As Todd Morley’s cancer grew progressively worse, he had one final wish — to marry his life-long love, Tammy. Tammy had been caring for him for over two years, through multiple health conditions. “It hurt so much to watch him go downhill,” she recalls. As he grew weaker, the couple worried that Todd would be too sick to endure a wedding. They also had no one to officiate the ceremony and were quickly running out of time.
A former Navy medic, Todd was a proud veteran. After his service, he worked at Bethlehem Steel for many years. He loved fishing, rebuilding cars, and his cat, Zoey. His favorite saying was, “Tough times don’t last. But tough people do.”
When Todd began hospice care with Gilchrist, he and Tammy were comforted by their team’s compassionate care, which Tammy calls “absolutely wonderful.” They developed a special connection with their Gilchrist chaplain, Avi Sharfman, and their social worker, Anna Blyukher. When Avi and Anna learned of the couple’s desire to marry, they decided to help make their dream a reality. With the couple’s blessing, Avi and Anna planned a wedding as well as a special veteran pinning ceremony to honor Todd for his service.
Ed Nolley, a volunteer veteran and member of Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans taskforce, arrived at the couple’s home dressed in full military uniform. He conducted a ‘Salute to Service’ ceremony and presented Todd with a veteran pin and an American flag quilt handmade by volunteers. Todd was visibly moved.
Then, Avi performed the wedding, with Gilchrist chaplain Charline Berry and volunteer Joe Shatus celebrating with them. Todd could barely lift his hands, but the couple exchanged rings and vows. When it was over, Todd said, “I’ve always loved you, Tammy.”
“I told him I loved him too,” Tammy recalls. “It was something so beautiful. I will never forget it.”
Not long after, Todd died. Tammy will always remember how the Gilchrist team came together to make their wedding possible. Though their time together was cut short, the memory of that day will live on in her heart.
It will also become a treasured memory for Avi. “As a chaplain, being able to bring that sacred moment to Todd and Tammy is something I will always cherish.”
Todd Morley died peacefully on February 22, 2020.
To learn more about Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans program, visit gilchristcares.org/whv.
Note: This story was reported before the COVID pandemic. Gilchrist employs full safety protocols including personal protective equipment to keep patients, families and staff safe.
To make a donation in support of Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans program, click here…make sure to select “We Honor Veterans” in the “Direct My Gift To” field.