Cape Breton man fulfills dying wish to remarry his wife of 47 years

A Cape Breton man once again promised to support his wife through life’s toughest moments.

Only this time around, the hurdles are already at their door. 

Arden White was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer last Tuesday.

His final wish was to renew the wedding vows made to his bride 47 years ago.

“She’s been my rock,” White said of his wife, Debby.

Arden and Debby White are pictured on their wedding day on April 6, 1974. The couple planned to renew their vows three times, but life just kept getting in the way. (Submitted by Tyrra White)

“She’s my best friend. And I love her from the bottom of my heart and I always will.”

White, who lives in Scotchtown, N.S., on the eastern side of the island, asked his children for their help. 

The couple thought about renewing their vows at least three times over the decades. But there were other commitments that got in the way.

After being told his time on earth was winding down, White asked again. 

“She agreed, which is not an easy thing for her because she’s very shy, not outgoing like me,” he said.

After his final request was made, White said palliative care nurses at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney got to work.

Hospital wedding

The hospital’s chapel was decorated. Flowers were ordered and paid for, and a photographer and musician were booked. It all happened within a couple of days.

White’s blushing bride carried a bouquet of white and yellow flowers to match a sleeveless spring dress she wore. A string of tiny flowers adorned her hair. 

As the ceremony got underway on Monday evening, White was in his hospital bed, tightly clutching his wife’s hands. The pair spoke in unison as they promised to share their laughter and tears.

“This one’s more special,” White said, reflecting on what the ceremony meant to him.

“Everybody at my last wedding [was here] in spirit. And my kids got the opportunity to see how much I love their mother, and how important she is to me.”

Due to ongoing hospital restrictions brought on by the pandemic, only a few people were allowed inside the chapel.

Because so many people wanted to the ceremony, the service was broadcast through video conferencing.

Dating since high school

White first met Debby when the pair were in their mid-teens, and they started dating in high school. He admits she caught his eye during a first communion at church.

“I kinda followed her after that,” White chuckled. “She has a special spot in my heart.”

Tyrra White said her father’s wish has left memories behind that her family will cherish forever. She offered thanks to everyone who had a role making it all happen. 

“My mom’s a very emotional person. She’ll remember this for as long as she lives. I’ll never forget,” she said. 

“It meant a lot to him, therefore it meant a lot to me and my siblings.”

‘I’m happy with my life’

Last Friday, Arden White received radiation, but was told there are no treatment options left.

“It’s a matter of time,” he said. “I’ve accepted where I am, I’m happy with my life. My family has fulfilled a big part of that.”

White’s family members are taking turns being by his side.

A former military police officer, White later worked with the former New Waterford police department.

After seeing so many children in danger, he left to pursue a 22-year career in social work.

“When I was working with kids I was seeing abuse,” White said of his policing career. “I wanted to know the other end of the story.”

White said he’s been overwhelmed by the generosity shown to him over the past few days.

“I’ve never been treated so well in my life,” he said.


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