It is every little girls’ dream to have her dad give her away at her wedding. That dream was no different for 27-year-old Casey Kapalko.
Casey had envisioned her father, Monmouth Superior Court Judge Paul Kapalko, walking her down the aisle with her mother on her big day. She also had the idea to have her father.
Casey recalled her dad’s ability to make a wedding special for the happy couple. Though he was typically a jokester, he kept himself professional and serious for weddings.
“I think it was one of the things he loved most about being a judge,” said Casey of her father. It was a joyous part of his job that carried huge importance.
Unfortunately Kapalko was diagnosed with pancreatic carcinoids in 2011. He was given four or five years to live.
Originally, Casey had wanted a wedding in November of 2017. At first, the family thought her dad could make it, and he was even going to physical therapy to make sure he could walk his daughter down the aisle.
Then November began to look like it was too far away. The couple changed their date to May 2017 and sent out invitations.
Wedding plans were beginning to settle into place in April when Kapalko’s health took a turn for the worst. He was admitted to the ICU and was unable to have many visitors because of contamination.
Casey’s dreams of having her father at her wedding started to fade. The only thing she could think to do to make sure her dad was part of her special day was to take the wedding to him, even sooner than they were expecting.
On April 15, Casey said “I do” at a small wedding officiated by her dying father. Only eight people were allowed in the hospital room and two friends joined the ceremony via FaceTime, but the intimate ceremony was everything Casey dreamed it would be.
“My dad was as cool as a cucumber,” Casey said. “He became the guy I had seen officiate so many weddings. He went off script and was really personal. He offered advice and said some really beautiful things. It felt unreal.”
Just 12 days later, Kapalko lost his battle with cancer. The timing of it all was bittersweet.
Though the family has lost an important member, he was able to be there for one of the biggest days of his daughter’s life. Casey’s dad was able to officiate her wedding and put his signature on her marriage license.
“I think everybody in there felt so much closer, like we were all sharing something really important,” said Casey. It is a memory that she will not soon forget.