"While I have breath in my body, I will do my best to love you in the best way possible."
Marshal Maurice John spoke these words to his new bride, haltingly but resounding, as he lay in the ICU in obvious pain but beaming with joy. This was his wedding vow to the woman he loves in a ceremony that wouldn't have been possible without the compassion, time and generosity of one nurse and the caring team she pulled together.
Honey Dawn Chapman, an RN in the emergency room at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital, was called to the critical care unit earlier this week to notarize a power of attorney form. She took time to visit with John and learned his fianc , Erica Brooks, had "finally said yes!" but couldn't get a marriage license because they couldn't both be present at the probate office.
Chapman, whom Erica calls "a positive vibration," sprang into action.
She persuaded the judge to send a clerk to the hospital with the form. She called Chaplaincy and asked Jason Massey to perform the ceremony. She pulled in other nurses and sitters to help. This group of caregivers realized the couple wouldn't have rings to exchange, so they brought them. The groom had lost a bit of weight and his suits wouldn't fit, so they bought a new shirt, lovingly cut down the back to make it easier for him to wear with all the tubes he needed to give him the medicine that he needed while in the hospital.
Chapman bought a cake. Safety monitor Briana Welch brought the flowers.
Brooks wanted a photo taken so she could send it in to the newspaper; Chapman secretly had it printed on canvas as a wedding gift.
Three days after Chapman met the couple, their marriage license was official. On a Wednesday afternoon, against a backdrop of medical machines quietly whirring and the hushed but urgent bustle of caregivers, the critical care unit became "church."
Massey blessed the couple's hands, saying, "These are the hands of your partner, strong and full of love; the hands that will give you strength." He offered this quote from writer L.R. Knost: "All things can be mended, not with time but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally."
"God doesn't put a time on love," the new bride later responded.
As Massey pronounced the couple husband and wife, the family members gathered in the small room and those watching from across the country via cellphones erupted into quiet but gleeful applause. Chapman smiled through her tears.
She acted out of compassion with no need for recognition, but her reward was in that room: the power of love in action.
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