Posted 1/19/16 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
It is every father’s dream to be able to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. But for Eldon Frye, who was diagnosed with terminal Small Cell Lung cancer on Oct. 24, 2015, the odds of his making that memorable trip didn’t look very promising. Or at least it didn’t until the Fargo VA’s Wishes on Wings program helped make that dream a reality.
Teah Frye, a Keene native, got engaged just four months ago. Knowing her father didn’t have a lot of time, Teah and her fiancé, Aaron Moncada, pushed up their wedding date to Feb. 6, 2016, thinking her father would make it to that date and be able to walk her down the aisle - her father’s one and only wish.
“I remember when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer,” recalls Teah. “He was able to take all of his kids to a Vikings Football game. It was something he had wanted to do for a long time and we were all finally able to go. We went there that Saturday and he was diagnosed with cancer that following Monday.”
As a military veteran, Eldon was receiving treatment for his lung cancer at the Fargo VA. His medical condition was deteriorating quickly. And there was concern amongst the medical staff that Eldon may not make it to his daughter’s February nuptials.
“I was in dad’s hospital room and his nurse pulled me aside and told me it was not looking like he would make it to Feb. 6,” said Teah. “She then said, ‘what do you think about having a bedside wedding here in the hospital?’ That was on Saturday, Jan. 2, and the wedding took place on that Monday, Jan. 4.”
To get things rolling, Eldon’s nurse started talking to a few people. And then a few more people. The chaplain came to talk to Teah later that day. Ideally, Teah and Aaron wanted to hold the ceremony in the VA chapel, but that was actually against VA Hospital policy. In order to bend those rules, the Fargo VA’s Wishes on Wings program got involved.
“There was a lot of phone calls,” remembered Teah. “Dad’s nurse came back to me Monday morning to finalize plans in the chapel. Everything was kind of winging it. Everything ended up being borrowed - everything from the wedding dress to the flowers to the rings, were borrowed to make it happen. The wedding dress was from my friend in Fargo, who was getting married in Jamaica. I used her flowers too. And we borrowed my parents’ wedding rings. A lot of things had to come together really quickly and it turned out perfectly.”
The impromptu wedding event was planned and coordinated in conjunction with the VA’s Wishes on Wings program. The goal of the program is to help Veterans who have a limited amount of time left to live with their last wish. Whatever the wish may be, big or small, a committee encompassed of Fargo VA employees, does their best to help the Veteran experience that last wish. And Eldon’s last and only wish was to be able to walk his only daughter down the aisle.
“My dad’s only wish was to walk me down the aisle,” Teah stated. “When he found out we were going to be able to have a wedding in the VA, he was super excited. He actually had radiation at Sanford that morning and he told everyone he possibly could about the wedding. He told his nurses and the doctors.
Anyone that would listen, he told. He was so proud. That was his one wish and he told everyone.”
After a lot of coordination, and with the assistance of the VA’s Wishes on Wings program, Eldon mustered up enough strength and will to walk his daughter down the aisle of the Fargo VA’s chapel. Several members of their family were able to make it, along with a handful of VA medical staff.
“My mom and one of my brothers, along with his fianceé were able to come,” said Teah. “There were aunts and uncles from my dad’s side, and several family members from Aaron’s side came. I had cousins and my grandma. A couple of my brides-maids made it as well. We probably ended up having about 30 to 40 people, not counting the nursing staff.”
After the wedding ceremony, Teah’s Maid of Honor went out and bought a cake. It was topped with the couple’s original cake topper, which will be used again at their Feb. 6 wedding ceremony. And one of Teah’s friends made a couple homemade chicken potpies. The wedding group held a mini wedding reception there, complete with a champagne toast.
While Teah and Aaron will still have their formal wedding ceremony on Feb. 6, the small Fargo VA chapel ceremony came at a priceless time for Eldon and his family as he passed away just two days after he walked his daughter down the aisle.
“It was an honor for the Fargo VA to host the ceremony for Teah and her new husband,” stated a representative from the Fargo VA Health Care System. “And we thank Mr. Frye for his service to the country.”
Moving on with her life, her father always in her heart and forever in her memories, Teah hopes people will remember her father for his generosity and his kindness.
“Everyone loved his general demeanor,” said Teah. “He loved everyone. He loved to talk to everyone. He made a friend everywhere he ever went. I just want to thank the Fargo VA for everything they did for me, my husband, and my dad. I also want to thank the VA’s Wishes on Wings program for making this possible for us.”