‘It was the only time I cried all day’: Bride moved to tears after grandfather attends wedding virtually from hospital

September 14th, 2021

Jessica Dulmage was excited to have the people that matter most to her and fiancé, Tim Anderson, join them as they wed in an apple orchard on July 30. The Brantford couple chose to forge ahead with their planned wedding despite the pandemic, as both have family members in their elder years and wanted them to be a part of their day.

Then, just a few days before the ceremony Jessica’s grandfather William Groff, of Kitchener, took ill and was admitted to St. Mary’s General Hospital. The family crossed their fingers that the 93-year-old man would be discharged before the big day and be able to attend. But it wasn’t to be.

Enter another Jessica – Jessica Nielson, a Patient Experience Guide at St. Mary’s, who has been supporting patients since last January when visits from loved ones had to be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On her daily rounds, Jessica dropped in on William.

“He was a little sad because he couldn’t figure out how to use FaceTime on his iPad and his granddaughter was getting married,” she said. Having facilitated many Zoom calls for patients with family who were unable to visit, Nielson knew she could help. With a tablet set up in his room and his daughter at the wedding filming it on her cell phone, William was able to watch and speak with his granddaughter Jessica.

“He told me congratulations and that I looked pretty, and I told him I loved him and wished he was here,” the new bride said. “He thought the Zoom thing was cool. It let him feel included, and he was glad he didn’t have to press any buttons.”

Sadly, Groff passed away in hospital shortly after the wedding. St. Mary’s General Hospital offers our condolences to his family.

To Jessica, it meant even more that he was able to attend the wedding before he died.

She described William as a “great grandpa” who always came to cheer her on when she played sports growing up, and who entertained her with childhood stories about her mom, aunts and uncles. He was always by her grandmother, Janet’s side at the weddings in her large extended family. “This was the first time grandma had to go to a family function without him,” she said.

Jessica said she and Tim have many friends who are healthcare workers and they appreciate how exhausting their work has been during the pandemic.

“That people at St. Mary’s would take the time and have the energy and interest to offer to set this up blew me away,” she said. When her wedding photographer showed her a close-up photo of William watching the ceremony, she was moved to tears. “It was the only time I cried all day.”

At St. Mary’s, Jessica Nielson said it was the highlight of her week to help Groff participate in the wedding. Wanting him to look extra spiffy for the big day, she printed and coloured a paper necktie for him to wear. “I was honoured to be able to set this up for this gentleman. It was so heart-warming.”

St. Mary’s President Lee Fairclough joined William in his room to help celebrate the occasion.

Our staff have gone above and beyond on a number of occasions to host weddings here onsite in exceptional circumstances. This is another example of their dedication to our mission and compassion for patients,” she said.

“While we all wish William could have attended his granddaughter’s wedding in person, we are so thankful to have been able to bring the family together virtually on this most important day.”

Nielson has facilitated patient-family Zoom calls for many occasions, from celebrating birthdays to sadly going through their final days of life. Having technology and Patient Experience Guides readily available to connect patients with loved ones in times of heartache and celebration has been a positive to come from the pandemic

“When we are past the pandemic I hope the Zoom calls continue,” she added. “There are lots of families that don’t have the ability to come in.”