Ten months ago, Chicago police officer Densey Cole proposed to his girlfriend as he was being wheeled into the trauma center after being involved in a car crash on the city's South Side.
The couple already lived together and owned a house together, but Cole said he felt compelled to propose because he wanted to validate the relationship.
"If I had died, then all she would ever be to people who didn't know us, she would always just be 'that copper's girlfriend,'" he explained. "I wanted her to feel that she was respected in a different way by everybody else that doesn't know and didn't know how we lived."
With Cole paralyzed and suffering from pneumonia, the couple were married in a Hinsdale hospital. But they'd like a chance to do it all over again and hope Crate & Barrel's Ultimate Wedding Contest will help them celebrate each other in a more serene setting.
It was May 27, 2009 when Cole, a 16-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was responding to a burglary call. Along the way, a car crossed the median and hit his SUV near the corner of 98th and S. Halsted. His head slammed against the ceiling of his police car and he broke his neck.
Shortly after the accident, two men ran up to Cole's car and stole his wallet and his 9mm weapon. He was still conscious as the two men moved him to give them better access to his pockets. Their crime may have exacerbated Cole's injuries.
Their hospital wedding was put together in less than two days. Mary's sister bought the dress. A friend brought the flowers and a hospital administrator took the photos. After they exchanged rings, Densey had to get some rest.
"I went to take off the dress, I watched some TV and I think I went to sleep too. It was really fast, " recalled Mary, who has since quit her job as a sommelier at a downtown hotel so she could take care of her husband full-time.
The couple would love to have a wedding with close friends and family in Hawaii.
"To be peaceful to be by the water in the sun," she wrote in their contest entry, " with some shade of course. Everything handicap accessible and easy and stress free."
She said her husband has a machine that helps him stand for 30 minutes at a time, and she said words cannot describe the feeling she would get by seeing him standing at the end of the aisle waiting for her.
The Coles say the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation has been extremely helpful, as have some of his former colleagues. It's also the kindness of other brothers-in-blue from across the nation that have touched them.
Word of the contest spread through blogs frequented by police officers and the votes are piling on. With less than two days left in the voting, the Coles are leading with nearly 20,000 votes -- and the runner-up has less than 15,000.
"He will be the father of my children and I will be with him for the rest of my life," Mary said. "I just know that. I love him."
Crate & Barrel's Ultimate Wedding Contest
Voting closes on March 31st. The winner will be announced in April. Here's how Crate & Barrel will determine the winner:
- Originality and creativity of Entrant’s responses to the topics (50%);
- How well Entry invokes and inspires Crate and Barrel’s lifestyle (30%);
- Entry’s Ranking in public voting (20%) as follows: 1st–10th place in public voting will receive 10 points; 10th–20th place will receive 6 points; 20th–30th place will receive 4 points; and the remaining 20 Finalists will receive 0 points.