Michita Hopson and Antonio Hopson stand at the alter of the chapel at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on Oct. 16 with the bride’s mother, Ester Brown, seated in front on the left. The couple’s wedding location was re-arranged after Brown was admitted to the hospital so that she could participate. (Submitted photo)
ALBANY — A bride and groom from the Atlanta area had a wedding all set to go, until an obstacle caused a sudden change in plans.
The bride, Michita Hopson, whose father is not involved her life, wanted her mother, Ester Brown, to walk her down the aisle. All the state requirements to obtain a legal marriage in Georgia had been met, but the mother’s health took enough of a downfall to where she had to be hospitalized in Albany — which would have made it impossible for her to participate in the wedding had it been held in Atlanta as scheduled.
A change of plans resulted in arrangements being made for the happy couple to be married at the chapel at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
“I got a call from the bride,” said Kim Smith, spiritual care coordinator at Phoebe. “The plan was put into place by a nurse who heard that the mom would be hospitalized and miss the wedding in Atlanta.
“It’s something that we do, but not very often. The license was ready and the state requirements were met. They had everything in place. They just needed a minister to do it.”
Brown is a 20-year breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed with acute leukemia last month. Hopson and her then-fiance Antonio Hopson got the phone call about a week before their Oct. 16 wedding.
“My father has never been in my life and I always told her (my mother) when I got married that she would walk me down the aisle,” Hopson said. “I said: ‘Mom, I’m not getting married unless you walk me down the aisle.’
” … She walked me down, but we walked really slow. She was in a wheelchair and sat down for the whole wedding except for the part where the minister said: ‘Who gives this bride away.’ Then we took her back to her room (after the ceremony).”
The space at the chapel was available, and hospital staff were there to provide music and take photos. There was a full chapel for the ceremony that took place on the date the couple initially intended their wedding for with attendance from 25 people.
“It was not an ideal wedding, but the whole idea was to have the mother at the wedding,” Smith said.
Since Brown did not want to know the prognosis, her daughter ultimately decided it was best not to wait.
“She doesn’t know the prognosis, and she didn’t want to know, so I didn’t postpone it because I didn’t want her to miss this moment,” Hopson said. “It was something to cheer her up while she was in the hospital and (a way) to be able to share that with my mother.”
There have been a number of requests for such services at the hospital in the six years Smith has been with the spiritual care department, with this being the only one she has been a part of so far. Aside from getting the physician’s permission for the patient to participate, the marriage license needs to be established in order for them to be able to do it, she said.
“This one came together beautifully,” Smith said. “(In order for there to be a wedding performed at Phoebe), there needs to be time to get all the state requirements met. We can find them a minister.”
Smith said there seemed to be a strong motivation to make sure the needs of the family were met to get the wedding pulled off. In this case, due to Brown’s low white cell count, there was only one condition the mother’s physician made.
“What I appreciated was the staff listening to the patient and caregiver. They tried to meet their needs,” Smith said. “There was not a medical need, but a strong desire of the bride for the mother to be there. Dr. (Jose) Tongol’s only stipulation is that the mother wear a (medical) mask.”
After that stipulation was put on the table, the bride insisted that all the guests in the chapel for the ceremony wear masks so her mother would not feel out of place. In the photos, everyone with the exception of the minister — including the bride and groom — are shown wearing masks.
“It was nice to even have a place in the hospital to do this,” Smith said. “The hospital is not a happy place to be, unless you are having a baby, and the chapel is a necessary part of it. It was special for us to be a part of a special day like that.
“It was an emotional ceremony, and (the family) was appreciative. They thanked us over and over. We were thankful we were there and available and able to do it.”
Hopson and her husband have a residence in Atlanta, but she is temporarily staying in Albany to care for her mother. As of now, Brown still has a good quality of life.
“She is doing great. She is in good spirits,” the daughter said. “She has a whole lot of support; she has a big family. She can still sit up, and is getting around pretty good.”
Given that Brown was able to participate, and that it helped her mood, Hopson said she still feels having the wedding set up that way was the right thing to do.
“I think it was the best thing ever,” she said. “It was the best thing for her; it brightened her day … It was most definitely (the right choice). It was priceless. That day was the most beautiful day ever.
” … It was emotional. I was so happy it was able to happen. I’m grateful to God and the doctors we were able to arrange to have that moment.”