Friday, July 19, 2024

In March 2018, Morgan Olivia Hartman, a newcomer to Alcoholics Anonymous, attended the annual A.A. banquet dinner in Miami. Phillip Xavier de Amezola, who had been sober for four years, was also present but seated at a different table. Despite attending the same morning meetings for several months, the two had not connected until they both noticed the Swedish ivy plants as centerpieces on the banquet tables.

Ms. Hartman mentioned that the plant, given by Bill W. to his sponsees in the hospital before his death, had a special significance. The leaves were meant to be cut off, replanted, and let the plant continue to grow. At the end of the evening, each plant was given to the person with the shortest period of sobriety at each table, which happened to be Ms. Hartman.

The following day, Mr. de Amezola asked if anyone had received the plant. Ms. Hartman told him she had it and offered to send him photos and updates as it grew, if he gave her his number. Their connection started from there. They appreciated each other’s contributions in meetings and found each other physically attractive.

As the ivy plant grew, their friendship also blossomed. Ms. Hartman fulfilled her promise and sent Mr. de Amezola photos of the plant. In May, he asked her to speak at an A.A. meeting he chaired, impressed by her story and ability to inspire others. As a thank you, he took her out to dinner, and their conversation continued for hours. They both admitted to having feelings for each other and shared their first kiss. A second date quickly followed.

Despite being cautious due to their previous marriages and divorces, their relationship progressed rapidly. Over the next eight months, they celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays together. In January 2019, they decided to rent a townhouse together and took the ivy plant, which had grown significantly, as a sign of their commitment to each other. They affectionately called it their “love plant.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, but it didn’t deter their relationship. Instead, they bought a house together in Palmetto Bay, believing that their love was meant to endure any challenge. In September of the same year, Ms. Hartman started experiencing persistent coughing and difficulty swallowing. After medical tests, she received the devastating diagnosis of spindle cell carcinoma, a rare form of esophageal cancer.

Just a few days before Christmas, Mr. de Amezola proposed to Ms. Hartman, wanting to marry and support her before her illness progressed further. They decided to keep the engagement private at that time. Over the next year, Ms. Hartman underwent rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and a major surgery to remove her esophagus.

Due to COVID restrictions, Ms. Hartman’s loved ones couldn’t be with her during treatments. It was a difficult time for both of them, emotionally and financially. All their earnings went towards medical bills, and planning a wedding seemed impossible.

In April 2022, Ms. Hartman’s stepfather passed away, causing further delays in their wedding plans. However, despite the challenges, they clung to their love and continued supporting each other.

In mid-September, Ms. Hartman discovered a dream wedding contest organized by the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami. She secretly applied, not expecting to win. To their surprise, they were selected as one of five couples under consideration. After an interview and meeting with the committee, they were informed that they had won.

The couple reflected on the unexpectedness of their relationship and decided to embrace the joy of life after cancer and medical struggles. They realized they had been waiting for something wonderful, and their love had endured and grown through it all.

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