Love was in the air at Kingwood Medical Center. So, the hospital’s caregivers united a couple in marriage before the bride’s ailing father.

Jacob Auerbach-Muller, a patient in the HCA Healthcare affiliate in Texas, had been diagnosed with brain cancer that had metastasized. He was heartbroken because his only daughter, Joyce, who lives in Florida, was scheduled to get married in May, and his doctors were doubtful he would live to walk her down the aisle.

That’s when Joyce, who was in town visiting her father, along with her fiancé, asked if the hospital would host a symbolic “wedding” at his bedside.

Jim Wall, the manager of pastoral care at Kingwood Medical, gladly approved of the idea, caregivers agreed to make arrangements, and all that remained was to secure a wedding officiant. In came Sandy Murphy, Kingwood’s chaplain.

“I’d never done anything like that, and I thought it was outstanding that the hospital was willing to do this for the patient and his family,” Murphy said. “Mr. Auerbach-Muller was anxious about making sure his daughter would be taken care of, and this would give him some peace of mind.”

After a minor hiccup – a rare Houston ice storm that prevented Murphy from officiating the ceremony as planned – the bedside wedding took place the following day.

“When I arrived, everyone in the room was quiet,” Murphy remembered. “But then Joyce came out of the bathroom and she had on her wedding dress, which she had brought from Florida to show her father. Everyone was so happy and surprised – I almost cried. It was a real tear-jerker!”

Mr. Auerbach-Muller was on a lot of medication at the time, so it wasn’t clear how aware he was of what was going on. When the ceremony began, before Murphy could even finish asking, “Who gives this woman …,” Auerbach-Muller said, very clearly, “I do!”

It broke the tension of the moment, and everyone in the room started laughing. Afterward, Auerbach-Muller told Murphy how blessed he felt for being able to participate, and how happy he was to live to see his daughter get “married.”

Murphy found the event so moving that she plans to add mock weddings and other special ceremonies to the curriculum of the chaplain’s school, located at Kingwood Medical Center.

As for the “newlyweds,” they’re spending as much time with Auerbach-Muller as they can and enjoying Valentine’s Day as husband and wife.

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Joyce and her fiance join Kingwood Medical Center Chaplain Sandy Murphy for a symbolic wedding at her father’s bedside.

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The newlyweds. 

Kingwood Medical Center is a member of HCA’s Gulf Coast Division.