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‘Surprise!’ Silver anniversary dinner delights lovebirds

Liz and Kent Hughes with social worker Paula Rafal (left)

Lovin’ Life After 50
February 2021
by Lin Sue Cooney

Liz Hughes believes in everlasting love. In Kent, she found a truly devoted partner who has been by her side for 25 years — for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer and, inevitably, in sickness and in health.

When a global pandemic and Liz’s chronic lung disease threatened to cast a shadow over the octogenarians’ silver wedding anniversary, some very special angels intervened. Liz's social worker and nurse at Hospice of the Valley, Paula Rafal and Brenda Sine, connected with students from DreamCatchers at Grand Canyon University to plan a surprise candlelit dinner.

“When I think about what we do for our patients, it often revolves around helping them reach tomorrow in order to spend one more day comfortably with their loved ones,” Brenda reflected. “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to create a little bit of magic at the same time!”

On their 25th anniversary, Kent took his Valentine for a drive while Paula, Brenda and three GCU students set a beautiful table and decorated the dining room with banners and balloons. Then they elegantly plated the food — Liz’s favorite: fried catfish from Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen and a luscious cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, all paired with a chilled bottle of wine. When the couple returned to their Phoenix mobile home, Liz was floored!

“Oh my!” she exclaimed. "No wonder Kent wouldn’t stop for cheeseburgers! It’s so thoughtful and caring of Hospice of the Valley and DreamCatchers to do this for us. I can't believe how you all decorated the dining room!"

GCU students Ebony Isagba, Jayden Orr and Kitana Ford beamed with pride — knowing they helped create a beautiful evening for a couple who no longer has the time to “postpone their dreams.”

The surprise also brought incredible joy to the hospice team that has cared for this “feisty” lady for nearly two years.

“Liz had no idea anything was planned,” Paula shared. “We wanted this to be a memory they would treasure forever. We couldn’t be happier for them!”