Durham, N.C. — A patient at Duke University Hospital learned last week that he has perhaps only days to live. The one thing he wanted to do before dying was marry the love of his life.
So hospital staff and some family members made it happen.
Sarah Myler, 47, and Jeff Benesch, 49, met nine years ago in Martinsville, Va., through Facebook.
“It ended up being very much love at first sight, and we have been together ever since,” Myler said Tuesday. “He’s my soulmate.”
She described Benesch as “the person you can call at 2 in the morning and ask absolutely anything.”
“He really just is so generous and will do anything for anybody,” she said.
Benesch has been hospitalized on and off for months with advanced congestive heart failure. Last Thursday, he was told he’s not eligible for a heart transplant because of his weakened condition, meaning he doesn’t have much time left.
“It could be days. It could be weeks. It could be months. It could be any time. They don’t know,” Myler said.
So, after putting off getting married first because of his health and then because of the coronavirus pandemic, the couple acted fast.
Myler said her niece worked with nurses and other Duke Hospital staff members to arrange the wedding, which was held Friday in a garden outside the hospital. A hospital chaplain officiated, and both Myler and Benesch had family members there.
“Had I had a year to plan, I don’t think I could have planned anything better,” Myler said.
“It’s not a binding ceremony. We don’t have a marriage certificate or anything like that. It was strictly a religious ceremony,” she said. “It was important for us to have the moment together. I wanted that as a memory, and he wanted that as a memory. There’s not a whole lot of memories that we’re going to be able to make at this point, so this is a very special one that we’ve been able to.”
Even though their moments as husband and wife will be few, Myler said she’s focused on making them count. She’s been commuting daily from Martinsville to Durham to be with Benesch in the hospital and was recently given permission to spend nights at the hospital.
“The big thing for me is to be strong for him, and then I can have people help me be strong for me later,” she said. “Nothing else matters at this point. Not COVID, not any distance. … It’s what you do for the person you love. You’re there for them. It’s till death do us part. But it’s beyond that. It’s forever for us – forever. However long we have, it’s forever for us.”