An Abbotsford couple who were planning to get married later this year had an impromptu hospital ceremony – organized in three hours – last week so that the bride’s dying mother could witness the milestone.
Robin Sanford’s mom, Nadine, died 16 hours later – only a month after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The ceremony between Sanford, 24, and her fiance Simon Park, 28, took place at Abbotsford Regional Hospital last Wednesday (June 16) in a private room in the intensive care unit, with everything organized by the nurses.
Park is from South Korea, and the couple met online in August 2019 on a language learning app. They met in person in December of that year, and became engaged on Valentine’s Day of this year.
They had begun initial wedding planning – such as looking for rings and Sanford’s dress – but hadn’t purchased anything yet.
The family was devastated to find out in mid-May that Nadine had breast cancer. Biopsy results came back on June 9, and they were told the cancer was treatable.
Nadine, who ran a daycare out of the top floor of the home she shared with her husband Robert and daughter, had her first chemotherapy treatments on June 14 and 15. But an adverse reaction resulted in her being hospitalized on the evening of June 15.
The following day, Sanford, her dad, and Park were sitting beside Nadine in her hospital bed. The doctors told them it was unlikely that Nadine would survive much longer.
“I was thinking about how much I wanted her to see us get married, so I told her what I was thinking,” Sanford said. “I pulled Simon aside to talk for a few minutes and we decided to just go for it.”
The couple – neither of whom has any siblings – then spoke with the nurses to see if a ceremony would be possible, and “they jumped all over it,” Sanford said.
The couple left to arrange their marriage licence, purchase some costume jewelry rings as temporary rings, and grab some dressy clothes. Sanford chose her prom dress – which just happens to be white.
They also picked up a clean shirt for Sanford’s dad, and a comb and hairspray that Nadine requested so she could fix her hair.
Meanwhile, the nurses found a private ICU room, which they decorated and where they added lighting. They also organized a justice of the peace, the music, and floral bouquets for Sanford and her mom.
Once they were done, they moved Nadine into the room, and the ceremony was set to begin at around 6 p.m.
Robert walked his daughter down the aisle, while Park’s dad Seongyeob – a single parent – watched on video chat.
The hallway was filled with nurses – some of whom had come in on their day off – while others in the room took photos and videos for the couple.
Sanford said her mom was very happy and she could see that her smile was genuine.
“I love that she still had her sense of humour about it. After it was all done, she told me that I’m ‘an old married woman now.’ ”
Nadine died the following day in that same room.
Sanford said it meant a lot to her and Park to have all their parents included, and they are grateful for all that the nurses did to make their day special. They eventually hope to have a vow renewal/reception when Park’s dad and other family/friends are able to travel to Canada.
Meanwhile, the couple will live in Sanford’s family home with her dad.
Sanford will continue her part-time work as a dance teacher at Xtreme Talent Dance Company and running her own sewing business as she completes her last semester at University of the Fraser Valley. Park’s goal is to go back to school in 2022 to become a plumber.