On a warm summer day, Beverley Kissinger received her last wish to see her son get married.
The ceremony took place under a gazebo — amidst flowers, plants and sunshine — on the grounds of Dulcina Hospice in Calgary. Groom Michael Kissinger was overjoyed his mother could be part of his big day, especially knowing how much it meant to her.
“Her last wish was that she was able to attend the wedding, and having it at Dulcina made it possible for her,” says Michael.
Beverley Kissinger, 65, passed away from cancer on August 17, 2020, nine days after Michael’s wedding.
“The most important part about the wedding was to celebrate our families coming together, and with my mom being one of the most important people in my life, it was very important for her to be there and to witness the extension and connection of me and my wife’s family,” says Michael.
Michael’s love story began back in 2017, when he met Rachel Stock. The couple decided to exchange vows in 2020, although not everything went as planned.
“Wedding plans changed, mostly because of the pandemic but also because of my mother’s health,” says Michael.
His mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was moved to live at Dulcina Hospice in July. Although the couple had planned their wedding to take place at a different venue later in the year, they quickly rearranged their plans to have their wedding on August 8 at Dulcina.
“We wanted to make sure that we could have a wedding with my mom there, and given how her health was deteriorating and her limited mobility, we decided that the best place to do it would be somewhere she could attend, and then she was moved to Dulcina. It just seemed like an excellent place to have a wedding,” Michael explains.
And with the help of Covenant Care’s Dulcina Hospice staff and volunteers, the wedding took place on the hospice grounds.
“It was a rush, but it was actually pretty smooth. The staff at Dulcina were very helpful. Even on the day of the wedding, they were there to help set things up, and they couldn’t have been more accommodating,” Michael explains.
With the help of staff and volunteers, the wedding was planned in two weeks, allowing the couple to have an intimate ceremony with a handful of guests because of COVID-19 restrictions, with Rachel’s brother and sister-in-law joining via a Zoom call. For staff, the wedding was a special day.
“Any time we have a wedding here and we can support a family or a resident with an end-of-life goal, the staff are emotionally overwhelmed that we can do something so wonderful for a family,” says Theresa Bellows, activity and volunteer coordinator at Dulcina Hospice. “They are a pretty special family. It’s so nice that Michael and his bride moved the wedding so his mom could be part of the day. They are a special young couple to honour Michael’s mom like that.”
Michael was familiar with the hospice before his mom arrived. Having volunteered multiple times with his band, the Frontiers, before the pandemic, he knew the area and the staff.
“Volunteering helped when it came to planning the wedding,” says Michael. “You know, you’re always kind of nervous when you’re trying to plan your wedding and picking a venue, but being here, and knowing the area and staff, was nice.”
On the day of the wedding, the family of the bride and groom gathered outside in the hospice gardens for the ceremony, and Beverley was nervous and excited.
“It was all she was talking about and holding on for,” Theresa recalls. “She was a bit nervous and wasn’t feeling well the morning of the wedding because of her nerves, and then family came and helped her get dressed, and she looked absolutely beautiful. So during the day, she was actually out of her room in the garden for six hours. It was very emotional for her. For the mother of the groom, there were a lot of tears of joy that I witnessed with the family. It was a privilege and honour to be part of this event.”
The highlight of the wedding for Michael was hearing the speech his mother wrote for him and Rachel. He believes that was something his mother was especially looking forward to.
“My mother spoke and talked about how much she loved both me and Rachel and how happy she was that Rachel was joining the family. I think she was really looking forward to giving that speech to us.”
Michael feels blessed that his mother was able to be part of such a special day.
“I was overjoyed to be finally getting married to the love of my life, and having my mom there with the rest of my family really meant the world to me. It wouldn’t have been as special of a day if she hadn't been there to see it.”