A couple who have been married for 54 years have renewed their wedding vows at St Clare Hospice in Essex.
Surrounded by friends and family, Dave and Margaret Lea wanted to re-affirm their love for each other during Dave’s temporary stay on the Inpatient Unit.
When Dave was asked whether he had any unfulfilled wishes, he said ‘I’d like to renew my vows’. This came as a bit of a shock to his wife, who said “Dave said ‘I’d like to renew our vows, how do you feel about it?’ Well, how could I say no? I just want to do whatever makes him happy.”
They first met through friends when Margaret was 15 and Dave was 18. “It wasn’t love at first sight,” said Margaret. “I thought he was a ‘jack-the-lad’.” Dave, however, was instantly smitten.
They married four years later on Thursday 2nd August 1965 at Hackney Town Hall, on a rainy day. “It was just a registry service,” said Dave, “only half the family were there, we didn’t have a reception and I was back at work the next day.”
That’s why Dave wanted to have a special service, with his family around him, to help him celebrate his many years of marriage to his wife Margaret in a very special way.
Lynne Hooper, Inpatient Unit Manager at St Clare Hospice, said: “We care for the whole person and the whole circle of family and friends at St Clare Hospice; respecting and encouraging individuality, dignity and self-esteem underpins all that we do.
“Supporting Dave and Margaret to renew their vows is a wonderful example of how we help our palliative care patients make the most of every moment, no matter how long they have left to live. It was a beautiful service and we are so pleased that we were able to bring them this joyful experience.”
Staff at St Clare Hospice quickly got to work organising a chaplain, smart outfits for Dave and Margaret; a cake for the big day, flowers for Margaret and their granddaughter Bethany, who Dave wanted to ‘give him away’; and Dave and his son’s buttonhole flowers. All of the flowers were generously donated by Joy Flowers, whilst the St Clare charity shop Scarlet Vintage & Retro provided the suit and champagne glasses from their wedding boutique. Hospice chef Sam, made the cake.
Within three days everything was ready. Margaret spread the word to all her family and very close friends and they all arrived en masse, milling in the Inpatient Unit whilst waiting to be seated.
The Hospice’s Sanctuary, usually used for quiet prayer and reflection, was quickly turned into a chapel – where the chaplain, Joyce, awaited the loving couple. Hospice staff decorated the pillars of the Inpatient Unit with flowers, and laid petals on the floor leading to the chapel so that Dave and Margaret’s walk to the chapel was filled with beauty and romance.
Tension mounted in Dave’s room, where he had got ready alongside Margaret, and a few ‘pre-wedding’ photographs were taken of the couple, along with their grandchildren Bethany, Rhiannon and Ryan.
When the time came, Dave emerged from his room smiling with his thumb up, as the nurses on the Inpatient Unit blew kisses and wished them well. Dave and Margaret made their way to the Sanctuary and Dave’s ‘favourite nurse’ Maria, pushed Dave’s wheelchair so that Margaret could walk alongside him.
As Dave and Margaret entered the Sanctuary, Dave’s favourite song ‘You are my sunshine’ was playing. Surrounded by their close friends and family, Dave and Margaret listened as Joyce compared love and marriage to a pebble, which has been shaped over the years but is smoother, and more beautiful, as a result.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Dave and Margaret renewed their vows. “Dave managed every word,” beamed Margaret proudly, after the ceremony. The chaplain then blessed the rings, which Dave said was his ‘favourite part of the wedding’ and Dave was allowed to ‘kiss the bride’ once more!
Dave encouraged his family and friends to serenade him and Margaret, by joining in as ‘You are my sunshine’ was played again, whilst more photos were taken. Then, the ‘wedding party’ spilled out into the Sanctuary’s garden where everyone mingled and toasted the happy couple with prosecco and Bucks Fizz.
“What a wonderful day we had,” said Margaret afterwards. “It will never be forgotten. It is amazing that the hospice team managed, in just two days, to arrange our wedding – our ‘REAL’ wedding, in David’s words. We are all so grateful to them for making David’s wishes come true.”
For more information visit St Clare’s Hospice