Dawn Worlledge and Rick Alderton had waited a long time to get married. They had been courting for more than 20 years and had talked about tying the knot before.
But then they could wait no longer. Because Dawn at the age of 57 had been told she had an incurable brain tumour and had just months to live.
She had been referred to St Elizabeth Hospice for day care support and they shared their desire to officially seal their love with the nurses and health care assistants there. A meeting was arranged with the hospice chaplain the Revd Jane Kingsnorth, who leads spiritual care for patients and their families whatever their faith or culture, and it was agreed a Christian blessing would take place at the hospice in Foxhall Road, Ipswich.
Rick, 53, of Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, said: “I’m a recovering alcoholic and we had planned to get married before but I messed things up and Dawn decided to cancel it. When Dawn was diagnosed, it made us think about how we felt about each other and we decided we wanted a blessing before God. Although it was not a full-blown wedding it was important for us to show our commitment to each other in this way.”
Staff swung into action, knowing time was of the essence, and within days the plans were finalised. Dawn’s outfit was ready – a white floaty dress and floral headband – and the rings were in. The hospice catering team organised drinks and food, the service sheets were printed, flowers were arranged and a member of staff was asked to take official photos for the couple.
The ceremony, in the hospice’s quiet room called Reflections, was led by the Revd Kingsnorth. The couple did not want a fuss and the witnesses were two members of hospice staff and a volunteer, who had all got to know Dawn well.
Their special song from their courting days signalled the start of the service – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You by Glenn Medeiros. It summed up how they felt. They wrote their own words to say to each other and cried as they looked into each other’s eyes and said them.
Revd Kingsnorth said: “It was a real privilege to arrange this ceremony for Dawn and Rick. It was a lovely service which blessed and celebrated their bond of love and strengthened their commitment to each other for the months that lay ahead. It was a special memory for both of them.”
She explained the hospice family support team is often asked to make arrangements and they always try and make things as special as possible.
Dawn, who lived in Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, died two months later. She and Rick wanted their story to be told during Hospice Care Week, to highlight the surprising ways St Elizabeth Hospice helps local people.
Rick said: “I will never forget the day we had our blessing at the hospice. It was so special, the staff and volunteers were fantastic and we could not have done it without them.”