Mom and Dying Dad Enjoy Final Anniversary Dinner, Organized by Their Family

"We knew this was going to be their last anniversary," their daughter said.

When it became clear that an Indiana man battling lung cancer and his wife wouldn’t make it to their 30th wedding anniversary, their family decided to make their 29th anniversary extra special.

Ronnie and Carol Bell of Otterbein enjoyed a romantic dinner of their favorite foods – a BLT club sandwich and chicken tenders – as “Close Enough to Perfect” by Alabama, the song from their first dance, played in the background.

“We knew it was going to be their last anniversary and we didn’t want that day to be just about death,” their daughter, Carrie Vessels, 41, told  

She explained that after a 2016 car accident, doctors found a mass in Ronnie’s lungs and diagnosed him with small cell lung cancer.

Ronnie did several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, until about three weeks ago, when his condition deteriorated and he returned home for hospice.

“You can tell it’s getting closer to his time,” Vessels said. “My mom is just taking it one day at a time. She cries a lot.”

Realizing their anniversary was coming up and wanting to make the day special, Vessels and some of her aunts decided to organize a surprise anniversary dinner.

As Carol was helping Ronnie in the bathroom, they decorated the living room and set up the meals for their surprise anniversary dinner.

“When they came out, the music was playing and the candles lit,” Vessels said. “Then we all went outside for them to have their own private dinner. My mom just sobbed.”

Vessels explained her parents’ relationship has always been full of love and happiness.

“They wake up, they go to bed together, they do everything together,” she said. “They’ll stop for a kiss or a hug. They love each other so much.”

As for their secret to making it this long, Vessels said, “They always put each other first.”