IT is a love story that has spanned 35 years and endured the ups and downs of teen pregnancy, marriage, divorce, terminal illness and has now seen a fairytale ending.
After more than three decades together Richard and Lyrae McDonnell have remarried. 25 years after they divorced, in a dream ceremony surrounded by their children, grandchildren and close family.
The couple got together when Lyrae was just 16 and had their eldest child Naomi. Although they married they broke up soon afterwards and divorced.
But they remained close friends and were only separated for three years, during which time Richard had his youngest daughter Briar.
They planned a wedding in December last year but fate played a hand when Richard, 51, of Barncroft Way, Leigh Park, was diagnosed with kidney cancer, which had spread to his bones, last August.
The wedding had to be called off while he underwent treatment and that is when the charity Honeyrose Foundation stepped in.
It organised the entire wedding with the help of the Langstone Hotel, in Hayling Island, and other firms who were determined to make their big day special.
Richard said: ‘For quite a while I had what I thought was back ache.
‘For months I was limping quite badly. I went to the doctors for an X-ray but before I got the results back I went to archery practice and my leg collapsed. It turned out I had a tumour on my right femur. The hospital realised straight away what the problem was and they gave me the diagnosis – that it was terminal.
‘It was so hard telling my family. Most cancer patients will tell you it’s harder for the family and people around the person with cancer. I was gutted we had to put the wedding back.
‘We met when we were really young, I was 16 and Lyrae was 15. Everything happened too early for us and it didn’t work out because we had a baby, were married and had a council house when we were teenagers.
‘Although we divorced we never really split up. We have always been best friends. And yes, Lyrae is the love of my life.’
Lyrae, 50, is a district nurse.
She said: ‘Although we’ve got sadness in our lives we try to get past it.
‘At the beginning it was all-consuming but now we’re trying to live as normal a life as a family as possible. We’re all devastated by the situation but we’ve got to live each day as it comes.’
Lyrae says their first wedding was a ‘miniscule’ affair at Portsmouth Registry Office.
She said: ‘At the time it was almost expected of us. Richard was young and he felt under pressure. This time he is a bit more excited about it.
‘I am a romantic and I do feel it’s a real-life love story.
‘We were obviously always meant to be together.’