Once Upon a Time, There Was a Wedding in a Nursing Facility

      Pamela Phillips and George Mayes, residents of FutureCare Cold Spring in Baltimore, tied the knot at the facility on June 16, 2016. Pam has been a resident of the facility for the past 3 years, and George has lived there for 6 years. They both suffer from multiple chronic illnesses that affect their mobility, and George is also blind.
      I had the privilege of interviewing them at the facility. George said he was placed in the nursing home by his sister, who then moved to another state and seldom visits him. He further shared that he was married at the age of 16 and has two daughters and four sons, none of whom come to visit him.
      “I am a castaway,” he said, with sadness spreading through the fine wrinkles on his face. But then he beamed when he shared the details about his relationship with Pam. Meeting her, he said, was a beautiful turn in his life.
      “Love is where you find it. I found mine here at FutureCare. It made me happier than I have ever been in my life,” he said.

      Love Is Where You Find It

      George said they met more than a year ago, when Pam saw him sitting in the hallway and approached him for a chat. Their relationship grew over months. One day, he said, “She asked me to go to church with her, and we have been going to the church ever since.”
      “I call MTA [Maryland Transit Administration] and take him as my personal care assistant,” Pam said. “People at the church take care of him even though he can’t see.”
      I asked George how he’d proposed to Pam. His blind eyes sparkled as he smiled. “We were at the church, and people were asking me when we’ll get married. So I asked her if she would marry me. She said ‘Yes.’”
      Pam remembers that day vividly, and she smiles each time she talks about it. “It was on a Sunday, and by Tuesday I was already planning for the party, venue, and clothes, I was so excited,” she said. She shared her engagement and wedding plans with the other residents and the facility staff over the next few days.
      Pam and George decided to have their wedding in the facility. After the couple settled on a wedding date, Pam started making the arrangements. She planned her entire wedding herself with the help of her family, her church friends, and the facility team, particularly the activities department staff. The invitations were printed and shared in the facility — and everyone was invited.
      While the arrangements were being made and a month before their wedding, the facility surprised the couple by arranging a private residence room for both of them. They happily accepted, and moved in.
      “It was nice. It helped us settle in before the wedding,” Pam said.

      A Special Day

      The big day finally arrived. The facility hall was beautifully decorated with flowers, and white benches were carefully arranged to accommodate 100 anticipated guests — including family members (mostly Pam’s family), friends from the church, the facility’s staff, and the other residents. The staff members from the afternoon and night shifts made a special effort to attend the ceremony.
      According to Pam, the staff from the activities department helped to coordinate her entire wedding. They not only assisted with the selection of the venue, but they also arranged for the sound system and worked tirelessly to ensure all the other wedding arrangements were secure.
      For her wedding, Pam dressed in a purple and green gown she had ordered online, and her makeup and nails were done by the facility staff. Pam was beaming with happiness, but she admitted she had been a bit nervous and wanted everything to go smoothly.
      “I want to share laughs and giggles with him. I want to cuddle with him at night. It has been a while since I cuddled with someone,” Pam confided to me that day about George. “I want to go to the movies with him. He told me that he can watch movies and eat popcorn at the same time!” she said with a vibrant laugh.
      The highly anticipated wedding ceremony started as the bride and the groom entered the hall. After they had exchanged their vows and their rings, George burst into tears of happiness. And his tears turned out to be contagious — I could not stop my own, and I noticed other attendees also struggling to stop the tears flowing down their cheeks.
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      Pamela Phillips and George Mayes are all smiles as they enjoy their special day surrounded by staff from FutureCare Cold Spring.
      Photos courtesy of Fatima Sheikh

      Wedded Bliss

      I met with Pam and George again a month after their marriage. They both were in their wheelchairs, with George holding onto Pam’s motorized wheelchair as she led the way.
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      Pam leads the way as George holds onto the ride of his life.
      They had the biggest smiles on their faces.
      I asked them how marriage has been an adjustment for them. “I aggravate him more after the wedding,” Pam said with a laugh. “He has learned to respond with, ‘Yes, dear.’”
      “This was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me,” George added.
      They told me that they both look out for each other, and on the weekends they go out to restaurants for dinner and go to the movies. Most recently they enjoyed attending “Transformers” together.
      “I want you to share this happy story with everyone,” Pam told me. “There are always bad things in the news and everywhere. This will bring happiness to people.” She further added, addressing physicians and providers in geriatrics, “Always remember that you could be in the same situation as us. Keep that in mind while taking care of older adults.”
      George shared his own appreciation of the providers in the geriatric field: “Keep up the good work!”
      Dr. Sheikh is a multi-facility medical director in Baltimore.