April 2, 2014 -- It was a day she’ll never forget.
An 11-year-old girl from California walked down the aisle with her dying dad in a tear-jerking ceremony that pronounced the pair “daddy and daughter.”
“It was not easy to do, let me tell you, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Jim Zetz, 62, who has stage-4 pancreatic cancer and is expected to live only a few more months.
“In twenty years, when she really gets married, she’s going to be happy that happened," he said.
A photographer close to the Zetz family arranged the mock wedding as a surprise, to give Jim the chance to celebrate a milestone he’ll likely miss as his cancer progresses.
Lindsay Villatoro of Love Song Photography secured donations for Jim’s suit, his daughter Josie’s white gown, a wedding cake, catering and flowers.
Jim’s wife Grace Zetz, 54, called the ceremony a “beautiful” surprise.
“We didn’t really know what was going to happen –- she put it all together in 72 hours,” she said. “She came in with three truckloads of decorations for my backyard!”
It happened on March 14, Josie’s 11th birthday.
She’s old enough to grasp the seriousness of her dad’s condition, her mom said.
“The therapists recommend we use big words and make her understand that none of this is her fault,” Grace said. “This is life and death and Jim has gotten a lot sicker over the past few weeks. She knows she has to be patient and it hurts.”
Jim was diagnosed with cancer last October. Doctors explained it was “fast-growing” and “too late to do anything,” Grace said.
After suffering through three months of chemotherapy, Jim opted to stop treatment and enjoy the months he has left.
“It’s been hard, his diagnosis was an aggressive one and things have gone by so quick,” Grace Zetz said. “We set goals to do so something every week.”
Jim and Grace are on a cruise to Hawaii this week, paid for by donations from their Murrieta, Calif., community.
“With the blessing of the hospice team, I have a suitcase full of drugs and we decided to take a little time to ourselves,” Grace said.