"It was a way to get closer to the Lord of Life, with all the desire of a couple who know each other well."
Monday, September 12, was not just another typical day for the Palliative Care Unit of the San José Foundation Institute Hospital in Madrid, Spain. A patient at death’s door, whom we’ll call “MP,” married her lifelong love, “P.”
The couple had been living together for 35 years, but had never taken the step of receiving the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic Church.
Now that MP is in very poor health, she’s been receiving the best care at the hospital to alleviate the pain caused by her illness. But caregivers are also thinking about what’s best for her soul. We all know how much it relieves a person to be at peace with God, with others, and with oneself. MP began to have peace the moment she saw clearly that she wanted to be married in the Church to her life partner before she died.
“Whenever you want”
MP says that “it has been a dream fulfilled.” She asked the palliative care team that treats her 24 hours a day if it would be possible for her and P to marry in the hospital. The answer was immediate: “Whenever you want.”
That “whenever you want” immediately set the preparations in motion. In the hospital chapel, everything was simple but beautifully prepared for the wedding. The bride appeared in her hospital bed, combed, made up, and with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The sheets were the white of a wedding dress.
She was wheeled in and up to front, close to the altar, so that she could participate in the celebration as best as possible.
The groom sat next to her in his wheelchair. Their heads almost touched throughout the wedding. They placed their 35 years together at the feet of the Lord to prepare to receive the sacrament and say “yes” to each other before God for as long as they may live, knowing that death will come when God wills.
A joyful event
In the note that the hospital itself posted on Facebook, someone wrote that it was “a joyful event.” It was a way to get closer to the Lord of Life, with all the desire of a couple who know each other well and have already experienced what it is to love each other “in sickness and in health.”
The marriage was celebrated by the Episcopal Vicar, Fr. Gabriel Benedicto, and Fr. José Ramón Rubio. The vicar emphasized the great act of love that a wedding like this entails. In such special circumstances, what the spouses are saying to each other is, “I don’t turn back when death comes, but rather I go with you.”
Although the hospital setting wasn’t the same as a wedding reception in the gardens of a castle or a Michelin-starred restaurant, the palliative care team wanted the bride and groom to celebrate their wedding without missing out on any of the essentials, so they held a surprise cocktail party.
The words of the Song of Solomon were in the air: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death.” (Song of Solomon 8:6)