Robyn Roberts-Williams visits her 89-year-old mom Dorothy Roberts every Sunday, chatting from opposite sides of a ground-floor window at the Isabella Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Washington Heights.
Her most recent trip to see her mother was no average visit – and not just because it was Roberts-Williams’ 52nd birthday. Standing in a small garden outside the senior care facility last Saturday, she married Tim Williams. Beside them stood eight of their family members and, inches away behind a window, Dorothy sat with an unfading smile of joy stretched across her face.
Robyn and Tim didn’t initially plan to get married in a nursing-home garden, but the bride always knew she needed her mother to be there.
“It was an absolute priority. The only reason we held it there was so that she could be a part,” Roberts-Williams, a long-time Harlem resident who now lives in New Jersey, told Patch.
“That day was my 52nd birthday and this is my first marriage. So for my mom to be there, my prayer has always been that. Even when she went to the nursing home, it was always that my mom would be at my wedding no matter what.”
Robyn and Tim first planned to get married in the spring of 2021 in a more traditional wedding. However, when the plans got scrapped due to coronavirus, they decided to move it forward.
“Once we saw the spot where we get to have the window visit, we said this would just be a perfect spot to have a small ceremony. A few people, efficient, a couple of family members, and that will be the end of that,” Roberts-Williams said.
They shared the idea with Jessica Garcia-Robinson, the director of therapeutic recreation at the center. “When we presented the idea to her, she was elated, she was so excited,” Roberts-Williams said. Administrators at the Isabella Center had to review the Department of Health regulations regarding visitations and also clear the ceremony with its parent company, MJHS Health.
Roberts-Williams and the rest of her family had a little more than a month to plan the wedding.
“We literally planned everything. We didn’t have a dress, we didn’t have suits, we didn’t have flowers, we didn’t have anything,” she said.
However, what helped the planning was a strong bond between the staff at the Isabella Center and the Roberts-Williams family. Dorothy has been a resident of the facility for 13 years.
“Her family is like our family,” Garcia-Robinson, the center’s therapeutic recreation director, told Patch. “It was honestly a privilege to have done this for them.”
While there were only 10 people that participated in the garden ceremony, the streets around them came alive.
“There were people on the street, people in their cars, people outside their windows and apartment buildings, it was just incredible,” Roberts-Williams said.
“There were only 10 of us in the garden, but the celebration around us was just amazing. All of that happened organically, we didn’t plan for any of that to happen.”