Touching final moment as dying dad’s wish granted
ANITA Martin knew the end was near for her beloved father Robert.
He had always wanted to see her walk down the aisle but as his health started to deteriorate this year, Anita realised she was running out of time to fulfil that wish.
He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2016 and on top of battling several other cancers and health conditions, he was told he wouldn't make it past Christmas of that year.
"I had made my peace that dad wouldn't see me get married," Anita said.
Anita, along with her then housemate Simon Hanslow, moved back to Ipswich last year in order to look after her dad so he could remain home in his final years.
They had to move him to a room at the Quest Ipswich hotel after an insurance claim uncovered asbestos in the kitchen.
Anita and her mum Maria moved in with him, while Simon moved to his own place in Newtown.
"It was supposed to be an overnight to three-day stay," Anita said.
"It ended up being 120 days.
"Dad's condition was deteriorating and because of COVID, it was increasingly hard for people to get into aged care.
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"Dad was observant about a lot of things because he had Asperger's.
"During the moving day to Quest, he saw the way Simon was looking at me. He asked Simon when he would become his son."
It was around that time Anita and Simon decided they would be together.
Simon proposed on July 30, which was Robert's birthday.
By late August Robert could no longer stand on his own and he was taken as an emergency case to the Milford Grange aged care facility.
In a scary incident on October 17, he was unresponsive for three hours.
"When someone is dying for so long you don't know how much time you really have," Anita said.
"I asked Simon about a commitment ceremony. I thought dad might last long enough to see it.
"I knew that even though Simon and I had only been friends up to that point, dad had really loved Simon.
"He took him as a son before he even knew anything else."
They had two weeks to put the ceremony together and it was marked in the calendar for November 1.
Anita took to Facebook and put a call out to local businesses to see if anyone could assist at short notice.
The response was overwhelming with local vendors providing their services for free or at heavily discounted rates.
Robert arrived at the event, which was held at Quest, in a wheelchair to take part in what was a "bittersweet" day for the family.
"It was important for him to know I was taken care of," Anita said.
"Dad told me I was beautiful.
"That's one of the last clear things he said to me that day.
"He sat there and he saw the service and knew what was happening. He participated as best as he could.
"We did an abridged service; an exchange of rings, signed the certificate, then we did our first dance and the cake."
Robert was whisked away after the ceremony and he slept for 19 hours straight.
"He woke up and ate his last meal," Anita said.
"I was able to show him the first look photos so he could remember it wasn't just a dream," she said.
"That was really special to know he could acknowledge that.
"We were all there with him, the three of us. He was a Christian man and died at prayer.
"Those black and white photos, they're everything to me. Having a father who had Asperger's, he wasn't always really able to show me exactly how he felt towards me.
"I know now 100 per cent after going through that journey with him that he loved me and I loved him. That's irreplaceable."
Robert passed away peacefully two days after the ceremony at the age of 89.
Anita, a music teacher, is back living with her mum in Raceview.
Her parents were married for 43 years.
Robert was born and bred in Ipswich and worked at the Ipswich Railway Workshops for close to half a century from the age of 15.
"Hopefully in the new year I'll move in with Simon and we'll actually get married," Anita said.
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.