Many couples go into their wedding day dreaming of a lifetime of love. But Heather and David Mosher of East Windsor, Connecticut, knew that what should have been a new beginning for them, was going to be the end.
Heather, 31, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, and David, 35, wed at Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, on Dec. 22. Heather died just 18 hours later. Her last words were the vows she recited to her husband.
“It was the hardest day of my life. Especially the 45 minutes or so of the service itself,” David tells PEOPLE. “As we were approaching the ceremony, it just had this feeling like it was more of a funeral than it was a wedding because I knew my time with her was coming to an end.”
“I just bawled through the whole ceremony and, for me, it was such a sad occasion, because I knew I wouldn’t see her again,” he adds. “When someone’s your soulmate, you’re never the same when you lose that part of yourself. There’s a part of me that died when she died.”
Heather was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer on Dec. 23, 2016, the same day David asked her to marry him.
“I had been planning to propose to her that night anyway, even before the diagnosis,” he says. “I wasn’t gonna let that change my decision to marry her.”
Over the next year, he watched her health deteriorate as the cancer spread throughout her body to her brain. Still, David and Heather were determined to marry each other.
“We had known even before I proposed that we were soulmates … it was just something that was important to us,” he said of their plans to marry despite Heather’s illness. “We already called each other husband and wife, but we just felt that we deserve a chance to celebrate that in front of our friends and family.”
Heather spend the final months of her life at the hospital, where doctors advised the couple to move up their wedding date. They had originally planned a Dec. 30 wedding, but hospital officials warned the couple that Heather likely would not make it until then.
In emotional photos of the ceremony, Heather is shown in her hospital bed wearing a wedding gown and veil along with a breathing mask. Still, she smiled and lifted her hands as family and friends surrounded her.
“She was just so happy and triumphant, because she knew that in a way she had beat cancer because she lived longer than anyone thought she was going to,” David says. “She made it to her wedding day, which was her biggest goal. Cancer couldn’t take that away from her.”
They originally planned to get married at a local church, but just two days before the ceremony, they knew they had to plan for a hospital wedding. Heather died at 12 p.m. on Dec. 23 and the family held her funeral on Dec. 30 at 11 a.m. at the church — the same date, time and place the couple originally planned to get married.
“Here I am giving a eulogy for my wife, yet that was the moment I was actually supposed to be reciting my vows to her,” David says. “I’m up at the podium next to the altar of the church and I was an emotional mess, but I made it through the eulogy.
“It took everything I could just to get through that. The more I thought about how this is supposed to be our wedding day and instead I’m saying goodbye to her was just, they don’t make words to describe how that feels”.
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE