Whether it’s a wedding chapel in Vegas, a zoo, a winery or an art gallery, people choose to exchange their marriage vows in places that hold a special meaning to them.  Since getting married is a significant life experience, most people care much more about whom they share that experience with rather than where it takes place.  That is why one couple in Sheboygan Falls recently held their ceremony at the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice.*

The young couple had big plans for a wedding in August, but when they learned the bride’s mother wouldn’t live long enough to see it they decided to make changes.  While working with their church on a plan for a ceremony in the hospice gardens, the mother experienced a sharp decline in health.  With little time to plan and emotions running high, the hospice team jumped in to support the family’s wishes.

Lisa Semple, Assistant Administrator, led the effort to involve all available staff. Sara Weber, the Administrative Assistant, turned the board room into a banquet hall, adorning the tables with candles, rose petals, and handmade Mr.  & Mrs. decorations. Pat Semple, the Dining Services Manager, and Mary Sippel, Dining Services Cook, brought in linens and china and prepared a special meal. They worked late into the evening to ensure the family’s dining needs were met.

Nurses picked fresh flowers from the Hospice gardens to bring the outdoors in. Brenda Weavers, Volunteer Coordinator, quickly called her volunteer musicians to see who was available.  Jim Wilsing, a seasoned hospice volunteer, graciously came and played his hand-carved Native American flute.  The family enjoyed the spiritually soothing sounds.  Rick’s House of Flowers in Sheboygan Falls expeditiously created floral arrangements, including a bridal bouquet, and delivered them. Meanwhile, Lisa Falk, Social Worker, tended to the family’s needs.  Pastor Marianne Brandt, Spiritual Care and Bereavement Coordinator, counseled the family and remained on standby to officiate the ceremony if necessary.

A Catholic priest officiated the ceremony in the mother’s hospice room. Semple and Falk stood by the door to maintain privacy for the family.  The patient’s son and husband stood on either side of her bed holding her hands as they watched the stunning couple unite in marriage.

“Hospice care is a team approach to enhancing the quality of life for the patient and the family,” said Semple.  “Our motto at Sharon S. Richardson is Caring for Our Community. Today we did that in an extraordinary way that was so rewarding for all of us involved.”

This isn’t the first special family event the Hospice has hosted.  In 2014, a couple renewed their wedding vows in the gardens.  Other families have celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays in the hospice center.

The money for the small purchases that were required to make the day special came from the Irish Brotherhood’s Bo’s Freedom Run Fund.  The Irish Brotherhood established this “pay-it-forward” fund a few years ago after one of their members experienced hospice care at Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice.  “We were really impressed with how Sharon Richardson took care of people whether they could afford it or not,” said Jim Gleason of the Irish Brotherhood.  “Helping people without expecting anything in return is the Irish tradition.  After all the hospice did for our brother, we wanted to pay it forward.”  The Irish Brotherhood hosts an annual poker run to raise money for family members of hospice patients who are facing hardships and need a little assistance during their time in hospice.

The bride sent a thank you note to the hospice team that read, “A special thank you to all of you for seeing my mother and my family through the final days of her incredible life.  She arrived, said she loved it, and relaxed for the first time in two years from a heroic battle with cancer…My mother deserved a special place that would give her peace.  Thank you for providing that.”

Regardless of where you hold your wedding ceremony or where you take your last breath, it is the people who are there with you and the way they care for you that make the experience beautiful.

(*The bride and groom wish to remain anonymous at this time.)
Angelia Neumann is the Director of Development & Communications for the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice