Home / Lifestyle / Terminally ill couple meets in hospice care, gets married

Terminally ill couple meets in hospice care, gets married

Debbie Rivera, 54, places a ring on the hand of John Whaley, 58, during their wedding ceremony performed by Chaplain Patricia Meeks in Green Cove Springs, Fla.Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union via AP

Debbie Rivera, 54, places a ring on the hand of John Whaley, 58, during their wedding ceremony performed by Chaplain Patricia Meeks in Green Cove Springs, Fla.

It’s a whirlwind romance that began in hospice care.

Debbie Rivera, 54, and John Whaley, 58, got married within weeks of meeting each other at a Florida care facility for the terminally-ill.

“I want to be happy, and I’m tired of being alone,” Whaley told the Florida Times-Union.

Rivera and Whaley both have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and Whaley also has stage-three lung cancer, ABC News reported.

Whaley met Rivera soon after moving to the Governor Creek Health and Rehabilitation Center in late March. Whaley, a triple-amputee, lost a hand and his legs to his illness.

He said he knew within three days that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Rivera.

Whaley, a former equipment operator, popped the question a few weeks later, and Rivera, a former housekeeper, mulled it over for a couple of days.

“His actual proposal was, ‘If I’m going to go out, I want to do it with you,'” Chaplain Patricia Meeks, who officiated the ceremony, told the Times-Union. “They just decided they wanted to take this part of the journey together. I think that’s pretty special.”

TELEVISION OUTBob Mack/The Florida Times-Union via AP

Debbie Rivera, 54, and John Whaley, 58, cut their cake surrounded by friends and family.

Three weeks later, the couple got married in the courtyard of their Green Cove Springs nursing home, surrounded by their family on May 23.

Rivera’s son Scott Roark walked her down the aisle to the facility’s gazebo, where Whaley’s nephew, Daniel Pommell, stood as best man.

Rivera and Whaley exchanged vows from wheelchairs in Rivera’s third wedding and Whaley’s second. Their first kiss as bride and groom was long and intimate kiss as the audience applauded.

“She looked beautiful,” Whaley told ABC. “My face was never so tired from smiling.”

There was just one small snafu — Whaley left the rings in his room and had to quickly head back to his room.

Rivera, and Whaley checked out of the nursing home to spend the rest of their days in Whaley’s camper off a trailer park.

“We are going home,” Rivera said.

rblidner@nydailynews.com

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Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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