Spiritual/Pastoral Care Week (October 25 to 31) is a time to honor and recognize the important work of spiritual caregivers.
During my first two months at Gilchrist, I have had the opportunity to share many sacred and beautiful moments with patients and their families. Recently, I had the honor of providing spiritual care for a couple and officiating their wedding.
Richard, who was diagnosed with cancer, had been a Gilchrist patient for less than two weeks when his steady decline began. Richard and his girlfriend, Lisa, wished to get married, and their Gilchrist social worker, Angel, asked me to meet with them.
I visited Richard and Lisa the following day. They were a loving couple who had been together for over 24 years. They had one son, Richard Jr. It was such a joy to provide spiritual care to the family, to walk with them on their life’s journey.
They allowed me into their personal space and shared their memories with me. I learned about their shared love for music and concerts. They showed me pictures of concerts they had attended and the dozens of concert tickets Richard had collected as souvenirs.
They also talked about their families, places they’d lived, and their hopes for the future. I listened reflectively with a loving and caring attitude. We discussed their wedding plans and wishes. Later that day, I helped the family find information on getting a marriage license in Maryland.
On a beautiful afternoon in September, Angel and I visited the couple to be a part of their wonderful life-changing event. I brought a congratulatory wedding card, and Angel brought a bouquet for Lisa and a boutonniere for Richard as wedding gifts on behalf of our team.
Richard was lying upright on a recliner while Lisa and Richard, Jr. stood on each side. The family beamed with joy and happiness. Everyone in the room was excited.
As a prelude, we played the song “Angel” by Aerosmith, a song that had so much meaning for the couple—one that brought back great memories. Angel, who also served as the volunteer photographer, took family photos. At the end of the ceremony, Richard, who was weak, found the strength to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The family also thanked us for our service, our ministry.
This was my first time officiating a wedding for someone admitted to hospice. It was such an honor and privilege to be asked to be a part of that sacred, intimate event. I am happy that I had the opportunity to help fulfill a dying man’s wish to marry the love of his life. Encounters like this one remind me of why I love what I do. It makes me glad that I said yes to chaplain ministry. Amen.
Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy.
To learn more about Gilchrist, visit gilchristcares.org.