While many weddings take a year or more to plan, everything came together at the last minute for David N. and Kathleen M. Phelps.
The couple was married Wednesday at Hospice of Jefferson County at Ellis Farm, 1398 Gotham St., so Mr. Phelps's mother, Evelyn G. Phelps, a resident there, could see them get married.
“It means a lot,” the elder Mrs. Phelps said. “He had to come back all the way from Afghanistan. I hope they get back safe.”
A coordinated effort between Hospice social worker Tom Powlin and the American Red Cross brought the couple back to the north country for 10 days when Mr. Phelps learned from his sister Dora Bova that his mother wasn't well. Both Mr. Phelps and his new wife are Department of Defense civilians who have been deployed to Afghanistan. He works in Bagram and she works in Kandahar.
“It's fantastic my mom was able to be here and participate,” Mr. Phelps said. “We weren't planning on anything like this; we were just going to go to city hall.”
The couple got the last flight out of Chicago on Monday before flights were canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.
“We missed the storm,” Kathleen said. “I was only in the country two and a half weeks, and normally you're not authorized to go home unless it's been 60 days, but we got a waiver. Our first priority is his mom.”
She and her husband moved up their wedding date from Dec. 12 to ensure his mother could participate in the ceremony. The elder Mrs. Phelps has multiple myeloma, cancer of plasma cells. She's been under Hospice care since Oct. 19.
The ceremony took place in Hospice's chapel, in front of about 20 guests who hummed the traditional wedding march as the bride walked down a makeshift aisle in her white, halter-top-style wedding gown. Joyce A. Combs, an ordained minister and Hospice's bereavement coordinator and chaplain, officiated at the ceremony. Mrs. Phelps had been wheeled into the chapel in her medical bed, and got to hold the rings before her son and new daughter-in-law exchanged rings and vows.
After the short ceremony, the couple embraced Mrs. Phelps as they shared words and tears.
“Everything went like clockwork,” said Mrs. Bova, who helped with last-minute wedding details.
While Kathleen had her wedding dress before she went to Afghanistan, few other details were planned for her original wedding. Mrs. Bova made the veil, and a local florist did the bridal bouquet and boutonnieres within a day. Hospice CEO Diana K. Woodhouse called Alteri's Bakery on Wednesday morning asking if they'd make a wedding cake, and it was delivered to Hospice prior to the 2 p.m. ceremony.
“Our role in Hospice is to take care of whatever our patients and families need,” Mrs. Woodhouse said. “It all happened so quickly, and my staff just went to town.”
Hospice also bought food for the family to enjoy a light reception.
Mrs. Bova said Hospice has provided top-notch care for her ailing mother.
“They've offered everything,” she said. “There's a little happiness with a little sadness.”
Mr. Phelps said it'll be bittersweet having to go back to Afghanistan separate from his new wife, but the newlyweds will enjoy time together in July when they will go out to California to see her family. Kathleen said she and her husband will renew their vows there in front of her family at a lighthouse near where her mother's ashes are buried.