AUBURN, Calif. - For most women, a poignant moment in their wedding is the traditional father-daughter dance.
Rachel Wolf is not even engaged, but knowing that her father is dying of cancer, she surprised him with a faux wedding so they could have their dance and so that he would be at her wedding whenever it does occur, even if only on video.
“It meant more to him than I ever thought it would,” said Wolf, 25, of Auburn, Calif. “The joy that I saw in his face when he saw me was amazing.”
Wolf’s father, Dr. James Wolf, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2011. He has endured nearly two years of chemotherapy and surgery and his time is running out. Just days after the Saturday dance, Wolf received what is scheduled to be his final round of chemo and was so exhausted from the ordeal he had the energy for only a few words about the dance.
“I was completely taken aback,” Dr. Wolf, 58, told ABC News. “It was a special idea to remember her father at her wedding day.”
Rachel Wolf has always dreamed of her wedding, and emphasized that she and her dad were very close.
“I always told him I would have a religious wedding, but I never told him how important it was [the dance] because I thought he was going to be around for a lot longer. You don’t think about these things until they are too late,” she told ABC News.
So she arranged a faux wedding so they could still have their moment. She sent her father an invitation requesting his presence at a father daughter dance. But her father told ABC News he had no idea what exactly was going to happen. His daughter simply told him to make sure he brought nice pants and a shirt.
With the help of donations from stores, she put on a white wedding dress, met her father at a park and had the traditional dance – to “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman — this past Saturday.
ABC Affiliate KXTV recorded the event, but she is not planning to watch the video until her actual wedding.
“It was a fairytale come true for Rachel,” said her mother Jeanine Wolf.
“It just grew into this magnificent event,” the mom said, adding, “She just really loves her dad and he loves her and she just wanted this moment.”
Dr. Wolf had practiced medicine in the community for 25 years and was so devoted to his patients that his wife told ABC News he made house calls. As a result, the “wedding” also turned into an occasion for the town to bid their farewells.
“I was very happy to help out someone in the community who had been there for everybody else,” said Matt Wescott, the owner of RMW photography who photographed the event. He said many of his friends had been patients of Dr. Wolf’s, so the event took on a special significance.
Rachel Wolf said her father’s goal had always been to make a difference, and “care more about other people than you do yourself.” So she was ecstatic that, as part of his final legacy, the video had touched lives across the country.
“I want to tell dads who have little girls, videotape you and your daughter dancing, but save it. You never know what’s going to happen,” she said.