When Tara Foley’s grandma, Stasia, was put in hospice care in Naples, Florida, last winter, the head nurse asked the 102-year-old if she had any goals for the next few months.
She had one biggie on her list: To make it to Foley’s wedding in Austin, Texas, come June.
It was a lovely thought, but unlikely to happen: Given her advanced age and ongoing heart problems, doctors didn’t want Stasia flying anymore.
Foley knew in her heart that her grandma was still gung-ho on going, and probably holding on in the hopes that they’d make it happen somehow.
“My nana was always an extremely independent woman who did nearly everything on her own, but when her heart started to fail, she started to slow down,” Foley told HuffPost.
If Stasia couldn’t make it to the wedding, Foley was determined to give her the next best thing: Without anyone in her family knowing, the bride-to-be grabbed her unaltered wedding gown and flew from her home in Austin, Texas, to her grandmother in Florida.
She tapped local photographer Marie Kamp of Red Door Photography to take photos of the January 2019 visit, which was a total surprise for her grandma.
“When I got there, I already had all my makeup on, so I asked my aunt and uncle to send Nana outside so she wouldn’t see me all dolled up,” Foley, a realtor, said. “They didn’t tell her who was visiting but when Nana saw me, she said, ‘I thought it was going to be you!’”
Seeing her granddaughter in full bride mode, Stasia was all smiles.
“She was just so surprised,” Foley said. “She stretched out her arms and reached for a hug the moment she saw me and told me I was beautiful.”
Though Stasia was frail at the time, Foley said it was almost as if a younger version of her grandma emerged in those minutes together.
“She got lost in the moment with me,” she said. “We laughed and smiled and loved every second of it.”
In a Facebook post that has over 1.5 million likes, Foley reflected on how poignant the moment was: “When I said goodbye to her that night, I think we both knew it would be the last time we would see each other. She grabbed my cheeks with her hands, looked me straight in the eye and said ‘I love you very much,’ and 27 days later, she passed away.”
Heartfelt as the story is, it doesn’t end there.
When Foley’s wedding rolled around six months later, the bride surprised her family by unveiling the framed photos. Austin-based photographer Misty McLendon was on hand to capture the sweet moment before the ceremony:
Foley called her family’s reaction to the photos “priceless.”
“My dad couldn’t believe what he was seeing,” she said. “He was so moved and touched by the photo itself that he first thought I had gotten someone to Photoshop two pictures together.”
Months after her wedding, Foley cherishes the photos ― and the footage she has filmed of the moment. Before Stasia’s death, Foley recorded a handful of legacy videos capturing the 102-year-old’s recollections and stories.
“In her younger days, she watched Babe Ruth play in Yankee Stadium and she was even scouted to play baseball herself,” Foley said. “She lived through the Great Depression and was a working woman when my grandpa went overseas during the war.”
Foley was always fascinated by her grandmother and the full life she lived: all she had done as a young woman and all she did for her family. The pre-wedding visit was a way to give back to her Nana.
“I was determined to get to her so she could see me in my dress and feel included in my special day,” she said. “She was beyond an amazing woman. I am so blessed to have this be my last memory with her.”