On the 22nd of May 2020 St. John’s Hospice hosted a very special day. A day filled with love, friendship and happiness. The day in question was the marriage of Hospice patient Caroline to her partner of 35 years, Mike. The couple first met as neighbours, when, as Mike tells it, “Caroline kept locking herself out of her apartment”, and, being a man of chivalry, Mike gave her somewhere to wait until Caroline’s flatmate returned. “Wine was also involved,” Mike tells us.
On the 9th of May 2020, Mike and Caroline received some very sad news. Caroline had been taken to hospital after a fall and while she was uninjured from the fall itself, tests revealed she had some severe illnesses and needed to be admitted to a hospice. Understandably, it came as quite a shock to the couple.
It did, however, confirm one thing in Mike’s mind. He says, “I had thought of discussing getting married for some time, but instead I just popped the question.”
As someone who is always prepared, Mike had planned ahead: “I’d taken a flower, a calla lily, one that we’d grown ourselves, and put a ring at the top of it. So she thought she was getting a flower and then the ring slid down the stem. I was then able to put the ring on her finger, and she said yes.”
During lockdown and given Caroline’s illness there was some question about how a wedding was going to be possible but Mike’s friend from the Serpentine Swimming Club, Reverend Graham Buckle, stepped in to help.
“I had to sign an affidavit to get permission for the marriage to go ahead as soon as possible. It was initiated by the Bishop of London and then, I believe, the faculty of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
The staff at St John’s Hospice then set about planning how best to help Mike and Caroline celebrate their special day. Mike warmly says, “It seems no task was too big for the Hospice.”
From our Ambulance crew ironing tablecloths, Specialist Occupational Therapist Caroline Ayers decorating the Day Centre to Executive Chef, Lee Szukalski, putting on a magnificent spread of food and, of course, our team of nurses making sure the bride was looking and feeling her best.
Mike says, “When we went into the Day Centre, it was extraordinary how beautiful it looked.”
At the last minute, the hairstylist that Mike had booked to do Caroline’s hair slipped a disc. Mike says, “Two of the staff, Arlene Bijana on hair and Lisa on make-up were amazing in how they helped Caroline. It was a real work of art how it came out and her make-up was just stunning.”
Throughout the day the Hospice and wedding guests adhered to strict social distancing but where there’s a will there’s a way. Nine guests were allowed inside the Hospice but it didn’t end there.
Mike says, “We went for a walk in the Hospice garden and some friends of mine from the swimming club had come to stand on the pavement outside. After the service, when we came out, there were even more of them standing there with balloons. Some people had even dressed up just to come and stand on the roadside. It was a pretty special moment.
“The way the Hospice pulled out all the stops, the way the Day Centre was decorated – including the fact that when we came in from the garden the chairs had ‘Just Married’ on them, with balloons for a wedding party – all this attention to detail was breathtaking. Everything was just perfect and the fact that so many members of staff were able to come and enjoy the food and the service and be there for us really made it.”
To Caroline and Mike, many congratulations. We are so happy we witnessed your incredible day.
Special thanks to Fiona Campbell for allowing us use of her beautiful photography from the special day.