IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Got Married in My Parents' Living Room So My Dying Father Could Be There

All that mattered to me was that I was marrying the man I loved and the people that I loved were there to share in the moment. It was the happiest day of my life.
Publish date:
May 12, 2015
family, weddings, Cancer, Terminal Illness

All throughout high school and college my friends seemed to have every single detail of their weddings planned out before they even started dating. Me, on the other hand, well, I had opinions but no desire to create a Pinterest board of a fairytale day without finding that other person.

I was 23, single and very happy with my life, it had been over a year since I last dated someone and I thought that life would be fine just like this. I was happy, I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s feelings, and I only had to worry about pleasing myself.

Then I met Bobby. I was a social media intern at a public television station and he was an associate producer. We bumped into each other three times, he used the word “groovy,” I didn’t roll my eyes at him, he asked me to lunch and after that we dated for almost three years.

In October of 2014 one of my top favorite people in the world got diagnosed with Stage III Anaplastic Astrocytoma. My dad. For those who aren’t well versed in medical lingo, that translates to stage three brain cancer. It was a harsh reality and at 26, I felt like my relationship with my dad was evolving to father-daughter-almost-friendship. As soon as the doctors walked out of the room my dad just turned to me and said, “Well, shit!” I couldn’t help but laugh.

After my dad was diagnosed I told Bobby how this was going to be hard and I wouldn’t blame him if he jumped ship because, cancer, it sucks and I knew from that moment of diagnosis that this fight was going to be harsh and difficult. He stuck with my family and me. My dad started chemo and radiation, his energy was zapped from his body and so Bobby stepped up. He spent a weekend cleaning out the garage, he put up shelves, and moved my parents’ bed to the guest room so my dad could sleep in his hospital bed next to my mom in her bed.

Most importantly he talked to my family in the future tense, making plans for a future that no one was sure would become a reality.

Overall, Bobby was pretty kick-ass and I truly had nothing to complain about. Everything else in life was a mess, cancer, work and friends were all over the place but Bobby was there -- amazingly he seemed to be the one stable factor in my life. On December 25, 2014 Bobby asked me to marry him. As shocked as I was, I said yes. My family was elated, his family was ecstatic and we began to plan. During all this planning we were still very aware of my dad and brain cancer. He was doing well but still, cancer. So we started to plan for a June wedding.

My dad’s health changed in a matter of days, he got weaker and I could see him starting to lose his fire. I knew he was starting to deteriorate. When just a few days earlier he was able to speak and laugh he could now only manage to rub the back of my neck. We brought him into the hospital and got the worst news to date. While he had endured the chemo and radiation like a champ, the side effects were wearing his body down. Soon thereafter began the conversations with doctors about my father’s future.

I didn’t believe anything could get worse than the diagnosis of cancer, but as I found out there are truly more horrible realities. Eventually it was decided that hospice was going to be our new battle.

As soon as hospice entered our world Bobby and I started talking about getting married at my parents home. We got our marriage license less than three weeks after getting engaged, we managed to get my dad’s cousin, a minister, to marry us with only a few days' notice, my mom and aunt ordered the food and my best friend helped me find a wedding dress from Ann Taylor. Bobby and I, along with our families, decorated my parents’ living room with candles and tulle attempting to make the suburban house look as much like a wedding event as possible. We had to be crafty. We managed to say our vows on a hospital table.

Bobby and I got married on January 23, 2015 in my parents’ living room. My parents, brother, aunt, mother and father-in-law, and sister-in-law were there. The ceremony lasted 15 minutes and it was exactly what we both wanted. I didn’t worry about my dress, I wasn’t concerned about all the eyes on me, I wasn’t even flustered when I realized I put Bobby’s wedding ring on the wrong hand. All that mattered to me was that I was marrying the man I loved and the people that I loved were there to share in the moment. It was the happiest day of my life.

Two days later was the worst day of my life. On January 25, 2015, my dad died. My brother, mom and I held his hands, Bobby rubbed my back, and my aunt made sure that my dad was comfortable as he took his final breaths. While his death was completely expected, knowing that my dad was no longer in this world stunned me. Five months ago he was healthy and active and now he’s gone and life has forever changed.

While a part of me longs for the rite of passage of trying on overpriced poufy wedding dresses, delegating tasks between my bridesmaids, having formal wedding pictures taken, and generally getting to be a bridezilla to those I love. I am forever grateful that my dad got to be at my wedding and I’ll forever have that memory. It is a horrible feeling to lose someone you truly love and care about but knowing that my father got to share in one of the happiest days of my life creates a joy in the memory of the day could not have been there if we had not made the choice to exchange our vows in my parents’ living room at a medical table altar.