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The love story that has TODAY.com readers talking, hoping and shedding tears

The bittersweet tale of the late Ryan Smith and his wife Bethany has touched people around the world, and TODAY.com readers have shared their reactions online. Among the comments are words of encouragement, love and hope.

On Wednesday we published the story, by TODAY.com contributing editor Laura T. Coffey,  of the young couple who planned a wedding in three days after learning that his cancer prognosis was grim. They set the date on a Thursday and were married by Sunday. “Looking back on it, there was more love in that room than I have ever experienced in my life,” Bethany said of her wedding day. “Although it was way too short, we were able to be married and celebrate our one-month anniversary, and that’s a gift no one can ever take away.” Six weeks after the wedding, Ryan was gone.

Their story has touched the hearts of many, including TODAY.com’s Facebook community. More than 18,000 people have recommended the story to their friends. Hundreds have left comments  praising the couple for their bravery and courage.

Reader Laura Sweat said, “This story left me speechless! Literally broke my heart but lifted me back up. They were some strong individuals! They have the kind of love that people look for everyday.”

Kevin Kubota

“What a beautiful and courageous couple,” said   “My heart goes out to you Bethany! You had six weeks of loving marriage and many years of a wonderful relationship ... he is your guardian angel. You will meet up with him again.”

Many echoed Karen’s words, reassuring Bethany that just because Ryan has passed away that doesn’t mean he’s gone.   said, “I think when someone is destined to suffer from such an illness, it's especially important that they find their soul mate to help them through it. Bethany and Ryan are such soul mates; their story began long ago and is far from over. Stay strong, Bethany, and know that Ryan is still with you.”

Ryan and Bethany’s story isn’t just for those in relationships. It is about hope for everyone, an idea that resonated for many readers. Kathy Davidson said, “I really think that I was meant to read this at this particular moment. If I ever were to have another relationship in my lifetime I would want to go here!”   agreed and said, “I am single and not in love and I am still bawling my eyes out. It's nice to know the precious few who are so very lucky to fall in love like this. May he rest in peace and prayers to Bethany for a happy and successful life.” Bigpicture wasn’t the only one with tears in her eyes.   said, “Reading this story made me tear up for the first time in 15 years. So happy yet sad.”

Kevin Kubota

Ryan and Bethany’s love story has reminded some to put their lives into perspective. MaryJane Garcia said that after reading the story, “All my trivial problems have vanished.” Diana Marion Winslett said, “This story filters out what truly matters ... love.”

The images from the wedding  were especially poignant for people and many have said how much they love the romantic, intimate photos from the special day. “The pictures of them together are so precious and you could feel the love they shared," said   “Bethany will have these memories forever to cherish. God bless them both.”

Though the wedding was planned in only a matter of days, a large group of family and friends came from all over to celebrate the couple’s marriage. Facebook commenter Kim McCrady Osmonson called the story inspiring. “What lovely people,” she said of the couple. “Wake up every day and love your family and friends and community.”

  • Slideshow Photos

    Kevin Kubota

    One month of marriage: ‘A gift no one can take away’

    Bethany and Ryan Smith planned their wedding in just three days’ time after Ryan’s doctors discontinued his cancer treatments. “There was more love in that room than I have ever experienced in my life,” Bethany said.

  • One month of marriage: ‘A gift no one can take away’

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    Getting ready -

    Bethany and Ryan Smith had to plan their Dec. 11, 2011 wedding in just three days’ time after Ryan's doctors discontinued his cancer treatments. Here are images from their wedding day.

