Lisa and Peter Marshall have been married 12 years, but only one of them was aware of this fact when they watched a wedding scene on television recently. On most days Peter, who at age 56 has early-onset Alzheimer’s, thinks of Lisa as his favorite caretaker. And not realizing he was already married to her and inspired by the nuptials on screen, he turned to Lisa and proposed.
That was strange enough for Lisa Marshall, but one day later, it got even stranger: he forgot he had proposed to her (again). Still, Lisa wondered if maybe he had the right idea. She decided that despite (or because of) the hardship they’d endured over the past three years of his memory loss, it was a good time to renew their vows.
“It’s been devastating, but I’ve done my best to stay positive and focus on one day at a time,” Lisa, 54, who lives in Andover, Conn, told the Washington Post. “My mantra has always been to have no regrets.”
The Vow Renewal Ceremony
Lisa and Peter Marshall renewed their vows on April 26th in front of family and a few friends. Lisa got plenty of help from her 26-year-old daughter, Sarah Brehant, who runs a wedding planning business. Brehant rounded up a slew of vendors to donate services, including the venue and the florist.
I hadn’t seen Peter that happy in a long time.
On the day of the wedding renewal, six weeks after planning began, Lisa slipped into the same dress she wore at their beach wedding in Turks and Caicos in 2009. The jewelry she put on was selected by Peter over their years together. “Butterflies fluttered in my stomach when Sarah announced that Peter had arrived, and I sipped, well gulped, one more taste of champagne and grabbed the tissues I knew I would need,” Lisa wrote in a post on her Facebook page Oh Hello Alzheimers.
Walking up the aisle on the arm of her daughter while a saxophonist played “Unforgettable,” Lisa focused on Peter as she approached. “I was wondering what he was thinking, feeling, doing. Was he overwhelmed? Did he understand what was happening? Was he happy? Was he watching? Flashbacks to our wedding day when he was nervous,” she wrote on Facebook.
When Lisa arrived at the altar, Peter exclaimed, “Who are you?!” Then he whispered in her ear, “You look good.” “We kissed like everything was right and for a few hours it was!” she wrote. They exchanged vows in front of Adrianne DeVivo, a dementia specialist who helped Lisa set up a care plan for her husband and (fortuitously) is also licensed to perform weddings.
Photos of the day show an ecstatic groom, beaming with Lisa by his side and in his arms as they danced. “I hadn’t seen Peter that happy in a long time,” Lisa told the Post.
Even though Lisa tries to stay optimistic, she realizes that a day may soon come when she needs to put Peter, who first showed symptoms in 2017, in long-term care. She reports that his memory has rapidly declined in the past six months.
On difficult days, she remembers what her husband told her as they danced to their favorite song, “Brown-Eyed Girl,” after they renewed their vows. “He whispered in my ear, ‘Thank you for staying.’ ”
Top image by Cait Fletcher Photography.