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Patient’s wish comes true with holiday wedding

Patient’s wish comes true with holiday wedding

He’s lived eight decades and when his health took a turn, there was one more thing that Norman “Buck” Calvert wanted to accomplish. He wanted to marry his long time companion.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

They were introduced by mutual friends and had been a couple for several years. In the back of his mind, Norman “Buck” Calvert knew he wanted to marry his long time love.

But the logistics of it all were complicated. After a nine-day hospital stay Calvert’s body depended on portable oxygen – the result of congestive heart failure. During those nine days, Calvert referred to that special someone, Sherry Hause, as his “fiancé.” When one of his nurses asked if he was getting married, Calvert said he guessed he was.

The challenge was getting to the courthouse clerk’s office to obtain a marriage license. Calvert turned 80 on September 1. His body was tired. But he was determined.

“After nine days in the hospital, he wouldn’t have gotten out if it hadn’t been for hospice,” said Sherry, who turned 61 on Dec. 1st. “Oddly enough we didn’t like calling each other ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ at our age so it made sense to refer to me as his fiancé even though we weren’t officially engaged.”

All that changed when the staff at IU Health Bloomington got word of his wishes.

Hospice chaplain Holly Cedar helped the couple obtain their marriage license and agreed to perform the ceremony at their Owen County home. Another surprise in the planning occurred when she drove to their house. She passed a neighboring home where she had visited earlier and learned that was the home of a relative of the Calverts.

Just days before Buck Calvert was discharged from the hospital, his bride-to-be decorated their home for the holidays. One of Buck’s favorite holiday memories was watching his lighted Polar Express train run around the Christmas tree. Sherry assembled the train and all the other lights and greenery and when Buck came home from the hospital he was home for the holidays.

When the scene was set, Cedar came to the home and performed the ceremony in the presence of a few family members. The couple dressed casually – their faces beaming.

They didn’t know how long that moment would last. This week, they met with a family pastor – Buck was ready for his last rites.

IU Health’s Hospice program provides comfort for patients who are discharged and facing life-limiting illness. The focus is on compassionate family-centered care – generally for those with a life expectancy of six months or less. Along with providing relief from pain, hospice team members – including doctors, nurses, social workers, home health aids and chaplains - focus on helping patients enjoys quality time.

It was the first time Cedar performed a wedding for a patient in hospice care. She started her internship at IU Health in 2009 and has served various hospitals including Riley Hospital for Children and University Hospital. She began working with the Hospice program in February serving IU Health Bloomington.

“Honestly, this was a bright spot in what I normally do. Dealing with death can be tough but to know that this was something that this patient really wanted, was special to be part of,” said Cedar. After reading a couple of bible verses she pronounced the couple “husband and wife.”

For Buck Calvert, the ceremony was a way formalizing the covenant with the woman who has always taken care of him, he said. For his new bride: “He’s the nicest man I’ve ever known besides my dad,” said Sherry Calvert.

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Hospice

Hospice provides care at home or a facility for persons whose life expectancy due to illness is six months or less.