love at the beginning of their lives which was cut short by mortality.

Over 300 people filled the University of Oregon Ford Alumni Center for Ryan’s memorial service. Ryan was always fascinated with airplanes, during the service each person had a small origami plane on their chair. Many wrote heartfelt messages on them and gave them to Bethany while others where asked to hold the plane up and think about what they might want to say to Ryan. Looking into a future of uncertainty Bethany is sure of this, she will never forget the best friend who loved her so completely and she will be forever grateful to the people who gave her support and helped her survive through this tragedy.

Read more:

Our Story | Bethany & Ryan


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