When people get married, they usually expect to live a long life together. Couples seeking help from Vancouver’s A Wish to Wed Society know that they might not have a lot of time left.
13 years ago, Dave Bush was walking his dog Buddy in a park when he met Linda. Immediately smitten, he kept taking his dog to the same spot for weeks after their first encounter, hoping to run into her again. As it later turned out, he wasn’t the only one keeping an eye out. Linda was making extra trips to her building’s laundry room, which overlooked the same park, to increase her chances of running into Dave again.
To make a long story short, they met, fell in love and moved in together. What they didn’t know was that life would confront them soon with one of their biggest challenges: Linda’s Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) diagnosis.
COPD is a deteriorating lung disease that can make breathing a laborious and painful task. “It was a shock,” says Linda, who has to be connected to an oxygen tank these days to get enough air.
“I got diagnosed at stage three when I went to the doctor. It’s not going to get any better. It’s just a matter of making it as comfortable for me as possible.”
With Linda’s health deteriorating, the couple decided they wanted to get married. Financial challenges, however, kept them from following through on their plan — until the day Dave came across Wish to Wed Society, a volunteer-run nonprofit that grants weddings and vow renewals to couples suffering from terminal or life-altering illness.
“I was on the bus and just picked up a newspaper and I saw the story of a couple Wish to Wed married and when I told Linda about it she reached out,” he says. “I guess we just got lucky.”
Wish to Wed is the only organization of its kind in Vancouver. Linda and Dave are the second couple Wish to Wed has been able to help.
“We provide all the necessities of a wedding: a suit, a dress, a venue, a priest, the catering. We have an amazing roster of vendors who help us,” says Tianna Tran, Wish to Wed’s marketing manager and founding member.
“We always try our best to give the couple what they want.”
Giving a couple a break for a day from the stress and worries that come with a life-limiting illness is one of the two main goals for Wish to Wed — the other being to create a memorable moment for family and friends.
We’re also doing this for the family members who are left behind,” Tianna says.
“It’s important to have a day when the whole family can think back to something that’s positive, that they can keep with them forever in their heart as a beautiful memory.”
“It was great to have our friends with us. All the women I talked to said they cried at the ceremony. It really choked them up. I still do, when I watch our wedding video. I’ve seen it about 20 times and I still cry,” says Linda.
While Dave and Linda are enjoying the first month of their married life, Wish to Wed is already busy planning their next wedding.
Between organizing fundraisers, planning wedding ceremonies and coordinating with couples and vendors, Tianna — who’s also a full-time makeup artist, mom of two, and runs her own restaurant chain — often feels like she needs an extra 24 hours in her day. But whenever the long hours and competing schedules threaten to overwhelm her, she reminds herself what makes it worth all the hassle.
“We had people asking us ‘Why are you doing this? They are going to die anyway.’ What do you mean why? Because they love each other!”
“It doesn’t matter if a couple has one week left, or a day or a month. They want to get married and show the world that they truly love each other.”
Read our On Purpose interview with Tianna to learn more about Wish to Wed and make a couple’s dream come true by making a donation. If you’re a vendor and you’d like to offer your services, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: ©Joanna Moss Photography