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An 'unexpected' love story

When Kaye Frampton Brown talks about her courtship with her husband, Don, it isn't long before she mentions the pink tulips. She saw them one April evening nearly a decade ago, but the impression they made comes to her so instantly, so crisply, t...

When Kaye Frampton Brown talks about her courtship with her husband, Don, it isn't long before she mentions the pink tulips.

She saw them one April evening nearly a decade ago, but the impression they made comes to her so instantly, so crisply, that she glows. She talks about the evening as though she is sharing a good, juicy story with a girlfriend.

Don chose the tulips as a centerpiece for their first real dinner date, she says. But the flowers had sort of a no-frills look: They were laid flat on the table and wrapped in a wet paper towel.

"Tulips are one of the only flowers that will continue to grow after they've been cut," she said. "That night, during dinner, they grew. They pushed up and through the paper towel while we were eating. I can still close my eyes and see it. It was unexpected -- and beautiful."

The unexpected -- and beautiful -- seem to be hallmarks of the Browns' relationship. Consider their wedding.

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They were married last month at CarolinaEast Medical Center.

Don had been in and out of the hospital since April battling pancreatic cancer, and the oncology staff has become "a second family" to the couple, Kaye Brown says.

"It might seem unconventional to have a wedding in a hospital, but it couldn't have been any more perfect," she says, glancing over at their wedding portrait. "The staff did everything they could to make it a special day for us, and it was."

The Browns called in a magistrate, and when the nurses found out there was a ceremony being planned, they had the hospital chef make the couple a miniature wedding cake.

On June 15, Don and Kaye Brown were married in the family room of the hospital's oncology unit, with a sculpture of an angel in the background.

As they exchanged vows, Kaye read Don a quote from the late Gilda Radner, who was an actress and comedienne on "Saturday Night Live."

"I wanted a perfect ending," Kaye Brown told her new husband. "Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end."

This is one of those stories.

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A few weeks ago, when the Sun Journal staff heard about the Browns' wedding, the newspaper scheduled an interview with the couple. But Don Brown was being discharged from the hospital that afternoon, and didn't feel well enough to go through with the interview.

"Could we do it another day?" he asked.

But that day never came.

Don Brown died early Monday morning, 35 days after he and Kaye were married. The avid tennis player, teacher, coach and proprietor of New Bern Roasting Company will be laid to rest Saturday.

"We knew it was coming; we just didn't know when," Kaye Brown said Tuesday.

And then her mind took her to the rest of that quote from Radner.

"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next," she said. "Delicious ambiguity."

She surveyed a freezer full of food that her husband, a gourmet cook, has left for her.

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Most of it, like the roasted turkey, is perfectly wrapped and labeled. From soups to stocks to purees to entrees, Kaye Brown has a bevy of options.

"There's so much," she says. "To have all of this is sort of unexpected."

And beautiful.

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