When Hurricane Matthew disrupted the long-planned Charleston wedding of Andrew Matuskowitz and Elizabeth Gilbert last Saturday, the couple set a new date but were left with boxes of 250 fresh flowers.
Within two days, their anguish over the delay melted into tears of thanks – and a sort of wedding gift – for them and the patients in a Rock Hill hospital.
The flowers were delivered 30 minutes before the couple was forced to evacuate Charleston last Wednesday. They drove to Charlotte to stay with Matuskowitz’s sister. Then they wondered what to do with all those flowers.
The answer came readily enough. Matuskowitz, 33, is an emergency-room doctor. Gilbert, 34, just finished her doctorate in psychology and starts a new job Monday at a research center on substance abuse disorders.
“It would be something good we could do for patients,” Gilbert said, “and good for us after something that was kind of sad.”
Googling local hospitals landed them at the door of Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, which welcomed their gift and sorted the flowers into bouquets.
On Thursday, Piedmont asked the couple back to help distribute the flowers. Room to room they went, visiting patients who had been transferred from coastal hospitals, cancer patients and new moms.
“Everybody has been so nice to be around,” Gilbert said. “Giving out those flowers made me feel happy for the first time in several days.”
They had left when the hospital called again. The patient who had received the last of their flowers wanted to speak with them.
The couple’s new wedding date, Nov. 5, resonated with Dennis and Ann Allman of Rock Hill.
“That is our 50th anniversary,” Ann Allman told the couple by FaceTime. “Today is my first day of chemotherapy. I will start my chemotherapy in about an hour.
“I just want you to know the Lord is leading you,” she continued. “He brought those flowers to my room for a reason.”
Matuskowitz and Gilbert are still moved by the Allmans.
“How they supported each other in this touching time,” Gilbert said later. “It was inspiring.”
“It was like a challenge to Liz and I,” Matuskowitz said. “It would be fortunate to make it to our 50th anniversary with that kind of love and trust in each other.”
So the three-minute conversation went, the soon-to-be newlyweds counseled by the older couple facing uncertainty hand in hand.
“Have a happy life together,” Dennis Allman said.