The 55-year-old actor seemingly made his final appearance on season 17 of the ABC medical drama during the Thursday, April 22, episode, convincing Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) to wake up from her coronavirus dream to reunite with their kids. Before she officially left the beach, however, Meredith and Derek finally had a traditional wedding moment.
The iconic onscreen couple previously handed over their church nuptials to Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) and Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) during season 5 when the latter was fighting cancer. Meredith and Derek, meanwhile, opted to exchange vows via a Post-it note, making their union legal at a courthouse years later in order to adopt daughter Zola.
“Ellis draws this picture of us,” Meredith told Derek on Thursday’s episode, referring to their youngest daughter. “I’m in a wedding dress, you’re in a suit. I show her the Post-it note, but she just … hates it. She feels robbed.”
While Derek noted that his wife “hates weddings,” the characters changed into the clothes from the picture.
“I hate weddings, but I’d give this to her if I could,” Meredith said. “What do you want me to promise?”
The late neurosurgeon replied, “To torture yourself less.”
While Meredith nearly went in to kiss Derek, she blurted out, “I don’t want to leave the kids,” to which he responded, “I don’t want you to leave the kids.”
When they later changed one last embrace, Derek said, “You have to go. It’s not your time yet. Our kids need you. You have to go.”
Grey’s Anatomy fans have been emotional since Derek’s surprising return in the season 17 premiere, which aired in November 2020, but nothing has wrecked the fandom like Thursday’s episode.
“MEREDITH SAYING ‘WE LOVE YOU. WE LOVE YOU. WE LOVE ZOZO’ BECAUSE HER AND DEREK GAVE UP ON BEING TOGETHER FOR THEIR KIDS I AM GOING TO DYING. #GreysAnatomy,” one fan tweeted.
Another viewer wrote, “I’ll forever cry at Meredith and Derek beach moments #GreysAnatomy.”
A third tweeted a photo of Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang saying, “Somebody sedate me,” adding, “Apr 23. the day derek died. merder’s beach wedding. the day derek left again. the day mer woke up. #GreysAnatomy.”
“GIVE ME A DAMN SECOND #GreysAnatomy,” a fourth viewer concluded.
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET — with Sarah Drew’s highly-anticipated return and character April’s reunion with Jackson (Jesse Williams) slated to bring fans to tears once again on the May 6 episode.
Scroll through to see photos from Meredith and Derek’s wedding moment: