A Touching Hospice Wedding, Thanks to VITAS Healthcare’s Dedicated Hospice Team

By  //  February 5, 2020

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press of time inspires hospice care teams to go above and beyond their everyday roles

With Tracy’s mother as officiant and family members gathered around, Jessica and Jacob sealed their vows with a kiss as Tracy watched from her bed. Tracy died peacefully three days later.  (VITAS Healthcare image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – One of the underlying considerations for patients and families who choose hospice care for a seriously ill loved one is time—time for comfort, closure and quality of life in the time that remains.

And sometimes, the press of time inspires hospice care teams to go above and beyond their everyday roles to make patients’ and families’ wishes come true, even if the wish involves a last-minute wedding in a VITAS Healthcare inpatient hospice unit (IPU).

It happened recently. Over the span of 24 hours, the herculean effort by the VITAS team produced wedding decorations, a reception buffet, a three-tiered cake and never-to-be-forgotten wedding photos, thanks to our hospice team’s determination to make sure a patient could be present for her daughter’s wedding.

It began on a Wednesday when patient Tracy was admitted to our IPU.

Later that afternoon, her daughter Jessica approached our social worker, Leigh Ann, with an unusual request: Would it be possible to hold her wedding, originally scheduled two months out, in the IPU on Sunday, three days away? She wanted her mother to hear her say “I do” to Jacob, her fiancé.  

“Trust Me, Honey. We Can Get It Done.”

Leigh Anne, an experienced hospice social worker, knew that Tracy’s health was precarious and that she might not survive until Sunday. She suggested a Friday wedding instead.

“I don’t think we can get it done by tomorrow,” Jessica responded. 

Leigh Anne reassured her: “Trust me, honey. We can get it done. It will be a team effort.”

Team Effort, Indeed

Within 24 hours and with the full hospice team’s support:

• Leigh Anne worked until 2 a.m. at home that night, baking a three-tier, buttercream-frosted wedding cake.

• The IPU’s receptionist, chaplain, maintenance workers, housekeeping staff and nursing caregivers handled wedding decorations and crepe paper.

• The IPU cook prepared a scrumptious wedding buffet for the family and guests.

• A registered nurse and amateur photographer gave up her day off to capture touching wedding photos.

• A local funeral home donated flowers and the county judge waived the three-day waiting period for a marriage license.

Over the span of 24 hours, a herculean effort by the VITAS team produced wedding decorations, a reception buffet, a three-tiered cake and never-to-be-forgotten wedding photos, thanks to the hospice team’s determination to make sure a patient could be present for her daughter’s wedding. (VITAS Healthcare image)

On Thursday, with Tracy’s mother as officiant and family members gathered around, Jessica and Jacob sealed their vows with a kiss as Tracy watched from her bed. 

“It turned out to be a very nice day,” Leigh Anne says. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

Tracy died peacefully three days later.

“For the most part, the people you come in contact with here are so overwhelmingly thankful for what you do for them,” Leigh Anne says of her dedication to patients, families and the hospice profession.

“Without a doubt, this is the most gratifying job you’ll ever have, even in the midst of all this sadness. When you do something for someone with no expectation that they have to do anything in return, it’s a very gratifying feeling.”

For more information about end-of-life care services, call VITAS Healthcare at 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com

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