*WARNING* – Emotional content, have your tissues at the ready and don’t say I didn’t warn you. This is my favourite love story and a lot of the reason I do what I do and love it!
On Christmas Eve last year, my beautiful grandparents celebrated their 62ndwedding anniversary but it wasn’t how they had intended. Unfortunately, Grandma (dad’s mum) has advanced dementia and has been battling this for the past 10 years and is in full time care at a nursing home in Glen Innes. Grandad visits her every day and I believe it is their undying love that has kept them together and alive all this time.
Grandad thought his early morning visit with flowers to Grandma on their anniversary was the end of their celebration together for one day as he had to make his way to Armidale for his grandson’s wedding (my brother Hamish). But little did he know, that a few of us had brewed up “Grandma’s Great Escape”.
I had organised for some beautiful friends to arrive at the nursing home after Grandad had left for the wedding to give Grandma a complete make over from hair & makeup to a stunning new outfit – I’d told the rest of the family that my gift to Grandad for their anniversary was a beautiful photo shoot of Grandma looking a hundred bucks, because if they knew what was really happening they would have freaked out.
Phase two commenced as a maxi taxi arrived capable of fitting grandmas wheelchair and she was loaded up along with one of her amazing carers Pam, so that they could follow us down to the wedding. I’d asked Dad months before if there was any chance of getting grandma to the wedding and had decided that it was potentially too stressful for her… but I rarely take no for an answer so “Grandma’s Great Escape” was created. It’s worth noting that until this day, Grandma has not once left the nursing home in the 3 years since she was admitted, as her care needs are too high. I’d conversed with the staff and thought of everything possible to make sure this mission was going to be a success… and it was.
As all the groomsmen were getting ready together before the wedding, it seemed like the perfect destination for Grandma’s first surprise.
“The eagle has landed, the eagle has landed” – no one knew what I was talking about until the doors opened and in rolls Grandma, stealing the spotlight like she so deserved. Dad’s jaw hit the floor and he became speechless.
I, with the help of some amazing people, had made the impossible come true. His mother was about to witness the first wedding of one of her grandchildren and he couldn’t believe what we had done. I’ll never forget this moment and I can barely type this for the tears of joy – I’ve never seen Dad so happy and surprised in my life.
Hamish on the other hand was too busy to even notice the commotion that was unfolding in the background as he was still organising the final elements of the day. Eventually he realised who was sitting in the corner and he too was speechless.
He and Lauren had chosen to get married on Grandma and Grandad’s wedding anniversary as they have always admired their relationship and say that if they can have a marriage as loving as theirs they will be the luckiest people in the world.
So to see his Grandma sitting there, about to witness his wedding like he’d wished for so much, was such a beautiful moment. You can see us man crying in one of the photos as we happy hug the shit out of each other.
But this wasn’t the biggest of the surprises – we were yet to spring Grandad with our master plan.
Phase three commenced as we convoyed on motorbike to the ceremony and were followed by the taxi, which did appear to be quite a strange addition to the wedding party.
I walked Grandad to the taxi where he recognised both the driver and the nurse and still didn’t make the connection as to what was about to happen. Slowly, the boot opened and Grandma was revealed as he made his final approach to the van. This is a moment I will never forget. His wobbly old legs hardly supported him as he saw Grandma for the first time. He began sobbing and saying “It’s my pet, my darling Ba, my pet, my darling”. Grandma turned and saw him and instantly knew what was going on and began sobbing as well. It seemed like the whole world stopped for this moment as they saw each other for the first time.
Love makes you do some crazy things – and this was one. When I realised that due to Grandma’s poor health, it was unfortunately going to be too complicated to get her to the wedding, I just couldn’t accept this.
And I’m forever greatful that I didn’t. Grandma and Grandad got to sit side by side, on their 62ndwedding anniversary, holding hands in the sun while they witnessed Hamish & Lauren get married (by me). “In 62 years, this is the best Christmas & wedding anniversary we have ever had” – Grandad still can’t believe it happened and Grandma can’t remember… but I’m so glad that I let love take over.
Helping two couples that I love so much, celebrate their love for each other in the most amazing way is why I became a celebrant & minister of love. I live for these moments and I’m so lucky I get to do what I love, every single day.