Norfolk

Couple wed 36 hours before bride dies in Norfolk hospital

Rute and Andy Ralph Image copyright Bill Vine
Image caption Andy Ralph and his bride Rute managed to fulfil their dream of marriage

A couple who were reunited after more than 20 years apart got married 36 hours before the bride died of cancer.

Rute Ralph, 44, married Andy Ralph, 51, from her Norwich hospital bed last month, as first reported in the Eastern Daily Press,

The pair had dated in 1993 but split up after Mr Ralph admitted being "too young for commitment".

Mr Ralph, from Norwich, said the ceremony had been an "emotional" experience.

He said his wife was "a very, very, strong personality, and believed in following her heart."

The pair had made contact again in 2014, after Mr Ralph approached Rute through Facebook.

"In that first phone call she told me, 'I still love you,'" he said.

By then Mr Ralph was divorced and, like Rute, had three children.

Image copyright Andy Ralph
Image caption Rute and Andy Ralph met in 1993 in London where they dated for eight months before parting

They got together in 2017 and moved to Norfolk a year later, but by April 2019 Rute had discovered a lump in her breast.

Chemotherapy and treatment proved ineffective, the cancer spread to her lungs and she was admitted to hospital for palliative care.

Rute spent three weeks in hospital, and a palliative care doctor contacted Mr Ralph to break the news that she only had a few days to live.

But he told the couple: "If you want to get married, you can."

Image copyright Bill Vine
Image caption Rute Ralph, originally from Portugal, was married in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

They had already planned a wedding at Norwich Castle for April 2020, with family and friends from Portugal expected to attend.

But by then Covid-19 had hit Europe and lockdown restrictions were in force.

Instead, the hastily arranged hospital ceremony on 15 May was watched from a courtyard by a handful of guests and staff clad in face masks.

"The ceremony itself was just so good. Rute did a little speech from the heart.

"I mean I was really emotional, it was so nice," said Mr Ralph.

Mrs Ralph had planned to go home for a few hours after the ceremony, but was unable to do so.

She died 36 hours later in hospital with her husband by her side.

Image copyright Bill Vine
Image caption Mrs Ralph signs the wedding register as staff attend in face masks

"I used to say we were yin and yang, positive and negative, somehow we would balance each other out," said Mr Ralph.

"She was very, very hopeful right up to the bitter end.

"Effectively to her last breath she was saying: 'I want to carry on living'," he said.

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