Photography by Kristin Sweeting.
On November 12 2016, Fabi & Josh married in a sunset ceremony in Nashville. One month and one day later, Josh’s life was taken by cancer.
I am honored to bring you their story today. Fabi has been so open in letting me ask all of the difficult questions, and answering them with such grace. Would you marry your person, knowing they were dying? It’s something most of us don’t even want to think about, but these two had a characteristically wonderful attitude: “there wasn’t even a question whether or not we would go through with our wedding. We both had plans for a future together and that included a wedding, a marriage, a family and lots of adventures. You don’t put those things on hold and wait and see if the man upstairs is going to give you more time. You live.”
How sweet is it seeing a bride do her mom’s makeup on her own wedding day!
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? As my ‘something old’, I wore my mom’s diamond bracelet that my dad had given her, as well as a gold bracelet that Josh had given me. The bracelet from Josh has the coordinates of our favorite spot in Laguna Beach, where Josh proposed to me. My ‘something new’ was a pair of diamond stud earrings that Josh gave me on our wedding day. One of my bridesmaids let me wear a gold angel pin that her mom had pinned on her wedding dress when she got married as my ‘something borrowed’. And I had a blue decal with ‘Mrs. Powell’ and our wedding date for the bottom of my shoes as my ‘something blue’.
How did you meet? Josh and I met at a bar on Broadway in downtown Nashville in September 2014. There are some aspects in life that you just can’t control; one of those is timing. It was clear from day one that we were placed in each others lives for a reason. It was only two short months after we met that Josh was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer – Synovial Sarcoma of the lower abdomen. He had no idea why I wasn’t running as fast as I could in the opposite direction after hearing his diagnosis. The truth is, I knew what I had found and I wasn’t going to let it go that easily.
Why do you think you didn’t run then, or even later, when Josh proposed? If anyone believes in love, it’s me. When Josh learned about his diagnosis I already knew I loved him. The word cancer wasn’t going to change my feelings for him, or my desire to take a chance on a future together. The thing about life is there are no guarantees. None of us are promised tomorrow so I wasn’t going to let a little “bump in the road”, as Josh called it, scare me away from the love I knew we had for each other. Instead of letting this devastating news ruin the start of something extremely rare and beautiful, we decided to take a chance. I left everything I knew in Southern California to follow my heart, and Josh trusted me with his. By making the decision not to run from the things that scared us, we were fortunate to have an opportunity to experience something that many go a lifetime never knowing.
Most people thought I was crazy for signing up for a relationship that I knew was going to be hard and potentially heartbreaking, but I’m not most people. The truth is, without taking that risk I would’ve never experienced our extraordinary love. It wasn’t always easy, but boy was it worth it. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Josh was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Once you had decided to marry, what prompted you to have a wedding, knowing what lay ahead? You never know what lies ahead! I can say for sure that we never lost hope. Josh had written this down in his journal (and I found it after he passed away): “we just have to find a way. Even if there are more surgeries. I just need to be strong physically, obviously mentally, and have everyone on the same page as far as beating this. I think I’m starting to turn everyone around in the meaning of getting everyone positive and excited to take on this challenge. I feel so good about all of this and it may just be me being overly positive and somewhat unrealistic but why not? Why not me?” He inspired me everyday while he was here on earth and continues to do so while he is gone. He is one of the most exceptional human beings I have ever met. He was a West Point graduate, played football for Army, and carried his tumor all the way through Ranger school. He was the toughest guy around and wasn’t ever going to let anything get in his way. I am honored to be his wife and blessed to have known him.
So it was important for us to share this love with the other people that we loved. These people were on this journey with us too and wanted nothing but to love and support us. It was only fair to share our wedding day with them. You could feel the love at our wedding like something I had never experienced before. Every single guest there wanted the best for us, and that’s how it should be at every wedding.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your relationship? For the past two years Josh fought for his life against this awful disease, with me by his side every step of the way. And in all honesty, I would give anything just to get one of our worst days back.
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? We met on the third story of Honky Tonk Central on Broadway in downtown Nashville, so it only made sense to bring our wedding right back where it all started!
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Our situation was pretty unique as we only had two months to completely change our wedding plans. We had planned our California wedding for May of 2017. In August 2016 we were told to move our date up because the odds weren’t looking good. Immediately after hearing that news Josh turned to me and said we should use our engagement party date, planned for November 2016, as our wedding date, and thats exactly what we did.
