"Her smile that day was the biggest smile I've seen in so long from her," newlywed Alyssa Sutherland said of her mom, Karen Hoehne

By Eric Todisco
July 08, 2020 12:26 PM
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Karen Hoehne and Alyssa Sutherland
Lake Forest Hospital

An Illinois woman with terminal cancer was able to witness her daughter say "I do" on her wedding day, thanks to efforts from the staff at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital.

On June 27, Karen Hoehne, 63, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year and died on Sunday, was wheeled down from the intensive care unit to the hospital's courtyard, where about a dozen people were gathered for her daughter Alyssa Sutherland's wedding.

The outdoor wedding was the first in the history of the hospital building.

"Her smile that day was the biggest smile I've seen in so long from her," Sutherland, 31, told Patch. "This year for her was just one thing after another with her health. She's always such a fighter and she just kept getting bad news, and so to see her smile again, she was just so happy."

"She perked up that day, she was like, 'I'm ready. This is the day. I'm so happy I'm here,' " Sutherland added of her mom. "It literally was the best thing."

Sutherland and her husband, Akeem, 33, got engaged in February and planned to hold a wedding in November. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the happy couple had to reschedule their nuptials for May 2021.

However, after Sutherland learned her mom's cancer was terminal, they decided to schedule a small wedding ceremony in the backyard of her parents' Libertyville home. But those plans changed once again when Hoehne was rushed to the emergency room on June 23 and then moved to the intensive care unit.

After Lake Forest Hospital's medical staff heard about Sutherland's wedding dilemma, they suggested holding the nuptials at the hospital itself.

Alyssa Sutherland wedding
Lake Forest Hospital

Jeremy Miselbrook, who manages chaplains at the hospital, told Patch that there were four staff members at the courtyard, and hospital staff was prepared to move the ceremony inside if need be due to concerns of rain.

But luckily for Hoehne and her family, the forecasted rain never materialized.

As the hospital chaplain held an umbrella over her head for shade, Hoehne witnessed the special moment when Sutherland's father walked the bride down the aisle to Christina Perry's song, "A Thousand Years."

Sutherland said she will remain eternally grateful to hospital staff for allowing her mother to witness her big day before Hoehne's death.

"I always pictured my mom at my wedding so it was already hard enough having to get that news in April and realizing we were going to lose her, and we were literally four days away to at least having that dream come true of having her there," the newlywed said. "And then a few days prior, you're finding out: 'No, that dream's not going to happen.' That they cared so much to make our dream come true, and her dream come true of seeing it, I got goosebumps, I probably cried so many times out of joy."

"Knowing that they made her last dream come true is unbelievable," Sutherland added.