Janis Fontaine

A wedding day wish fulfilled


By Janis Fontaine, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

 

Surely, Sol Schochet thought he was dreaming. He opened his 87-year-old, world-weary eyes to see a vision at his bedside in a Deerfield Beach hospital. And then she spoke to him: “Hi, Grandpa.”

It was Lauren Smith, his beloved — and only – granddaughter in a flowing white wedding dress. She and Jonathan Majak had married that day, but Schochet had been too sick to attend the wedding. A brain tumor is robbing him of the last of his life, and as much as his spirit yearned to get out of bed and put on the tux that he bought months before, his body refused to obey.

“Throughout the whole wedding planning process, he was so excited,” said Smith, of Boynton Beach. But when the time came, the brain tumor had begun causing seizures and it was just too risky.

Schochet had been Smith’s champion since she was a child. A job transfer brought Smith’s family to Florida when she was 2. Her grandfather, a widower, came along. “His wife died young, and we were all he had,” Smith said. (Schochet did remarry about 10 years ago.)

Schochet cared for Smith while her parents worked until she went to school. “He always took me places, to the beach and parks. He never missed a special event or a graduation, and he constantly was telling me to read more when I was growing up. He’d always bring me books,” she laughs. “I had a happy childhood.”

Smith, 25, now a radiology technician, graduated from Park Vista High School in 2006. When she decided to study radiology, Schochet stepped up again. “He paid my college tuition to a four-year radiology program.”

After she graduated, Smith found a job she liked. With her financial ducks in a row, she turned her attention to love. She was ready to find someone special to settle down with. The stunning brunette had had boyfriends before, but no one who was just right.

Then Smith met Jonathan Majak, who owns a pressure cleaning business, on St. Patrick’s Day at Slaintes in Delray Beach and hit it off immediately. “He was with his friends. We made eye contact, and he felt the need to reach out and grab my hand. But it was so crowded we lost each other. I didn’t know his last name, and I didn’t know how to find him on Facebook.

“A whole year went by. But there was something about him I couldn’t stop thinking about.”

For 12 long months, everywhere they went, they looked for each other. Finally, one night at the Old Key Lime House in Lantana, their eyes met for the second time. “He said, ’Where have you been?’

“It was the most indescribable feeling, a feeling I’ve never felt before in my life. Finally, I found you again. We’ve been together ever since. I never believed in love at first sight, until then. We dated for six months and he asked my father for my hand in marriage. He proposed to me Sept. 2, 2011, and we were married Dec. 1 at Indian Springs Country Club.”

The wedding was perfect — except for one thing.

When Smith and her new husband went back to the hotel after the reception, she looked up and saw her grandfather’s family who had flown down from New York for the wedding. “I said, I have to go see my Grandpa. It was close to midnight, but I didn’t care how tired I was. I didn’t care how far it was. Nothing was stopping me,” Smith said.

She knew they might not let her in, but she had to try.

“My cousin Randy and my aunt and uncle drove us because we’d been drinking. It was a 45-minute drive, but I didn’t care. I walked in in my wedding gown and everyone was staring at me, in awe, and they were so happy and excited. They said, ‘Usually we don’t let people in this late, but he’s such a wonderful person.’

“I walked over to Grandpa’s bed and took his hand. I whispered his name until he woke up. My husband turned on the light and Grandpa’s eyes filled with tears. The tumor has impacted his speech, but as best as he could, he was thanking me.”

But sometimes words aren’t needed. Smith just sat there and held his hand. The nurses and staff were all crying. Someone said, “He must mean a lot to you.”

Smith smiled. “He has been my world.

Lauren Smith and Jonathan Majak on their wedding day.

Lauren Smith and her grandpa, Sol Schochet.


Dec. 26, 2012