“I would love to go to the beach and put my feet in the sand and feel the sun on my face. I didn’t think I would ever be able to go back to the seashore,” revealed Miriam (“Fern”) Windsor during the interview for the 2017 Committed to Caring Challenge Project.
Fern Windsor explained that during the past few years, her husband Harold had been caring for her at home. As this task became more difficult due to the complexity of her health issues, Fern was moved to the Rock Hill facility and thus was separated from her husband of 58 years. The constant caregiving and their physical separation put a strain on their relationship, and this worried Mrs. Windsor. On their wedding day in 1959, they pledged to love each other in sickness and in health, and for better or worse. The past few years have tested those vows but their enduring love for one another motivated Harold Windsor to visit Fern almost every day. The love between the two was noticed at the facility and when the opportunity to facilitate a getaway weekend for the couple presented itself, the Committed to Caring teams of PruittHealth Rock Hill and PruittHealth Pharmacy Services of Lexington arranged for these lovebirds to experience a new adventure.
Destination: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina!
On a Friday morning in late February, the facility staff waved farewell as Mr. and Mrs. Windsor departed Rock Hill on their journey to the gorgeous and vibrant community of Surfside Beach. Along the way, their anticipation grew as they contemplated a few days of rest and relaxation. The couple was accompanied by two CNAs from the Rock Hill facility for the weekend, and upon arrival to a beautiful, spacious beach house, they were greeted with a warm welcome from several Pruitt pharmacy partners.
After a walk along the beach, the Windsors were chauffeured to The Sea Captain’s House, one of Myrtle Beach’s finest seafood restaurants that combines spectacular views with extraordinary dining. During dinner Fern and Harold reminisced, laughing and recounting family stories. It became clear to the Pruitt partners that this trip was much needed and well overdue.
The next morning the Windsors were awakened by the scent of pancakes, bacon and eggs wafting from the kitchen where Pruitt partners were busily preparing a breakfast feast for the group. The food was delicious, but the company and conversation was even better. Platters were passed around the table and more anecdotes and jokes were shared as laughter filled the room.
Shortly after breakfast, Fern and Harold got ready for their big day at the beach. Fern grabbed her floppy sun hat and they embarked on their seaside adventure with the assistance of a special beach wheelchair. Soon they were transported to a wonderful world of sights and sounds. Brilliant rich hues surrounded them: a royal blue sky in contrast with the bright yellow sun, tall green palm trees waving in the breeze, the ivory sand of the beach, the sparkling ocean dancing beneath the sunlight. The chirping birds, crashing waves, and rustling breezes were music to their ears. They basked in the warmth of the sun while the smell of saltwater, fresh air and fragrant flowers engulfed their senses.
As the waves lapped against the white sand, they beckoned the Windsors to come and play. Fern and Harold searched for seashells and fed the ducks. They watched in delight as children built sandcastles and tossed beach balls to one another. While on the beach, Fern seized the opportunity to fulfill part of her dream and feel the sand beneath her feet. A triumphant smile spread across her face as she placed her bare feet into the soft, smooth sand.
Upon returning from the beach, the Windors were delighted to see a few new faces from PruittHealth Pharmacy at the house. Mrs. Windsor was glad to meet everyone, but unbeknownst to her, they would soon by busy preparing a venue for a special event. While planning the weekend vacation, Harold Windsor had shared with PruittHealth staff members how much his wife loved surprises. So when given the opportunity, he wanted to show the love of his life that he still had something up his sleeve. Thus was borne the idea of holding a surprise vow renewal ceremony during the beach weekend trip.
A picnic lunch was served on the deck, giving everyone a chance to become acquainted with each other. Soon thereafter, as Fern was getting ready for a dinner date with her husband, several pharmacy partners quietly departed and made their way to the site of the vow renewal ceremony – a picturesque park just a short distance from the beach house.
The park was situated directly on the beach, just a few yards from the ocean. Pruitt partners quickly and secretly worked to transform the location into an outdoor wedding chapel. A large wedding arch draped with glistening white fabric and adorned with flowers was created. A picnic table decorated with ivory linens and fresh flowers became an elegant serving place for the tiered wedding cake and champagne. Classical music soon filled the air and contributed to the ambience.
Back at the house, Fern and Harold were asked if they would like to see a gorgeous view near the waterfront before heading for dinner. Thankfully Fern thought this was a wonderful idea. With the sun slowly setting over the ocean and the sound of waves and romantic music drawing closer, Mr. Windsor escorted his unsuspecting wife to the secret locale.
Surprised to see a gathering of people at the park, Fern exclaimed in amazement, “Oh my goodness, what have you all done?!” She looked around and noticed the wedding decorations but was still uncertain of the occasion. As a bouquet of beautiful red roses was handed to Fern, she was told, “You’re getting married again, Mrs. Windsor.” Joyful tears began to stream down her face, and Harold sighed in relief that his latest surprise was successful.
Fern and Harold were guided toward the wedding arch and were met by nursing assistant Debra, who is one of Fern’s primary caregivers at Rock Hill. Debra conducted the nuptials and delivered a sentimental blessing to conclude the ceremony. The meaningful ceremony transfixed the crowd of onlookers, and applause erupted shortly after the “newlyweds” sealed their vows with a kiss. It was heartwarming to witness the unbridled joy and love between the Windsors.
The tears of joy soon changed to laughter as Fern and Harold were escorted to the next surprise: a makeshift “get-away car” (actually a golf cart decorated with streamers, flowers, and a “Just Married” sign) for a trip around the park and beach areas. Following the ceremony, the Windsors celebrated their reaffirmation of love over dinner at a formal, candlelit restaurant where romantic music played quietly in the background.
Sunday morning after breakfast, Harold and Fern took one last stroll along the water’s edge and marveled at the beauty and magic of the seaside. Their emotional connection to a place where they had previously ventured for family vacations was virtually palpable.
The day following their return to Rock Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Windsor were interviewed by the local CN2 news station. As the couple reflected on the weekend vacation and their lives together, they echoed each other’s thoughts -- the weekend was a trip to paradise, it helped rekindle a 58-year love affair, and new friendships were forged along the way. Their story was featured on that night’s evening news, and became the talk of the town.
“I think this has been the best weekend of my life,” Fern Windsor repeated again and again. The most important outcome of the vacation for Mrs. Windsor was not only spending time with her beloved husband, but also realizing that dreams still can come true. With their love as dependable and soothing as the tide, Harold and Fern will continue to face the waves of life together.