INDIANAPOLIS – Chase Smith asked his parents to step out of the hospital room. He wanted to be alone with his doctor. He wanted to talk about life, his future, how much of it was left. It was late April and he had just learned that the tumors were back and had spread throughout his body.
Outside the room, Brad Smith waited anxiously, the idea swirling in his mind. Should he say it to Chase? Should he tell his son what he wanted to tell him?
When the door opened, Brad saw Chase standing there, just 18 but a man wise beyond his years. Brad had his answer.
He walked up to his son and whispered in his ear. “I’ll help you get a ring.”
“And I kind of got that look like, ‘How did you know?'” Brad said. “And I didn’t necessarily know that a wedding would entail in four days at that moment. I just knew from the get-go Sadie was his person. He never really told me that, but being a dad I could see it in his eyes. I knew that he would want to make that promise to her.”
A promise to love her forever — no matter how long forever was.
Jeff Mills’ phone rang. His daughter Sadie was crying on the other end. The tumors that had spread in Chase’s body had a timeline. Doctors told Chase he likely had three to five months to live.
“Sadie is beside herself in tears,” Jeff said. “She’s telling me, ‘You know he’s my soulmate. We were going to get married.'”
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Yes. He knew. Jeff and Jessica Mills both knew almost immediately that Chase was the one for Sadie.
“I told Chase way before any of this happened, ‘If I were to pick one person out in the whole world for her it would’ve been him,'” said Jessica.
Chase had been in Sadie’s heart for a long time, though she didn’t yet know him. At 13, the family was joking about what kind of man she would one day marry. Sadie is a perfectionist and has high standards.
She started listing her requirements: gorgeous, really smart, really mature, treats me like a princess and a super athlete.
“And I said, ‘Sadie, you need to lower your standards a little bit because I’m not sure you’re ever going to find that person,'” Jeff said. “Then I met Chase and I said ‘Holy cow, she was holding out for the right guy.’ Chase fits every one of those categories.”
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The two are identical in many ways, said Jessica. Competitive, loving and sometimes anxious. Chase has talked many times about how Sadie helps calm him down when he is in pain or when his mind goes to dark places.
“He does that for Sadie, too,” said Jessica. “I’m not sure what Chase does to her but he usually just puts his hands on both sides of her face and puts his forehead on hers and she’s just ready to roll.”
At the state diving competition, Sadie was warming up for her last three dives and she hit the board. Her nerves exploded. Would it happen again during competition?
She walked over to Chase. She put her hands up toward him and he put his hands on her.
“And ‘Bam’ she nailed it. He has a very calming effect on her,” said Jessica. “They are better together. They are. Who could stand in the way of that?”
‘How beautiful is that?’
The night after the devastating diagnosis up in his bedroom standing by his closet, Chase revealed the secrets of his heart to his mom, Kelli Smith.
“I need to ask you a question,” he said to her. “What do you think about me marrying Sadie?”
“I was like, ‘Oh how beautiful is that?'” Kelli said.
Kelli thought about all those firsts she had dreamed Chase would get to have after his first diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma at 13 — first date, first prom, getting a driver’s license.
“And who doesn’t want their child to find their soulmate?” Kelli said. “We were on board 110%. It’s definitely a God thing they were brought together when they were. Not a minute before, not a minute later.”
Kelli walked downstairs, her heart full. She told Brad: “Chase wants to marry Sadie. Now.”
Practicality set in. The logistics, making sure a marriage wouldn’t affect insurance for Chase, making sure a marriage wouldn’t take away Sadie’s diving scholarships to IUPUI.
“Sadie is a special, special person and I wanted to make sure she was taken care of,” said Kelli. “He may live three to five months, but I wanted to make sure she was taken care of after that.”
They told Chase to give them 24 hours. The parents went to work researching, making calls, looking through policies, asking questions. The next morning, they were satisfied.
“We gave him the thumbs up,” Brad said.
Now all that was left to do was up to Chase, asking Jeff for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
‘Of course you have my blessing’
The Smiths invited the Mills over for dinner. They’d met once at Sadie’s state diving championship. But it was casual conversation then. This night would be about deeper things, life things — the future of their children.
“We’re all just hanging out and Chase kicks everyone out of the room including Brad and Kelli,” said Jeff. “And I’m like, ‘I know what’s coming now.'”
From the day he had met Chase, Jeff noticed his maturity. It was like Chase was 30 years old. It was like talking to any of his other buddies, Jeff said. Chase’s old soul shined through that night as he poured his heart out to Sadie’s parents.
“He was very sincere. He told us how much he cared for her,” Jeff said this week, tearing up. “We all broke down into tears because of the situation, knowing his prognosis but just knowing he makes her so happy.”
Jeff wrapped Chase in a hug, looked into his eyes and told him, “Of course you have my blessing.”
The wedding came together in less than a week. The day was filled with rain, from morning until night. Except for the 30 minutes Chase and Sadie stood in the spot where they shared their first kiss on Sadie’s driveway to say their vows.
One of the photos of Chase and Sadie under a tree shows the sun streaming down. Jessica says it was “God’s light shining down on them.”
“You would have no idea that four days prior we were given the news that our son had three to five months,” said Brad. “That’s how perfect that day was.”
There have been naysayers, though few, who wondered why two high school seniors would marry. And people who say they only married because of Chase’s terminal illness. And those who ask how the parents could give their blessing.
“They got married because they wanted to and the love they have,” said Brad. “It wasn’t the cancer. Chase said, ‘Now is the time. Every day is a gift. I’m not going to waste another day without my bride.”
Hope they ‘rise together’
There were some mixed emotions for Jeff as he thought about the marriage. Sadie is his baby girl, after all. He worried about her heart, should something happen to Chase. He worried about how it might affect her future.
“I gave the blessing and I had a lot of time after to think about it,” he said. “And I never would take away the blessing because Chase is perfect for her but I had mixed emotions.”
Sadie, who had always been a homebody, lives with Chase and his parents now.
“That was sad for me,” said Jeff. “I teared up a lot in the last few months and I’m not a crier normally but then, you know.”
Sadie is so passionate and her devotion and commitment to Chase is intense. If Chase dies, Jeff wondered if Sadie would crumble.
“But the more I thought about it, she cares so deeply for him that I can see Sadie just elevating her life and making her standards that much higher just to honor Chase,” Jeff said. “I don’t see her crumbling. I see her rising.”
“My hope,” said Jessica, “is they rise together.”
Follow Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow.