Tender expressions of love are a common occurrence at the HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center in Providence, RI. Most often they are quiet moments shared by families saying goodbye.
Sometimes, though, loved ones are celebrating milestones. On an unseasonably warm and sunny day last November, a mother watched her son marry his college sweetheart.
“We have profound moments here, and this was a really happy one. It’s just another facet of our team—they made it all happen,” recalled Virginia Magnan,
RN, manager of the Hulitar Hospice Center.
Together five years, Zach and Katey had been planning to tie the knot after completing graduate school in 2020. Those plans changed when Zach’s mother, Cathy Costanzo, 58, was hospitalized with metastatic breast cancer.
All of a sudden, time was of the essence. “I loved Katey and wanted to marry her, but I had to have my mom there,” said Zach.
The wedding had to happen sooner.
Two hospice aides gently moved the proud mother-of-the-groom from her hospital bed into a reclining chair for some primping and glamming.
With her health in rapid decline, Cathy was admitted to the Hulitar Hospice Center for round-the-clock inpatient care. Her family asked HopeHealth: Could Zach and Katey get married onsite?
“We had many meetings about it,” Virginia said. The biggest challenge was determining where the family could host 24 guests with privacy, while ensuring caregivers could reach Cathy in case of a medical emergency.
A conference room fit the bill, and Virginia gave Zach and Katey free rein to decorate as they wished.
On the big day, the family brought in floral centerpieces, an altar and lace tablecloths. A family friend, who had flown to Rhode Island for the wedding, assembled the layers of a homemade wedding cake she had packed in her carry-on luggage.
The wedding favors were kazoos—with the “k” and “z” a nod to the couple’s names.
Then it was time for the proud mother-of-the-groom to get ready. Two hospice aides – Ligia Adonseca, CNA, and Elbia Soto,CNA – gently moved her from the hospital bed into a reclining chair for some primping and glamming.
“She looked fabulous. She was very festive and so happy,” said Virginia.
After the two-hour ceremony and reception, Cathy shared her thoughts:
“It was beautiful! It was a nice experience and I know they are happy. I won’t be here in June. We all know that deep in our hearts. I didn’t want Zach to look back on his wedding wishing I was still here. It’s supposed to be a joyous day.”
It was indeed a joyous day thanks to the love and determination of Cathy’s family and caregivers. She passed away 10 days later.
Zach will always remember the day with gratitude. “It was perfect. She was so happy and glowing. I can’t imagine anything that would top that,” he said.