Daughter’s hospital wedding brings smiles, light
Berkley Bargine had just been hired at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central when Colorado began seeing COVID-19 patients in hospitals and the World Health Organization declared the virus a global pandemic.
For a medical social worker assigned to one of the intensive care units at the hospital, it was an unusual time to start to a new job. Patients with COVID-19 were separated from their families and as a social worker, she could not interact with them or their families face-to-face.
“It’s been really difficult for all of them and all of us in the ICU to watch, so I kind of latched on to this moment of hope we could do something for this family,” she said.
The “moment of hope” was when Bargine learned that a patient in the ICU with a non-COVID diagnosis had always wanted to see his daughter be married. Because of the pandemic, his daughter’s wedding was postponed. The bride-to-be told Bargine she knew her father would not survive that long. He had days, maybe weeks, left.
“We just really connected, and she was telling me her story,” Bargine recalled. “She said her dad’s one goal and wish was to make it to her wedding, and that wasn’t going to happen. I had known from the doctors and the nurses that his prognosis was grim and he was incredibly sick.
“My first thought was how can we make his final wishes come true and how the heck do we do it with COVID-19 and visitor restrictions? I just kind of suggested to the daughter: ‘Well, I have no idea if I can make this happen, but how would you feel about a wedding at bedside?’ She became very emotional and said that would be amazing. We spoke with the chaplain, and somehow, miraculously, we were able to make it happen in less than 24 hours.”
The next afternoon, the patient – while still in bed – was pushed into a large waiting area off the ICU. Bargine brought in a vase of white roses for the ceremony, and she and Melanie Baker, the care management social work manager, adorned a wall with white ribbon.
“Thank you so much for putting this all together,” the patient said. “Thank you.”
With that, Chaplain Christopher Keith welcomed the patient and the couple. Vows were exchanged. Hugs and kisses soon followed.
For Keith, it was the fourth ceremony he’d performed at the hospital this year.
“Each of the weddings had similar situations regarding a hospitalized family member not able to attend a traditional ceremony due to a grave medical condition,” he said. “As chaplains we are called to meet the spiritual and religious needs of our patients. I have been profoundly touched by the clarity of intention that accompanies a person facing their mortality. We are privileged to listen to their life story and aid in their composing how they want their story to end. I have been the officiant in over 250 weddings in my 33 years of ordained ministry, and the most memorable of them have occurred in the hospital setting.”
Baker said the ceremony “brought some hope and light in a challenging time in health care.”
“It meant so much to support putting together this ceremony to honor our patient’s end of life wishes to see his daughter married. Berkley was key in identifying the patient’s wishes and Chaplain Christopher led a touching ceremony, even prompting the patient to share a few words with his daughter. The patient was able to share just how proud he was of his daughter and how at peace he felt having been able to experience this important moment with her.”
For Bargine, the event was uplifting. “It was a bright moment in a really dark time. It felt like a real triumph for me. It was a reminder that this is what I love doing. It’s an interesting time to be a social worker – that’s for sure.
“Many of my days I leave crying or kind of solemn, feeling out of control with COVID. That day, I definitely left on a social work high – just feeling humbled and grateful I could help these people.”