Peter and Lisa Marshall were watching a wedding on TV one night when he just suggested, 'Let's do it!'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 13, 2022. It has since been updated.
Lisa and Peter Marshall's story is straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Much like the author's bestseller "The Notebook," where the protagonist is devoted to the love of his life suffering from dementia, Lisa serves as a caregiver to her husband of 13 years, who has early-onset Alzheimer's. What really makes their story heartwarming is that despite the effects of Peter's illness, the love he has for his wife runs deep. He can't remember who she is or what her name is, but he falls in love with her again and asks her to marry him.
In December 2020, the couple was at home watching a wedding on TV and in a moment of clarity, Peter suggested they should do it too. "I said, 'Do what?' And he pointed to the TV, to the scene of this wedding and I said, 'Do you wanna get married?' He said yes and had this huge grin on his face," Lisa told NBC New York. "He doesn't know that I'm his wife. I'm just his favorite person." Peter fell in love with his wife all over again and so they decided to renew their vows. "I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I get to do it twice," said an emotional Lisa.
They live-streamed their vow renewal as a way to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's research. Lisa curates a blog where she shares her experience as a caregiver for Peter. She shared the whole wedding process on her page titled Oh Hello Alzheimer's. "I’ve needed some time to process what happened on Monday because it was the most perfectly perfect fairytale day I could dream up," Lisa wrote about the ceremony that took place in April 2021. "The dress was the one I wore when we were married, as were the crystals in my hair, loaned to me from a dear PA friend, Darlene. The jewelry, every piece, selected by Peter over the years of our courtship, worn once again to recreate our day."
It helped that her daughter is a wedding and event planner. The preparation went smoothly and many of the vendors even offered their services for free. "It was so perfect. I couldn't have dreamt of a better day. It was so magical," said Lisa, adding, "I can't remember seeing him so happy for so long. He was so happy." She noted that her husband was alert and present the whole day and even joked around with her. She shared how he exclaimed, “Who are you?!” and then whispered in her ear, “You look good.” Peter's illness has been progressing rapidly and he has long forgotten the ceremony ever taking place.
Peter was diagnosed in 2018 at the age of 53. A few years before his diagnosis was confirmed, Lisa knew there was something wrong. The doctor's visits started in 2017 and after a year's worth of cognitive testing and appointments, the neurologist broke the news that it was early-onset Alzheimer's. "The thing I miss the most is intelligent conversation or dialog with him," she told TODAY. "He has no idea what these words mean." She added that he no longer understands playful banter. He is back to being a child and sees the world like it is brand new. "We do a lot of crying here," she said. "Caregivers like me grieve every single day."
Sharing her daily experiences, Lisa wrote, "Each night we brush our teeth and put on our pajamas and I pull the covers back for Peter to climb into bed and he may or may not surprise me with a big jump onto the bed like a 5-year-old and we laugh. I pull the covers up to his chin and lay on his chest for a minute." She assures her husband each night with lots of kisses that she loves him so much.