A married couple from Connecticut hosted a second wedding ceremony when the groom, who has a type of dementia, proposed to his wife again after forgetting they were already married.
Despite struggling to remember his marriage due to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Peter Marshall, 56, has never forgotten the love he has for Lisa, 54, his wife of 12 years, whom he has recently mostly regarded as his favorite caregiver given his deteriorating memory.
“It’s been devastating, but I’ve done my best to stay positive and focus on one day at a time,” Lisa Marshall told the Washington Post. “My mantra has always been to have no regrets.”
While watching a wedding scene on TV last year, Peter asked Lisa to marry him, not remembering the wedding proposal the next day, and forgetting that he and Lisa were already married.
“I said, ‘Do what?’ And he pointed to the TV, to the scene of this wedding and I said, ‘Do you want to get married?’ He said yes and had this huge grin on his face,” said Lisa Marshall, according to NBC New York. “He doesn’t know that I’m his wife. I’m just his favorite person.”
Lisa decided to renew the couple’s vows with the help of her daughter, Sarah Brehant, who has a wedding planning business.
Sarah encouraged her mother to do it, offering to organize the entire ceremony.
“I knew that my stepdad, who I am very close with, was there through some of the toughest times of my life,” Sarah told the Post. “He means so much to me, and my mom is my best friend, so I was proud to be able to take on such an important role.”
On 26 April, the couple renewed their vows in front of family and close friends. The wedding was officiated by dementia specialist Adrianna DeVivo, a licensed wedding officiant who had helped Lisa create a care plan for her husband.
“There wasn’t a dry eye, and I was over the moon,” Lisa said to NBC New York. “I hadn’t seen Peter that happy in a long time.”
Peter and Lisa first married on 13 August 2009, during a beach wedding on Turks and Caicos. After living across the street from each other in the same Pennsylvania neighborhood, their friendship became romantic in 2001 after both had been divorced.
The two dated long-distance for eight years after Peter moved to Connecticut for work while Lisa stayed behind because of family ties. But after Lisa’s youngest son left home to attend college, the couple finally decided to get married, with Lisa moving to Connecticut to join Peter.
But, in 2017, Peter began having difficulties with memory, forgetting words and becoming increasingly forgetful. A year later, when Lisa took Peter to a neurologist for an answer, the diagnosis for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was confirmed.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease affects people under the age of 65 and accounts for less than 10% of people who have Alzheimer’s.
By January 2019, Peter had to quit his job, with worsening memory issues. The next year, Lisa also quit her job, taking on the role of Peter’s full-time caregiver.
“Before his diagnosis, I always thought that Alzheimer’s was an old person’s disease,” said Lisa. “Now I know better.”
Since their second wedding in April, Lisa noted that Peter’s condition has quickly gotten worse, with Peter requiring constant supervision and struggling with some basic daily activities, such as making the bed. Peter is also enrolled in an adult day care.
Lisa acknowledged that her husband may need a long-term facility at some point.
“One day at a time,” she said. “I don’t know who I am to him now, but I know that he definitely loves me and feels safe. When the bus brings him back home each day, we’ll sit on the porch for an hour and hold hands.”
She added, tearfully: “[At the wedding], he leaned in and he whispered in my ear, ‘Thank you for staying.’”