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Guests smile through tears at bittersweet ceremony for Asheville family

Barring a medical miracle, John Jonas, who's fighting brain cancer, will never get to go to his daughter's wedding. So, instead, he and daughter J.K. took part in a bittersweet ceremony at Charles George VA Medical Center. (Photo credit: Donald Latham Photography)

Barring a medical miracle, an Asheville man fighting brain cancer will never get to go to his daughter's wedding. So, instead, they took part in a bittersweet ceremony at Charles George VA Medical Center.

"I hope she always remembers her daddy loved her," John Jonas said after the event that left guests in tears.

"He's the best daddy in the whole world," his 5-year-old daughter J.K. said.

The proud Air Force veteran is facing the reality of his losing battle.

"I've got three or four days to live, maybe," said Jonas, who's in hospice care.

Before the ceremony, he was in his room at the VA with wife Jeanie by his side.

"You gave me the best years of my life," he told her tenderly. "You've got so many people that love you, it seems a shame to give it all up."

Recently, John's come to peace with matters of life and death.

"But I'm not gonna cry about it now," he said. "I'm ready for the next scene."

Thursday afternoon, they got John dressed in a suit and tie to go to the chapel.

"I've got your flowers, and I've got your flowers, and I've also got a ring for him, for her," friend Almeria Waldrop told the couple.

"You've thought of everything!" Jeanie responded.

Meanwhile, at the chapel, little J.K. got a touch of makeup. Jeanie hopes the occasion leaves a lasting imprint. She looked like a princess on a day intended to make a good memory at difficult time.

Donald Latham Photography and Sweet Bouquets Florist donated their services.

"She will see this as my daddy truly loves me," she said, tearing up as she talked about her daughter. "And my mom and dad truly love each other. So, I explained to him that I went with this idea."

The joy of youth made everyone smile through tears.

"Hold onto your daddy's arm just like that and go all the way down," someone told J.K. as "Wedding March" played.

"Come on, Daddy," she told John.

Jeanie said her daughter understands more about death than she ever thought.

"I'm gonna miss Daddy, dancing with him, doing tea parties," Jeanie recalls her daughter saying. "But I know he's gonna be in a place where he's not gonna hurt. And one day, Mommy, I'm going to see him again."

JK and her daddy exchanged timeless vows.

"And do you promise to love your wife and daughter so as long as you both may live?" Pastor Dennis Thurman asked John.

"Yes, I do," he said.

Then he turned to J.K.

"You will love and cherish your father and mother as long as you may live?" he asked.

"Yes!" she said.

Then came the father-daughter dance that made us all think about our own mortality.

"I will always be with you," the little girl said to her dad during the dance.

"Do you know I love you?" he asked. "What are you gonna do when you get big?"

"I'm just gonna think about you and see all the pictures of you," she replied.

There may never be another tea party together, but this is the kind of moment that endures the test of time.

"It boils down to, there's a closure for J.K.," Jeanie said.

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