    Bethany has her hair done by Jennifer Siefried from Salon Essenza in Bend, Ore. Bethany's mother, Sue Schmidt, watches in the background.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    Wine and roses -

    Rose petals form the aisle at Bethany and Ryan Smith's wedding in Bend, Ore. The couple opted to have guests stand instead of sit to make the event feel more intimate.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    'So glad I met you' -

    When they were dating, Bethany gave Ryan a one-year anniversary card bearing the message, “You will not believe how glad I am to have met you.” Bethany highlighted those words in this chalkboard display at their wedding and also incorporated them into her wedding vows.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    Helping hands -

    Ariana Fernandez, co-owner and chef of Ariana Restaurant in Bend, Ore., helped Bethany and Ryan pull together their wedding at her restaurant in just three days. Here, Ariana's mother, Susan Asti, opens wine at the wedding reception.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    Personalized messages -

    Bethany said she wanted to avoid a Christmas theme for the December wedding, but she found paper-monogrammed ornaments at Pottery Barn that made ideal wedding favors. "We picked out a letter for each guest’s first name and I wrote a personalized thank you on the back of each one," she wrote on the wedding website Snippet & Ink. "We hung them on a beautiful birch tree and the guests had to find their ornament during the evening."

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    'All I wanted to see' -

    "I remember walking in the door with my dad, having to turn a little corner, seeing so many people and just searching for Ryan. He was all I wanted to see," Bethany wrote.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    Their moment -

    Bethany and Ryan planned their wedding as quickly as they did because they knew how little time they had left to get married. Ryan died of a rare form of cancer six weeks after the wedding.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    There for them -

    Bethany's godfather, Wade Conrad, married Bethany and Ryan. He handled Ryan's memorial service just weeks later.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
  • One month of marriage: ‘A gift no one can take away’

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    'More love in that room' -

    “Looking back on it, there was more love in that room than I have ever experienced in my life,” Bethany Smith said about her wedding day.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    A family's love -

    Ryan Smith receives a hug from his grandmother, Helen Zaraska. Ryan's father, Peter Smith, is pictured on the far left.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
  • Image: Bethany and Ryan Smith on their wedding day

    One month of marriage: ‘A gift no one can take away’

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    A few quick photos -

    Ryan was too sick to stay for the dinner and most of the wedding reception. Bethany and Ryan posed for a few photographs after the wedding ceremony, and then Ryan had to go lie down.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    Alone at her wedding reception -

    This photo of Bethany was taken shortly after the conclusion of the wedding ceremony. "The plan was to take photos right away but Ryan actually went to the car with his dad to lie down for a minute," Bethany said. "I was waiting for him to come back in to take photos and just got really sad he wasn't feeling well."

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
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    A special engagement -

    Bethany and Ryan displayed their engagement photos at their wedding. The couple got engaged in July 2011 and had these photos taken in November. After undergoing intensive chemotherapies, "Ry wanted to wait until he had a little hair," Bethany explained.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design
  • One month of marriage: ‘A gift no one can take away’

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    A precious gift -

    “Although it was way too short, we were able to be married and celebrate our one-month anniversary, and that’s a gift no one can ever take away,” Bethany said.

    To watch a moving video montage of Ryan Smith’s life that was made by Bethany's brother Isaac Schmidt and shown at Ryan's memorial service, click here. To see a video Isaac made celebrating Bethany and Ryan’s relationship, click here.

    Kubota Photo-Design / Kubota Photo-Design

Bride-to-be   wrote directly to Bethany in her comment, saying, “What a beautiful story and thank you for sharing it. I am currently in the throes of planning my wedding and your story has helped bring me back to what matters — the love of my fiancé and having our families and friends there with us. Thank you again and bless you.”

Face Masks: August 2011

Ryan and Bethany knew they wanted love to be the focus of their day. Bethany wrote of the wedding, “That’s what we wanted our wedding to be about: our love for each other and for our friends and family. We may have only had a few days to put it together but we both agreed we would have done it exactly the same even if we’d had years to plan.”

To read the original story,   Join the . To see more photos from Bethany and Ryan’s wedding, view this , visit , or visit .

To watch a moving video montage of Ryan Smith’s life that was shown at his memorial service, .

Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on , follow her on   or read more of her stories at .

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