Every so often, a story emerges from the internet that really tugs at our heartstrings — and the story of Heather and David Mosher’s wedding is exactly one of those stories. According to WFSB, Heather had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at the end of 2016, the same day her partner proposed to her, and passed away from cancer a day after the wedding on Dec. 23, 2017. Photos taken during the Moshers’ ceremony have since gone viral, and it’s no wonder why: The strength of the images and the story they tell is astonishing.
The photos were taken by Heather Mosher’s close friend and bridesmaid, Christina Karas. “One of my dearest friends got married this past Friday, Dec. 22, to the man of her dreams,” wrote Karas in one of the image’s Instagram captions. “She had been battling stage 4 cancer and it had spread throughout her body, but she was determined to marry her soul mate [sic].”
Continued Karas, “I am in awe of the strength Dave’s love inspired in Heather even in her last hours. She was his great love and he washers. Heather, I miss and love you more than I can say. Thank you for sharing this life’s journey with me.”
David and Heather met at a swing dancing class in 2015, according to NBC Connecticut. “There was one night she was wearing these killer red pants and I told the two guys sitting next to me I’m going to ask that girl out tonight,” David recently told the news outlet. At the time, Heather (née Lindsay) was seeing someone else; however, four months later, she was single again and said yes to going on a date with David.
By the end of 2016, they were ready to get engaged — but Dec. 23, 2016, turned out to be momentous for more reasons than one: Not only was David planning to propose, but Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer that same day. “She didn’t know I was going to propose that night, but I said to myself, she needs to know that she’s not going to go down this road alone,” David told WFSB. So, later that night, they went on a horse-drawn carriage ride, and under a streetlight, he asked her to marry him.
They received news five days later that Heather’s diagnosis was triple negative, an aggressive form of breast cancer in which three receptors that commonly fuel cancer growth — estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neugene — aren’t present in the tumors. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, triple negative breast cancer occurs in around 10 to 20 percent of diagnosed breast cancers; it can be very difficult to treat because, as the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation notes, many of the most effective cancer treatments target the receptors that aren’t present in triple negative breast cancer.
In September of 2017, Heather and David received word that her cancer had spread. “We found out it was in her brain and a couple months later, she was on life support with a breathing tube,” David told WFSB. But although it was thought that she wouldn’t make it to October, she kept fighting. “She was tough,” David said. “Anyone else would have given up a long time ago. The doctors even said we don’t know how she’s still here.”
The wedding date had been set for Dec. 30 — but in the middle of December, Heather’s doctors encouraged them to move the date up because they knew Heather was not likely to last until that date. On Dec. 22, Heather’s friends and loved ones helped her into a dress and veil, and in ceremony performed at Heather’s bedside in the chapel of Saint Francis Hospital, she and David said their “I dos.”
18 hours later, Heather passed away — one year to the day that David had proposed.
“It was the hardest day of my life,” David told PEOPLE of the ceremony. “Especially the 45 minutes or so of the service itself. As we were approaching the ceremony, it just had this feeling like it was more of a funeral than a wedding because I knew my time with her was coming to an end.” But, as hard as it was, it was worth it: “She was just so happy and triumphant, because she knew that in a way she had beat cancer because she lived longer than anyone thought she was going to,” said David. “She made it to her wedding day, which was her biggest goal. Cancer couldn’t take that away from her.”
Christina Karas first posted just one photo from the ceremony — the one with Heather raising her arms in triumph with David at her side — to Facebook on Dec. 23. “I’ve been asked to share this beautiful photo I took,” Karas wrote in the initial Facebook post. “Heather in all her glory next to the man of her dreams. She did it! They did it! What a miracle to witness the love between these two soul mates.” She later posted both this photo and several others to Instagram, at which point they proceeded to go viral.
“It was a miracle,” Karas said to TODAY of the image of Heather with her arms in the air. “When she raised her arms, she was at death’s door, but she was joyful and exuberant. She just wanted it to be a celebration.”
That, I’d argue, is exactly why the Moshers’ story and their wedding photos went viral: They tug at our heartstrings, sure — but more than that, they put so much into perspective. No matter how scary the world gets, there is still love in the world, and it is still worth fighting for, even when the circumstances are as bleak as they can possibly be.
Heather’s wake was held on Dec. 29, and her Celebration of Life Service occurred on Dec. 30. Both the wake the service were held at the Plantsville Congregational Church in Plantsville, Conn. — the same church at which David and Heather had originally planned to get married — and the service occurred at the time and date on which they had meant to officially tie the knot. The family has noted that donations in her memory can be made to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.
There is much about the world that isn’t fair. But how we cope with that fact? That matters a lot. And that’s what the Moshers’ story teaches us. Consider it a lesson well learned.