Sylvia Klengenberg remembers the first time she saw the love of her life.
“I was a teenager, and he was carving outside his house. And I just looked at his eyes and I said to myself, ‘Someday he’s gonna be mine,'” she said.
She wasn’t wrong. Sylvia Tologanak and Roy Klengenberg eventually connected, years later, and this week — after two decades together — they decided to finally tie the knot.
But the wedding ceremony, held Wednesday in the chapel at Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital, was bittersweet — the couple may not have many days together as husband and wife.
“He’s been fighting prostate cancer for four years,” Sylvia said.
“And just recently, in July, we found out that he has stage 4 double-lung cancer. So he doesn’t have much longer.”
‘He’s my everything’
When the couple first met in Yellowknife, about 20 years ago, they were soon inseparable. Sylvia is originally from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, but she decided to move with Roy to his home town of Kugluktuk.
“We’ve never been apart,” she said.
“He took me all over the land in Kugluktuk, all over Kugluktuk camping, here and there, all the hotspots and everything. And he even showed me how to sew again. So he’s my everything.”
The lovebirds had long planned on getting married, but Sylvia said other things always seemed to get in the way. Money was tight. Roy was often busy with his work as a carver. Then, he got sick.
“It never did work out,” Sylvia said.
Finally, this week, it did — in a matter of hours, and with some help from family and friends. Roy was in the hospital and Sylvia was staying with him there, helping him every day with his breakfast or coffee, taking him outside for some fresh air, and sleeping beside his bed on a mattress on the floor.
“My wife, she looked after me for a long time at the hospital … she was always there for me,” Roy said.
“We need to get a bunk bed,” he laughed.
A helpful stepsister and a borrowed suit
Sylvia’s stepsister had come for a visit when Roy explained that he wanted to marry.
“And she just went on the phone and made all the arrangements, brought the dress, the matching silver rings, the bouquet, the cake, and the decorations that we have in our room,” Sylvia said.
“He’s got family here and I also have family here, and so we thought it might be special to have the wedding here.”
Roy was able to borrow a cousin’s suit, and they were all set.
“She always wanted to be a Klengenberg,” Roy said. “I don’t know why she wanted to change [her name]. But she’s a Mrs. Klengenberg now.”
For Sylvia, the marriage solidifies her tie to Klengenberg’s family and the community of Kugluktuk. That’s home now, she says, and she has no plans to leave.
After the wedding, the couple planned to celebrate with some steak and shrimp.
“That’s what we want, and whatever desserts, anything he wants, I shall try and get for him,” Sylvia said.
She described their connection as a “true love story.”
“I’m very proud to be his wife. He’s my everything … we take care of each other, and that’s what love is all about,” she said, tearing up.
“I will never, ever forget how he’s been there for me, thick and thin, and I’ve been there for him, too. I will always be there for him, no matter where he is. He’s always going to be in my life.”
“Thank you to my wife for everything. I always love you. Forever,” he said.