It sounds like something from a romantic movie. The bride and groom say their vows, they kiss, and then one of them takes their last breath.
But as is often the case, real life is more interesting - and certainly more meaningful - than fiction. And in contrast to a theater, this story was shared in a medical journal.
First, the story. Names and other biographical information were withheld from the report, but what we know is that a woman with advanced cancer realized her dream to be married at the end of her life, and that her wedding took place in an acute palliative care unit (hospice care.) The palliative care team that cared for her addressed not only her physical needs, but helped in seeing that her life goals were achieved. Her life goal was to be married.
We don't know much about the wedding itself. That's where the movie theater beats medical journals hands down. But the authors did share how this woman benefitted from her marriage at the end of her life. And the ways it made a difference were heartwarming. The wedding:
- Gave the bride an opportunity to acquire further meaning in her life
- It deepened the bride's connection with her loved ones
- It enhanced the bride's sense of dignity, self-worth, and pride, and
- It resulted in a significant improvement in her symptoms
Of course the wedding was all about the couple, but it also had a positive effect on the health care team. It's been said that smiles are infectious, and I'd like to think the members of her health care team, in addition to feeling the positive effects themselves, felt a renewed energy to give a little extra to the next patient they came across as well.
Marriage and end-of-life aren't usually spoken in the same sentence. But in this case, a desire, combined with a good palliative care team, allowed one bride to experience her once in a lifetime chance to say "till death do us part."
Photo: flickr.com, author adamjonfuller
Arthur, J. et al. Till Death Do Us Part: Getting Married at the End of Life. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 2012 Jun 9. (Epub ahead of print).