We are fortunate to be able to fill up this blog each week with posts about happiness and love.
But unfortunately life has other balancing factors, and today I’m faced with writing one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever had to write.
Our good friend – and former bride – Ronny Jo Villarreal passed away Saturday. Ronny, only 34, had been battling cancer since December 2007. She was first diagnosed in 2004, and the breast cancer, to everyone’s relief, went into remission. But only one year after marrying Andy in Santa Fe – and just months after learning she was pregnant – the cancer returned. She was forced to stop radiation treatment to give birth to their daughter. Maddy was born perfectly healthy. Ronny knew what a hard fight she had in front of her, but because of Maddy she had even more of a reason to live.
Ronny not only fought back, she fought back loudly. She was in Newsweek. She was on CNN. She was everywhere that she felt her story could help make a difference to others by being a proponent of new, potentially life-saving drugs, not only for her but for all the others in her situation.
Ronny was always one of our most special brides. We would email back and forth all the time about photography (she was a great photographer), the rivalries between our two universities, and how her fat cat Diego was the perfect match for my fat cat Mary Jo.
And when it came time for Erin’s and my wedding, Ronny was the first to offer help with the planning. In the end, the rigorous treatment schedule prevented Ronny, Andy and Maddy from attending. But in their place, Ronny sent us her beloved rosary, which she took to every chemotherapy session and was one of her most important possessions, and a set of Mexican arras, which played a significant role in our ceremony.
Erin and I will be in Florida next week to photograph a wedding, and we had been planning for months to stay with Ronny and Andy at their house there. But when Andy called me last week, he had bad news. Ronny’s liver was failing and she was going to be leaving the hospital to go into Hospice care. We hoped Ronny would make it long enough so we could see her, but she passed away just a couple days later.
By coincidence, we were in Tampa yesterday, so we drove up to Jacksonville where they live. We missed the service by just a few hours, but were able to spend time at Ronny and Andy’s house with all their friends and family. We also finally got to meet their beautiful Maddy.
Ronny, wherever you are, know that we love you and we will take lots of photos of Maddy as she grows up. Andy is an incredible father, and Maddy is going to be so much like you. We will always remember you for what you are – an angel.
Ronny and Andy’s wedding and engagement session on my first blog.