Among family and with song, Pawcatuck couple wed at hospital

Shawn Williams sings his wife, Charlene Moosey, their wedding song as family members look on during their wedding ceremony on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. The couple, who live in Pawcatuck and have two sons, have known each other since they were children. Hospital staff, friends and family worked together to pull off the spiritual wedding, as Moosey has a terminal cancer diagnosis. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Shawn Williams sings his wife, Charlene Moosey, their wedding song as family members look on during their wedding ceremony on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. The couple, who live in Pawcatuck and have two sons, have known each other since they were children. Hospital staff, friends and family worked together to pull off the spiritual wedding, as Moosey has a terminal cancer diagnosis. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

There was no steeple, organ or first dance at the wedding of Charlene Moosey and Shawn Williams. There were no flower girls and no toasts.

But there was music, and laughter and tears. And there was cake.

Though they said their vows in Moosey's room at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital — days after she decided to stop treatment for pancreatic cancer — it was a wedding decades in the making. Williams knew he wanted to marry his bride when he was 8 years old. They lived down the street from each other and he saw her in Wilcox Park. 

"I ran right out to her and said 'I'm going to marry you one day,'" Williams said. "She said, 'No, you're annoying.'" She was 6 then. It didn't get easier.

"I had to work hard," he said. "Trust me."

More than two decades later, Moosey was the manager at a Taco Bell when Williams came looking for a job. She still thought he was annoying. He got the job anyway, and they started dating.

Williams loved her sarcasm. "Just the way she talked," he said. "She hasn't changed."

The couple had two sons together. They planned weddings, only for a death or illness to get in the way each time. They were supposed to get married in the early 2000s, then in 2015 and 2017, then this year.

"Every time it came up, something had gone wrong," Williams, 48, said. "We had to put it on hold."

Moosey, 46, had been in the hospital for almost two weeks after undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer when she and her doctors decided it was terminal. Finally, this week, it was time.

They won't legally be married; Thursday's wedding was a spiritual event and a long overdue celebration.

"We both agreed, we both know we're married," Williams said. "We don't need that piece of paper."

But they did want a wedding. So in a matter of days, the nurses and staff in the medical-surgery oncology unit planned a wedding. 

Weddings, while not a common part of life in the hospital, happen there every once in a while. The nurses on the oncology floor are ready to drop everything and find flowers, cake and a dress on short notice. They planned Thursday's wedding after arranging a hospital room graduation for the couple's son Jordan, a senior at Stonington High School.

"It's an intimate part of life," said Heather Bader, the unit's nurse manager. "We strive to give our patients a good death. We just naturally jump into action."

In a hospital, where the decision to move a piece of furniture can require weeks of meetings, that's unusual.

"It's just the art of nursing," Bader said.

On Thursday afternoon Moosey's nurses helped her put on a donated wedding dress — Moosey wanted something lacy, but not with too much bling. They decorated the room with flowers and did her hair and makeup. Someone made a cake. They surrounded themselves with Moosey's friends from work, their families, their sons, Jordan and Patrick, and her parents. Williams put on a white dress shirt and walked into the hospital, nervously carrying a purple tie folded over his hand. While he was in the chapel saying a prayer, a small crowd gathered in the hallway.

When it was time, the room was full. Moosey's parents, Nancy and Larry, sat near the window, their backs to a view of the Thames River. Williams softly sang along to the Brett Young country song "In Case You Didn't Know." Mark Poritzky, the hospital's chaplain, recited from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13: "Love is patient. Love is kind." Andrea Walker, a nurse on the floor and a music major, came in on her day off to sing "Ave Maria." Halfway through the song, Larry Moosey, his head hanging low, held his wife's hand to his lips. The couple said their vows — first Poritzky, steady and clear, then Williams, shaky but certain, then Moosey, softly but audible to everyone in the room.

"If I got anything right in my life, it was when I gave my life to you," Williams told her.

After they were pronounced "Mr. and Mrs. Shawn and Charlene Moosey," it was time for cake and sparkling cider.

"I'm on an emotional roller coaster," said Patty-Lynn Gilchrist, Moosey's best friend. They met at work, a New London Catholic publishing agency. Moosey had been at her wedding in 2015. "We just help each other survive," she said.

In the hallway, the newly married husband stood in a huddle with his sons. "We're going to take it day by day, and be together as a family," he said. "Recover as a family."

With her parents at her side, Moosey drank a sip of sparkling cider and posed for photos. Patrick took a loose flower and placed it in his mother's hand.

"Never give up," she said.

m.shanahan@theday.com

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story did not include Shawn Williams' age.

A crowd of family, friends and hospital staff spills out into the hallway as the Rev. Mark Porizky reads a verse during a wedding ceremony for Charlene Moosey and Shawn Williams on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. The couple, who live in Pawcatuck and have two sons, have known each other since they were children.  Hospital staff, friends and family worked together to pull off the spiritual wedding, as Moosey has a terminal cancer diagnosis. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A crowd of family, friends and hospital staff spills out into the hallway as the Rev. Mark Porizky reads a verse during a wedding ceremony for Charlene Moosey and Shawn Williams on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. The couple, who live in Pawcatuck and have two sons, have known each other since they were children. Hospital staff, friends and family worked together to pull off the spiritual wedding, as Moosey has a terminal cancer diagnosis. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Charlene Moosey is kissed by husband Shawn Williams, left, and their son Jordan Moosey after the couple's wedding ceremony on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. The couple, who live in Pawcatuck and have two sons, have known each other since they were children. Hospital staff, friends and family worked together to pull off the spiritual wedding, as Moosey has a terminal cancer diagnosis. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Charlene Moosey is kissed by husband Shawn Williams, left, and their son Jordan Moosey after the couple's wedding ceremony on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. The couple, who live in Pawcatuck and have two sons, have known each other since they were children. Hospital staff, friends and family worked together to pull off the spiritual wedding, as Moosey has a terminal cancer diagnosis. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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