After battling colorectal cancer for almost a year, Crystal Mackey’s doctors at University Hospitals in Cleveland encouraged her to seek hospice care. Her family reached out to Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare in Wooster, and the not-for-profit hospice’s mobile care unit transported her on Wednesday, July 14, to the Stanley C. and Flo K. Gault Inpatient Pavilion at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare. The care team worked quickly to get her settled in a patient room, managing her symptoms, adjusting her medications, and stabilizing her condition.
But by Friday, July 16, Crystal’s condition worsened. She expressed to her husband, Mike, and her children, Courtney, 25; Ashton, 18; and Caleb, 15, that her one regret was that she would not live to see Courtney’s wedding ceremony on Aug. 28. Courtney and her fiancée, Nick Letterly, had planned to get married in 2020. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they rescheduled the wedding for August 2021.
When Courtney heard this, she suggested that they hold a wedding at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare. “I asked my dad to ask the staff at about holding our wedding here,” Courtney said. “When they said they would be more than happy to help us put this wedding together, I was so thankful that they were so willing to help us.”
The care team quickly planned a wedding for that weekend on the patio of Crystal’s inpatient pavilion room. The doors of the inpatient room open to a patio that overlooks a beautiful pond. While Courtney and Nick’s Aug. 28 wedding will be held as planned, the care team arranged for Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare Chaplain Darcy Miller to conduct a wedding ceremony for family only. The culinary staff prepared beverages. A staff member and volunteer cut flowers from the grounds of Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare to decorate the patio, and an Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare volunteer, Mary Rutter, arranged for decorations, balloons and cupcakes.
For the wedding ceremony at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, Courtney wore the dress that she planned to wear later in August at her wedding reception. Courtney and her mother had a special moment before the ceremony, which allowed only her mother to see her wedding dress. The rest of her family will see her dress on her wedding day. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and her mother’s illness, Courtney and Crystal were not able to go shopping for a wedding dress together.
On Sunday, July 18, immediate family and a few extended family members attended Courtney and Nick’s wedding, including Crystal’s twin sister and her family. Crystal walked from the great room through the lawn to the patio. The sun was shining brightly for the afternoon ceremony.
Courtney described the wedding ceremony on the patio of the patient room at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare as the most emotional and special moment she has ever had. “To see my mom’s face light up with a smile as she shed a few tears was the main thing I remember from the entire event,” Courtney said. “My mom was fighting so hard at the end to just stay awake to see us get married. I could not have asked for a better place or moment for my mom and me.”
Her father agreed with her. “It was a beautiful day,” Mike said. “The staff at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare did a wonderful job to make this special for our family. We couldn’t have asked for a better setting.”
As he reflected on the past year, he recalled that his wife’s battle with cancer started when the family had been vacationing at Tybee Island, Georgia, in July 2020. “When we were down at Tybee Island over the Fourth of July last year on vacation, I noticed that something was wrong with Crystal,” he said. “She would go to the beach, but she wouldn’t go for walks. She was tired and she wore out quickly. She just wasn’t being herself.”
Mike and their children encouraged Crystal to see a doctor, but she didn’t until August 2020 when she was forced to go to a local emergency room because of the pain. The doctors diagnosed Crystal with colorectal cancer. They sent her to University Hospitals. They tried radiation and chemotherapy. Then, they tried another round of chemotherapy.
Before she became ill, Crystal worked at Hartley’s Auto Repair in Wooster, answering phones, ordering parts, scheduling work, and taking care of the billing. “She did pretty much everything but turn the wrench,” Mike said.
When she wasn’t working, she loved spending time with Mike, her three children, and her 1-year-old grandchild, Layla, who is Courtney and Nick’s daughter. She enjoyed spending time with her dog, a bloodhound named Ruby. She also was passionate about her flower beds. “Crystal had beautiful flower beds,” said Mike, who has been married to Crystal for almost 27 years. “I did the digging, and she did the planting and maintaining.”
Mike and his family are grateful to Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare for all the care team did to help them with the wedding ceremony and the care each day. Courtney praised the efforts as well. “They did an amazing job getting everything ready for our wedding. They helped my mom feel comfortable during the entire wedding,” she said. “They are making this process a little easier. They do such amazing work for people at the end stages of life and their families.”
She expressed her gratitude to the care team. “Thank you to everyone who put everything together for our wedding,” Courtney said. “The last thing my mom told me before the ceremony was that she will remember and cherish this for the rest of her life and after. So will I, and so will my family.”
Kurt Holmes, executive director of Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, explained that events like this show how the not-for-profit organization celebrates the lives of those it is privileged to serve. “Hospice care is about living and meeting quality-of-life goals. We understand that every patient and family is unique and has unique needs,” Holmes said. “Our care team — doctors, nurses, personal care specialists, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers — works together to meet patient and family needs. We’re grateful that we could help Crystal celebrate her daughter’s wedding on the patio of her patient room.”
Katherine Ritchie, development director, said Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare is committed to providing superior care and superior services to each patient and family. “Our staff is exceptional. From incredible moments like a wedding to fulfilling smaller, but equally important everyday requests, we are Celebrating Life’s Stories® and creating memories and moments for each and every patient and family,” Ritchie said. “We are able to do this thanks to the philanthropic support of our community and staff who are nimble and truly can understand that every patient and family needs something different.”
Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, a not-for-profit organization established in 1982, is an affiliate of Ohio’s Hospice that serves communities in Wayne, Holmes, Ashland and Medina counties. It embodies the spirit of neighbors caring for neighbors with a commitment to relieve suffering, ease fears, and provide companionship along life’s last journey. Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare addresses patient and family needs wherever the patient calls home. Services also include access to the Stanley C. and Flo K. Gault Inpatient Pavilion, providing short-term patient care to manage acute symptoms, adjust medications, or stabilize patient condition.