A couple who met on a blind date after being set up by a friend have married in a loving ceremony organised by Severn Hospice.
Mark Salmons and Sally Link needed special dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to tie the knot on Friday in a room at their home in Four Crosses, near Oswestry.
Mark, 61 was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in February 2019 and his last wish is to marry his partner of 14 years.
He underwent two rounds of chemotherapy at the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and then in May 2021 was referred to Severn Hospice for further care.
When it became clear that Mark’s illness was becoming more serious, the couple approached the hospice’s staff and asked for their help in organising a wedding.
And in just three weeks they did just that.
“I’m totally overwhelmed,” said Sally, 58. “Severn Hospice is not like a hospice at all, it is like a home. I suppose I was expecting something quite different when we visited but everyone there put my mind at rest. And I feel in my heart that those things make such a difference.
“I’m Romany and going into a hospice is quite rare in my culture because we tend to look after our own. But Mark goes with my culture, just like I go with his.”
When Mark and Sally approached Severn Hospice’s chaplain Harry Edwards, they stressed that while neither were overtly religious, Mark did believe in God and talked with him every day, while Sally is a Born-Again Christian.
Straight away, Harry, Outreach nurse Katie Hughes, and the rest of Mark’s care team quickly stepped in – organising the paperwork needed by the archbishop’s office and supporting Sally while she arranged the ceremony itself – all while ensuring that Mark’s condition was controlled by suitable medications and pain management.
“Mark wanted to get married in the garden, but that wasn’t possible, so we married in the Red Room at home,” said Sally. “This is Mark’s room, and it is nice and large with a conservatory attached. He wanted the ceremony to be as Christian as possible. I built an altar, as I knew this was important to him and, although we had a very short time to sort out everything, we did it.”
The wedding was attended by close friends and family – all of whom had had their second vaccinations – including Sally’s son Karl, who walked her down the stairs, and her daughter Joanne. Two of Mark’s stepchildren; Emma and Lucy were also present.
“Mark is a good bloke, he is soft-hearted, and he doesn’t judge people,” said Sally.
“When you are in a situation like Mark’s, I can’t imagine what’s going through his mind. Getting married was his wish. I thought the hospice could help and, by golly, they have. I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for us.
“Katie is a huge asset to the hospice and Harry is just lovely. In fact, he reminds me so much of Mark, Mark forgives instantaneously and that’s what I felt from Harry. And I’m so proud of Mark; he is quite strong willed and has a very large heart.”
Harry said: “Severn Hospice respects everyone’s beliefs and the spiritual support we offer comes in many forms, not just religious. We were humbled to be able to help Mark with his last wish of marrying Sally. Everything came together and we hope that we brought comfort and friendship to them both and showed how we make a difference to everyone who comes to us for care.
“It was an honour to be entrusted with making the arrangements for their wedding – we are proud we were able to help and that they felt they could approach us.”
Katie added: “Mark and Sally are a lovely couple, and it was clear how much getting married meant to them both and it was obvious how important it was for Mark to marry Sally. I am very touched to be part of their story and proud that everyone at Severn Hospice was able to work together to make the day as special for them as it could be.”