Traditional, it was not.
There were no guests, no fancy clothes, none of the usual pomp and circumstance.
But you would be hard-pressed to find a more emotional wedding than this one.
A few weeks ago, St. Luke’s Home Health and Hospice Chaplain Craig Kennedy officiated the wedding of Spike and Rita Coltrin at their home. It was something Spike had wanted to do for many years, but with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), time was of the essence.
“It was so beautiful, their desire to do this,” Kennedy said. “Seeing their love for each other, it brought this youthfulness out in them. To be able to participate in that, it was so special.
“I’d never done a wedding in hospice. I’ve done plenty of funerals and celebrations of life, so to be part of this life-giving event, I’ll never forget it.”
The Coltrins’ love story spans decades. The pair initially married on Rita’s 18th birthday – Dec. 16, 1967. After a few years of marriage, the couple divorced, but their paths crossed again more than 30 years ago when Rita decided to help Spike get a new carpentry business off the ground.
The spark was reignited, and they have been together ever since. They just never got around to being remarried.
“We worked so much,” Rita said. “He was a patient teacher, taught me how to do just about everything except hang a door. We worked so well together.
“It was always his idea to get married again, and as he declined, I was kicking myself in the butt for not doing it. Thank goodness for Chaplain Craig.”
Kennedy, who has been with St. Luke’s for nearly four years after 31 years as an Army chaplain, visited the Coltrins every other week. He always enjoyed visiting the couple in their home – part of his love for the hospice philosophy is experiencing patients surrounded by the things that make them happy.
When Spike mentioned off-handedly that Kennedy should marry them, he was all for it.
“They didn’t even have their wedding bands, but they wanted to do it so badly, they improvised,” Kennedy said.
Years ago, Spike had lost his ring, which was kept on a necklace. Rita had bought him a new one, but it wasn’t to be found, so on their wedding day, they used bands of a different sort.
“He got a blue rubber band and I got a red one,” Rita said.
The Coltrins’ son, Mike, walked Rita to Spike, waiting in his wheelchair. At one point, Kennedy got down on his knee as emotion overcame the groom. The nuptials were streamed so others could take part in the celebration from their homes.
“It was so special,” Rita said. “He did a wonderful job. He helped a dream come true.”
Though her husband is nearing the end of his life, Rita said the “whirlwind” that has been the last few weeks has been made easier to bear knowing they got to say their vows to one another again.
“Spike’s one wish was for us to get married again, so it’s really helped knowing that Craig helped make that happen,” Rita said.
Kennedy’s memory is every bit as sweet.
“I’m grateful I could be a part of it.”
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.