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Back Down the Aisle
Submitted by: Hospice of Rockingham County, Inc

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Back Down the Aisle

Mary and Michael Brown got married at the courthouse in front of a Justice of the Peace. “We just wanted to go ahead and get married,” Mary said with a smile, as she looked lovingly over at her husband. They had talked about renewing their vows in front of family and friends for their 20th anniversary in 2017 but Michael’s terminal kidney cancer would make it almost impossible for them to celebrate their 19th anniversary, which was in just a few weeks on April 25th.

The Browns mentioned to their hospice social worker and chaplain on March 30th, 2016, how much they had wanted to be able to have this ceremony and a seed was planted with several staff members with Hospice of Rockingham County (HRC). Almost before anyone could blink, a vow renewal ceremony was planned for Sunday, April 3rd, to be held in the community room at HRC’s inpatient facility. Phone calls were made to businesses across the county and everything necessary for making the day beautiful and special was secured – from decorations and chairs to photographers and a wedding cake. While the location was not exactly the Browns home church, the community room would be transformed into a lovely wedding chapel for the afternoon.

For days prior to the ceremony, with symptoms managed and pain under control, Michael was able to sleep much of the time and save his energy for his wedding day. On the afternoon of the renewal ceremony, “Big Mike” (as he was known to his friends) was rolled into the makeshift chapel via wheelchair and patiently waited on his bride to make her trip up the aisle. Mary, radiant in a beautiful, simple white dress, followed her bridesmaids and flower girl to stand beside her husband. While Michael had been legally blind since 2013, the tremendous smile on his face let everyone know that while he might not be able to “see” Mary walking towards him, he knew in his heart what a lovely bride she made. With their minister officiating, in front of almost 100 of their friends and family members, the couple exchanged vows and rings and reaffirmed their love for and commitment to one another.

After the ceremony and many wedding photographs being shot, the “bridal party” and guests enjoyed a reception and the Browns even cut the obligatory wedding cake. Later, the couple relaxed in Michael’s room and were still beaming from the afternoon’s festivities. It was obvious renewing their vows had been very important to both of them and had given them a certain peace in knowing they had realized a 19-year-old dream.

“Til’ death do us part” came only four days after their wedding vow renewal ceremony. Michael Brown died peacefully on the morning of April 7th, 2016, with family and Hospice staff at his bedside, and Mary singing softly in his ear.

Submitted by: Flavel Collins, Hospice of Rockingham County, Inc

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