Childrearing

This Terminally Ill Father Fulfilled His Dying Wish to Walk All His Kids Down the Aisle

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(Photo: Facebook/Tammy Ford McHugh)

One of the worst things about being a terminally ill parent must be the sense of loss at knowing that one will miss so many big milestones. When one Pennsylvania father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was devastated to think that he would not live to see his children get married. He wanted to walk his children down the aisle someday, and his family figured out a way to make that happen.

According to Scary Mommy, Ken McHugh was diagnosed with terminal neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer in 2010. Doctors estimated he would only live two years from the time of his diagnosis, but he surprised them and has so far held on for five.

“Over the years he’s begun to think of the milestones that he would sincerely miss,” McHugh’s wife, Tammy, said in an interview with Buzzfeed. “And of course weddings were a major thing that brought us much sadness when we thought about him not joining us.”

When local charity CMMD heard about Ken’s wish to be at his kids’ weddings and walk them down the aisle, it decided to host a big group wedding for the whole family. The organization arranged for a big stretch limo, flowers, and formalwear for Ken, Tammy, and all four of their children.

First, their son, Dylan, walked Tammy down the aisle, and she and Ken renewed their vows. They both looked very happy and still so much in love.

Then Ken took turns walking his three daughters and his son down the aisle. It was very physically strenuous for him, but he made it all four times. Tammy said he spent the next two days in bed recovering from the physical exertion of walking down the aisle that many times without the aid of a cane or walker, but that it was worth it.

Each time he walked down the aisle with one of his children, he gave them an embroidered blue handkerchief to carry on the day of their real wedding. Ken also gave each of his children a sealed letter for them to open on their wedding days.

The McHughs’ wedding is very touching, but also obviously very sad. Tammy said she was worried at first that it could easily become maudlin and just make everyone more miserable, but that it wound up being a joyous celebration.

“We were all concerned it would be full of sorrow,” she told Buzzfeed. “But actually it turned out quite beautiful. We were happy and in the moment. There was so much laughter and love. It was a day of love.”

I’m not crying, there’s just someone cutting onions in my office.

Having achieved his goal of walking his children down the aisle, Ken McHugh says his dream is to leave his family financially secure, and to make sure his daughters and son can go to college. The McHughs have set up a GoFundMe page to raise donations towards Ken’s medical care and the children’s educations.