Daughter weds at father's hospital bed
Kaila Kirby always assumed her father would walk her down the aisle.
But in recent days, as Jubal Kirby grew desperately ill with an incurable lung disease, it became clear he might not live to see his daughter’s wedding next July.
So, with a few hours’ notice Wednesday morning, family members and hospital nurses scrambled to help Kaila and her fiancé, Daniel Pardue, arrange an impromptu wedding by her father's bedside in the intensive care unit at Carolinas Medical Center.
Hospital case manager Cyndi Richi learned of the plans at 10 a.m. And in only two hours, with $45 in donations from hospital staff, she brought in fresh flowers and a cake and invited hospital chaplain Daniel Miles to play his guitar and sing.
“I’m clinical care manager,” Richi said, “but today I was a wedding coordinator.”
At noon, she was among about 50 relatives, hospital employees and TV and newspaper journalists who crowded into the hospital room, eyes focused on the man in the bed surrounded by blue tubes and monitors. Many wiped tears as the bride and groom, standing at Jubal Kirby’s bedside, exchanged vows and rings.
Kaila held her husband’s hand. With her right hand, she reached back to touch her father’s arm.
The solemn ceremony lasted only 10 minutes. When the Rev. Rex Burleson declared the couple “husband and wife,” Kaila’s mother, Colleen, at the other side of the bed, led in applause.
Jubal Kirby, 49, wearing a blue North Carolina Tar Heels shirt, bought especially for the occasion, smiled slightly through the clear plastic mask connected to oxygen that helped him breathe. He clapped by patting his hand weakly on the sheet by his side.
Only a week ago, the same minister had officiated at another wedding at CMC – that of Jubal and Colleen Kirby. It came up so quickly that even their daughters weren’t present. The Anson County couple had been together for 26 years, but never bothered to marry. When the seriousness of his illness became clear, they decided the time was right.
“He said he wanted to make an honest woman out of her,” said Jessica Harrison of Polkton, Kaila’s older sister.
Harrison said her stepfather, who’s employed by Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, had suffered a stroke this summer, but was recovering after surgery. He was diagnosed in recent weeks with the progressive lung disease.
During her sister’s wedding ceremony, Harrison was visibly sad but also moved.
“It’s just sweet that he gets to give her away,” she said. “That’s his baby girl.”
Kaila, 20, barely smiled on her wedding day. She didn’t stray far from her father’s side.
“It was important to have my dad here,” she said. “I would have liked for him to stand up beside me.…I feel like I’m losing my best friend.”