Miriam Reeves and her fiance, Mark Davis, were planning a traditional wedding ceremony at their church in Ypsilanti, Mich., when she realized about a month ago that someone very special would be missing: her father.
Bernard Reeves, 64, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2006, and moved to the Foundation Park Alzheimer’s Care Center in Toledo about two years ago when his symptoms worsened.
So the former Ms. Reeves, 31, of Canton, Mich., decided to bring the wedding to her father. The couple held a small, informal garden ceremony at Foundation Park on Saturday.
“My dad has been my hero my entire life and I know that if he was well, he would be at my wedding front and center. And I thought, ‘Why not move it there and it would be more of a special event,’ ” Mrs. Davis said before the ceremony.
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And as so many brides imagine for their special day, a beaming Bernard Reeves walked his daughter down the aisle Saturday morning, while those in attendance fought — many with little success — to hold back sentimental tears.
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Mr. Reeves is in an advanced stage of the disease and his daughter was worried he might wander off if the family tried to bring him out of the center to a ceremony held elsewhere, said Marla Hawkins, the care center’s director of admissions and marketing.
“He still knows who we are, but he doesn’t say much and he can’t care for himself. I feel like a part of him will know what’s going on,” his daughter said beforehand.
“Even if he can’t sit through the whole thing, we just want his presence,” her mother said before the ceremony.
“It all depends on his mental state at the time,” Mrs. Reeves said.
Mr. Reeves had an inspiring life before his diagnosis.
“He was in the Army during the Vietnam War. He was stationed in Germany at the time,” Mrs. Reeves said.
He was also a police chaplain for a time. Most recently he was a pastor at the New Creation Church in Detroit.
Though father and daughter were always close, Mrs. Reeves said they grew even closer when he got sick.
“She was going to school in psychology at the time and the more she learned, the harder it was for her because she knew what to expect,” her mother said.
Mrs. Davis is one of six children and the last to marry. For that reason, and because they are so close, Mrs. Davis felt it was imperative her father be present for the wedding.
“When we came up with the idea of having the wedding there, they [the care center] were very excited about it. I didn’t expect that,” Mrs. Reeves said. She said she does not believe they have ever had a wedding ceremony held there.
Though the guest list for the ceremony originally was quite short, it began expanding.
“My husband has six kids. Then we have 10 grandkids. And on the groom’s side there are three sisters. And his father is a pastor so he’ll be doing the ceremony,” Mrs. Reeves said.
Ultimately, Mrs. Reeves estimated the audience at 30 people.
After the ceremony, the couple and wedding party planned to have dinner together at a restaurant in the Toledo area.
Blade Staff Writer Marlene Harris-Taylor contributed to this report.