LEBANON, Ohio — Bobbie “BJ” McKnight-Privette and Robert Privette’s love is one for the story books -- a prince and a princess pledging their love. But it’s not nearly as beautiful as the real-life BJ and Robert and how the community came together to give them a fairy-tale wedding.
Before their perfect wedding moment, COVID-19 rules meant we met them in a parking lot outside the Lebanon Health Care Center, where they’re living out their days. But what ails them -- his kidneys are failing as is her liver -- are not their focus.
It turns out stealing each other’s heart has been so much sweeter.
“It's hard to explain… yet it's not because it's just the way she makes me feel,” Robert, 46, said. “When I'm around her, I'm happy.”
The two never thought they’d meet someone and fall in love in hospice. It all started with a Mountain Dew: Robert brought the soda to BJ’s room after he heard her wish for one.
“He has such a soft, sweet spirit about him,” BJ, 44, said.
All the love and laughter since inspired folks at VITAS Healthcare to rise to the fairy godmother occasion.
“They just captured our heart from the minute we met them… so we wanted to make this day special,” said Stephanie Kozakiewicz, a social worker with VITAS.
Tapping into their inner Cinderella, they took the "I do" planning to social media.
"There are so many angels working together to make this a dream come true,” said Lynda Anello, VITAS' community liaison.
She said lots of those angels came from the Ohio Nurses Network. Those people who care for a living extended their TLC to the happy couple, first in the form of donated dresses for the best kind of “something borrowed.”
And the love kept coming from them, from VITAS and from the community. When word of a hospice wedding got out, the city of Lebanon offered to let the happy couple wed in a park gazebo for free.
People also donated decorating time, a cake for the Mr. and Mrs. with cupcake versions for the guests, the bouquet, and BJ’s wedding headpiece and makeup. Someone also volunteered to preside over the ceremony.
Tears of joy flowed as BJ and Robert vowed to be good to one another and to be there for one another in sickness and in health.
For Robert, who gets perhaps more precious time because of dialysis, it's simple: Nothing is guaranteed. You can die tomorrow, so that’s why you live today making the most of every moment.
He and BJ say hospice shouldn't stop that.
“We've helped each other to not only stop giving up on living...but to start living again,” BJ said. “Laugh every day. Love every day.”