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Daughter holds wedding by mother's bedside

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/11/2017 Allison Carter
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The mother also wore an oxygen mask to help her breathe as she lay propped against pillows in her hospital bed.

The wedding of Kristin Owens and Brian Powers of Indianapolis was supposed to come one month later. It was supposed to be different, bigger.

But plans changed when Kristin's mother, Cheryl, was admitted to Indiana University Health West Hospital on Sunday. The chemotherapy to treat her stage 4 kidney cancer wasn't working. The cancer was now in her lungs and still spreading. The doctor said she had only weeks to live.

But there was no way Kristin was getting married without her mom there. So she made a decision on Tuesday: They would have the wedding that day. Right at her mother's bedside.

At first Cheryl was unsure about having the wedding this week — and in the hospital. It wouldn't be the big wedding both mother and daughter had dreamed since Kristin was a girl.

"My mom's my best friend," Kristin, 33, told IndyStar. "She's prayed for me to get married."

Kristin assured her mom that the hospital staff and their friends would pull together something special. But even Kristin was blown away by the end result.

"It was better than the wedding I was planning for myself," she said. "They were able to show that my family is full of laughter and love in spite of everything."

Kristin and her mom had talked about her wedding day for years. The actual event came together in six hours.

Kristin's first call at 10 a.m. was to her pastor. He was in.

Next she called her fiance, Brian, a guidance counselor at Tri-West. She asked how he felt about getting married not on Feb. 4 but instead right then. That day. He was in.

Alterations on her dress were completed in a few hours. Her best friend put together a homemade bouquet. A family friend arrived to act as photographer.

This was going to be a complete wedding ceremony.

The hospital staff was busy, too. Kristin's Franklin College sorority sister, Jennifer Markowitz, is a nurse at the hospital. As soon as she heard what Kristin wanted, she started pulling together departments at the hospital to help. Nurses were dispatched to Kroger for cake and punch. The dietary team whipped up lasagna and hors d'oeuvres. A rule forbidding fresh flowers in ICU was set aside for the day.

"This was a huge exception to everything," Markowitz said.

Fifty loved ones, who had mostly come to say goodbye to Cheryl, crowded into a vacant ICU patient room turned wedding chapel. Next door, in her room, Cheryl had her hair done. She was dressed carefully by her nurse. When the staff wheeled Cheryl into the wedding room, she marveled at the decorations.

Despite the morphine keeping her pain at bay, Cheryl was awake and laughing. She was there as her daughter walked down the makeshift aisle as the sounds of "At Last" played on her husband-to-be's cellphone.

"You're killing me!" Cheryl called during the vows. She cried as a nurse led the room in her daughter's favorite song, "Amazing Grace."

"We did it, baby," Cheryl said later, giving Kristin a high-five. "You had a good wedding."

All doctors can do for Cheryl now is keep her comfortable. It's a process that Kristin is intimately familiar with. She works as a manager of volunteer services at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care.

"I started this job in September, and I found out my mom had cancer the first week of October," Kristin said. "Sometimes it feels like a cruel joke, and sometimes it feels like a blessing.

"You realize how fortunate you are even when life sucks."

But for now there is time left for mother and daughter to say the things they need to say and celebrate together.

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