Your ceremony in three words. Intimate, magical, unforgettable.
What was your ceremony music? I Won’t Give Up, Jason Mraz / Marry You, Bruno Mars / Good Life, Onerepublic / Die A Happy Man, Thomas Rhett.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? Danny Rhodes officiated our ceremony. We asked our wedding planner for a recommendation and she thought he would be a great fit. Josh and I met Danny for coffee and we knew right away that he was the guy for the job. If you can find someone who makes you feel like that, you’ve hit the jackpot!
What were your vows like? Short and sweet, traditional, and personal. We didn’t want a ceremony that dragged on but one that was powerful and meaningful. Danny Rhodes did an amazing job personalizing traditional vows.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? I think we would both agree that our favorite part was how much love everyone could feel between us. A wedding is so much more than an opportunity to dress up and party. Our ceremony was absolutely magical. I have never seen my husband smile so big in my entire life. It was a vision of true and unconditional love. The mere fact that he was able to show up that night to marry me was a miracle. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. For me, that’s what a wedding ceremony should be like.
How did you feel about marrying Josh knowing he didn’t have much time left? Josh is and always will be my one true love. We experienced things in our short time together that most will never be able to comprehend. Our relationship was a marriage from the very beginning. Moving from California to Tennessee after knowing each other for only five months was a huge commitment. So was loving him unconditionally through sickness and in health. Josh asking me to officially be his wife was the happiest day of my life. He had recently recovered from his tumor removal surgery, the cancer was removed with clear margins, and we were ready to enjoy the next chapter of our lives without cancer. After receiving the bad news in August that the cancer had returned, we immediately started looking for other options. I found a clinical trial for him in California and as soon as he was accepted into the trial we got our hope back. We fought this thing until the very end and always stayed optimistic. Josh actually sent me this text in October just a month before our wedding day, “I couldn’t be more happy to be with anyone else. This new chapter is going to be so fun. We have so much positive upside that is owed to us in life and I think this is where we get it. Full of great surprises and fun. I can’t imagine what life has in store for us but as long as we are together nothing can bring us down. Love you.” Even after being told that he had six months or less to live, he never gave up.
How would you describe your reception? Meaningful. Josh was able to sit and have a bite to eat with me, smash some cake in my face, and share some extremely meaningful words with our guests and myself. That was more than anyone expected given his condition. Josh would’ve gone through any amount of pain in order to share that moment with everyone.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? I wanted it to be simple and chic. I also wanted it to be as easy as possible, so I looked for venues that were all inclusive so I didn’t have to mess around finding individual vendors on my own. Luckily my husband wanted to be involved too, so he was a big help when it came to narrowing things down. Josh and I both have very similar tastes.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Make sure to get a videographer. The speeches are the best part of every wedding in my opinion (aside from the dancing!) It’s incredible hearing about a couple’s love for each other and where it all started. For me, hearing my husband talk about our love was the very best part of our wedding day. To have your husband open up to the most important people in your lives and tell them he loves you is the most romantic thing in the world. I watch our wedding video weekly just to remember what his voice sounds like and to never forget our love for one another.
What other advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Make it about you. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of trying to please everyone, but at the end of the day it’s your wedding. It goes by so fast and you want it to be your dream and not anyone else’s. Investing in a great photographer and videographer was important to us. We cut back on flowers and fluff just so we could spend the extra money on those two things because they were the most important. Our situation was unique because I knew Josh and I probably didn’t have a lot of time left and I wanted to remember our wedding day forever. Our pictures and our wedding video are treasures that I cherish so deeply. They are intimate moments captured in time that I will never get back but always remember. Watching that video and looking at those photos bring tears of joy and sorrow to my eyes. They are constant reminders of how happy we both were on the day and that’s something I never want to forget.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? Absolutely nothing. We experienced the most selfless, extraordinary love. A love that was deeper and more unconditional than anything we had ever known. Having a constant reminder that life is short allowed us to never take our love for granted, and that was such a gift. For me, a love like that only happens once and that is why I am grateful for every minute we spent together; that time will forever be burned into my memory. I will never forget a single moment shared and I will miss him every day until the day that we meet again.
Josh was laid to rest with Full Military Honors on April 7, 2017 at Arlington National Cemetery. To get updates on how to contribute to the Josh Powell Foundation that Fabi is starting in Josh’s honor, follow @LiveLikeJP on Facebook and Instagram.