Standing on the beautiful beach, in front of our families, I couldn’t have been happier.
I was swapping vows with my soulmate, Peter.
Since we’d started dating, life had felt like one big honeymoon.
We’d met back in 1996 when he and his family moved in across the street from mine.
My then-husband and our children – Thom, then 12, Sarah, seven, and Zachary, five – and Peter, his then-wife, and their kids – Sam, two, and newborn Sarah – soon became friends.
We went on trips to the beach and camping, but after five years Peter and his family relocated.
Then a few months later, Peter called.
‘I’m getting divorced,’ he told me.
Going through the same thing myself, it was nice to talk to someone about it.
Peter came to stay, and we got along so well.
I soon realised that I had feelings for him.
Does he feel it too? I wondered, sitting in a restaurant.
As if answering, Peter leaned in to kiss me.
Telling our kids we were dating, they were delighted.
We did long distance – a five-hour drive between us – because we both wanted to be with our kids until they finished school. This meant lots of long phone chats.
Seeing each other as much as we could, we loved playing backgammon and sitting on the verandah together with a glass of wine.
After four years, Peter proposed.
‘Do you think you can put up with me for the rest of your life?’ he asked.
‘Yes!’ I said.
After our wedding, I moved in with Peter. By now, my kids were grown and living in different cities.
It was so wonderful to see his face every morning.
Around four years later, I noticed Peter, then 48, getting a bit forgetful.
‘I left my keys inside,’ he’d say, coming back from the car to fetch them. Other times, it was his wallet.
We’re just getting older, I reasoned. But as time passed, he forgot places he’d been and jobs he’d had. And he struggled to find the right word when he spoke.
Loved ones noticed too, so we went to a doctor.
Tests showed Peter’s memory was worse than I’d thought. Still, it took almost a year for a diagnosis.
‘I’m sorry, you have early onset Alzheimer’s,’ the neurologist told Peter.
He was just 53.
Neither of us understood just how much it would change our lives.
We can fix it with medication, I thought.
But, researching at home, I realised there was no cure.
This is the beginning of the end, I realised, broken.
Peter preferred not to talk about it. But sometimes, he couldn’t hide his feelings.
‘This sucks,’ Peter admitted one day.
‘I’ll always be here for you,’ I replied, through tears.
The disease progressed. Peter couldn’t drive any more, and got lost. That’s when we started a blog, Oh Hello Alzheimer’s, to educate others.
Reading each post to Peter, we’d cry together, as we reflected on the awful toll of this disease.
People around the world facing similar issues sent messages of support.
In January last year, when Peter was 54, I retired to become his carer.
Then, in July, we were driving home from a weekend away, when a moment came that I’d dreaded.
‘Turn here,’ Peter told me, giving me directions as if I didn’t know our address.
He doesn’t know who I am, I realised, gutted.
Not wanting to cause any upset, I stayed quiet.
When we got home, Peter excitedly showed me around our home, which we’d shared for years.
‘Look at what my wife made,’ he said, proudly pointing to a cabinet I’d assembled years earlier.
‘She did a brilliant job,’ I said, tearfully.
I was so sad Peter didn’t know me, but happy he still seemed to love my company.
Though it was impossible to know if Peter recognised me, our connection never wavered.
Whether he was tickling my back or holding my hand, Peter’s love and affection always remained.
Last December, we were watching a wedding on TV when Peter turned to me.
‘Let’s do it,’ he said.
‘You want to get married?’ I asked, surprised.
‘Yes,’ he grinned.
Peter didn’t know I was his wife, but he knew that I was his favourite person.
Could we get married again? I wondered.
Talking to my daughter, Sarah, a wedding planner, she was supportive of the idea. It’d be a beautiful, happy day, amid the grief of slowly losing Peter.
Her contacts, including florists and caterers, offered to donate their time and services to our big day.
By the time it rolled around this April, Peter had forgotten his proposal.
As I walked down the aisle towards him, though, he was giddy with excitement.
Exchanging vows for the second time, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Afterwards, Peter leaned towards me.
‘Thank you for staying,’ he whispered in my ear, in a rare and wonderful moment of clarity.
Later, as we laughed and danced together, it was pure magic.
More than three months on, Peter has forgotten our second wedding, but our love remains.
We always kiss each other goodnight and again every morning.
I married my husband twice, vowing to stay by his side in sickness and in health.
Nothing will ever change that.
Lisa and Peter would like to extend their thanks to the following wedding vendors who voluntered their services for their big day:
Photo / Cait Fletcher Photography
Planning + Design / Brehant Creations Events Planning + Design Co.
Venue / @mill1atopensquare
Florist / @its_so_ranunculus
Video + Live Stream @earthandsunco_
Glam / @transcendentmakeup
Rentals / @refinedrentalsllc
Cake / @forgoodnesscakesdesserts
Stationery / @pencilandinkdesign
Balloons / @pinkflamingoparty.co
Saxophonist / @Jeffladd
Runner / @snassycrafter
Plates + Goblets / @petalsplates
Coordinators / @alliedearie @katherinedonovanphoto
Bride / @ohhelloalzheimers
Officiant / Adrienne Devivo