While watching a wedding scene on TV, Peter Marshall said to his wife Lisa, “Let’s do it!”
She replied to him, “Do you want to get married?”
When he responded with a yes, Lisa said, “Well, okay, we should get married then.”
In actuality, they’ve been married since 2009. But the larger issue the two have been dealing with is early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which has afflicted Peter since 2017.
According to the Washington Post, early onset is a form of dementia that generally afflicts people in their 30s to 60s and makes up about 10 percent of Alzheimer’s cases overall.
The day after the new proposal, Peter, 56, did not remember talking about a wedding, and in fact had remembered his wife only as his favorite caregiver for months.
But after some reflection, Lisa, 54, thought maybe a wedding would be a helpful idea. And her daughter, Sarah Brehant, 32, a wedding planner, agreed and said she’d plan the whole thing.
“I knew that my stepdad, who I am very close with, was there through some of the toughest times of my life,” Brehant said. “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.”
Brehant contacted a dozen vendors who all donated everything from the reception site to the flowers, and even a saxophonist who offered to play “Unforgettable” as Lisa came down the aisle.
On April 26, with a few friends and family in attendance, the couple walked down the aisle again. The officiant was Adrianne DeVivo, a dementia specialist at Hartford Healthcare who helped Lisa set up a care plan for her husband.
“It was just magical,” said Lisa, “straight out of a fairy tale… There wasn’t a dry eye, and I was over the moon. I hadn’t seen Peter that happy in a long time.”
Many tear-wiping fans agreed when they came across the video of the ceremony that Lisa posted on YouTube.
Former neighbors who lived across the street from each other in Harrisburg, PA, Lisa and Peter were both divorced in 2001, and eventually started a closer relationship. When Peter moved to Connecticut to work as a compliance manager for a financial company, the two kept a long distance romance going for eight years. They finally tied the knot in 2009, once Lisa’s youngest child went off to college. They now live in Andover, CT.
By 2017, obvious signs of Alzheimer’s were cropping up.
“Instead of the word ‘airplane,’ he’d say, ‘that thing that goes up in the sky,’ ” Lisa explained. “He also became pretty forgetful, but the word deficiency was really hard to ignore.” A doctor confirmed the diagnosis in 2018.
She started a Facebook blog, Oh Hello Alzheimer’s, as a way to cope with the crushing ailment, and has gained comfort from her over 6,000 supportive blog followers.
Lisa admits, “It’s been devastating, but I’ve done my best to stay positive and focus on one day at a time. My mantra has always been to have no regrets.”
Lately, Peter’s dementia has declined more rapidly, and five days a week he is taken to an adult day care center for a few hours. Thoughts of soon having to place Peter in a memory care center permanently haunt Lisa, and she tries to take solace in their quiet times together.
“I don’t know who I am to him now,” she said, “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.”
Lisa shared a memory of their wedding day, as the couple danced to “Brown-Eyed Girl,” their favorite song. “He whispered in my ear, ‘Thank you for staying.'"