VA Northern California Health Care System
A Veteran’s Final Vow
By Diane L. Foster, LCSW
CREC Napa Unit Social Worker
Edited by Amanda Mina
February 4th is a day that Mary will never forget. It was her wedding day – the day she joined her best friend in marriage.
The afternoon before that, she had come to the office of Diane Foster, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the Martinez Center for Rehabilitation and Extended Care (CREC) to discuss funeral arrangements for David, her long-time partner who was in hospice there. During the conversation, she mentioned that she wished they had gotten married before he got sick.
What Diane heard was an opportunity to ease the pain.
"Do you want to get married tomorrow?" The answer was "Yes." But the couple had neither money nor time to arrange such an event, so Diane gathered her team and started planning. A staff collection was started – one of the nurses volunteered to pick up a cake and flowers that night – Diane bought a veil and a photo frame and looked through her closet for a dress and shoes for the bride. She also arranged for a notary, since a trip to city hall was impossible. Support flowed in from staff nurses, therapists, patient advocates and others.
By Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. 40 people had gathered to witness the ceremony. Doctors, nurses, staff and Veterans alike were there to share the joyous and bittersweet event.
A local musician played the Wedding March as bride and groom took their vows in front of Chaplain Johnson. David’s daughter attended via Facetime. It was a simple ceremony, but the kind of event that has lasting effects on everyone.
David passed away the following Sunday. He leaves his wife Mary with wonderful memories of their 12 years together.