I usually don’t use the Elite Email blog to share personal stories, but I felt the events of this past weekend needed to be shared because, in my opinion, they were pretty extraordinary.
First a little background…
- In June 2001, a 15 year-old Dana Levit met 18 year-old Darren Abenstein at overnight camp.
- In February 2002, they started dating.
- Over the next 7 years (between 2002 and 2009) their relationship blossomed. They went from being a couple of kids dating at camp to two amazing adults (now a doctor and teacher) whose love has never been stronger.
- On a magical day in November 2009, with hundreds of post-its spread out across Dana’s room, each with a reason why Darren loved her, they got engaged.
- The wedding date was set for May 29, 2011 and the fairy tale was in motion…
The wedding was scheduled for Sunday, all the last minute details were taken care of, and everything was right on track when disaster struck.
Friday night, a mere 48 hours before the wedding, the father of the bride (Arie Levit) was rushed to the hospital because he was having a heart attack.
The world stopped.
Information was slow to trickle in. Was he OK? How bad was it? Would he need surgery? And, most importantly, would he be able to make it to the wedding?
The emotional rollercoaster began with no end in sight.
This was the kind of thing you hear about, but something you don’t actually think can happen to you or the people you care about. Yet, it was happening and there wasn’t anything anyone could do but extend their love and support.
As anyone who has planned a wedding can tell you, the ‘wedding stress’ in the days before the big day is intense, but this situation was at an entirely new unbearable level.
On Saturday morning, I awoke to the text message I was praying I would not see. It was confirmed to be a heart attack and it was looking doubtful he would be at the wedding.
At this point, I should say that my wife and I are incredibly close with Dana & Darren and love them very much. And, as they say, “when there’s a will there’s a way”, and it didn’t take long for us to spring into action.
I had still not lost hope that he would be released from the hospital so our first goal was transportation. We reached out to Ambutrans who could provide transportation in a stretcher (and provide 2 emergency first responders in formal attire, since we wanted them to blend in) and Dignity Transportation who could provide transportation in a wheelchair.
Next up was dealing with the scenario where the father of the bride would not be able to leave the hospital. What could we do?
First we needed an internet connection at both the hospital and banquet hall.
Fortunately York Central Hospital has Wi-Fi and I want to send a big thank you to all the nurses who helped me confirm that the Wi-Fi signal covered the area where Arie was currently as well as where he might be moved to. Of course, this wasn’t easy to setup (because why would it work the way it was supposed to?!), but after about 2 hours of effort between myself and the groom, we were online!
We also got lucky because the Bellagio banquet hall had a wireless router and was quick to give me the password.
At this point, I had a couple ideas including streaming the wedding live on uStream or Justin.tv, which would have also allowed us to record everything. I kept those as backup plans and opted to do a Skype video call so we could have two-way communication. After all, the father of the bride should be able to look at his daughter at her wedding and tell her he loves her.
Now I needed a way to broadcast everything.
Thanks to the good folks at Apple, the iPad 2 would be perfect. It had a big screen, cameras, speakers, and was easy to move around.
Since failure was not an option (and boy oh boy was I nervous!), I brought three iPad 2’s to the wedding. This way if the battery on one should die or it was dropped and shattered into a million little pieces, I had another one ready to take its place. I had to have a backup for my backup because there would be no second chance to get this right… and for this couple and their families, it had to be 1000% perfect!
After a sleepless Saturday night of racing around in my head all the things that could go wrong and what I would do to solve it, the moment of truth was upon us.
I arrived at the banquet hall and was ready to do my first live test. While holding my breath (and with the assistance of Jason Lawrence), I fired up the iPad, called the hospital and initiated the video chat.
“Arie, can you hear me… can you see me…”
I let out a loud cheer because we were up and running. All the different pieces were working together successfully. The father of the bride would be at this wedding, one way or another!
I brought the iPad with the father of the bride filling the screen into the bridal room to show the bride, groom and their family. As I’m sure you can imagine, emotions were at an all-time high, and the moment the bride saw her father, the mother of the bride saw her husband, and the rest of the bridal party saw the events unfolding, the tears of joy were instantaneous.
This was truly one of the most magical moments I have ever seen and I have a hard time believing that anyone could have witnessed this without their eyes starting to tear.
But, that magical moment was just the beginning.
We walked the father of the bride (on the iPad) down the aisle with his wife at the ceremony. This gave him the same point of view he would have had if he was there in person. And, of course, everyone was able to see him on the screen, too.
The father was under the Chuppah watching his baby girl get married. He could see and hear the speech from the Rabbi, listen to the couple say their vows, and they could all see him. He was there; he was a part of the ceremony.
After the ceremony and cocktails, the bride & groom entered the party and the very first dance was the Horah. Part of this dance involves lifting the bride & groom, along with their parents up on a chair. This special moment was not to be missed by the father of the bride either! Someone grabbed the iPad, sat on the chair and with a Groomsman on each corner, was lifted up and down in celebration. From his hospital bed 15 miles away, he was with us all and was a part of the action.
We put the iPad at the head table and throughout the night everyone would visit with him to send their love and congratulations with kisses being exchanged through the screen. At times he would be brought onto the dance floor to dance with everyone and at other times he would be brought from table to table to see everyone.
It is amazing that through the power of technology, we were actually able to have Arie Levit be in two places at once. He was in his hospital bed recovering, while at the same time being at his daughter’s wedding.
We often talk about technology in different ways, but this was truly a primary example of how technology can improve the lives of people and help make a big emotional impact.
I want to thank everyone who helped make this possible and I want to thank all those in attendance who spent time with Arie sharing in this special day.
Congratulations to Dana and Darren! May your lives be filled with joy & happiness and may you always be surrounded by so many people who love you.