They say that the mind forgets but the heart always remembers. That is exactly what happened with Bill and Anne Duncan. Fate tested them but their love to each other prevails.
Bill is a one happy man as he awaits for his bride walking down the aisle. As soon as she stepped beside him, she said, “I’ve come to marry you, Bill.”
The pair exchange their vows in front of their family and friends and they both say, “I do” to each other.
But life is full of surprises. The couple had already married 12 years earlier but Bill doesn’t know that because Alzheimer’s stole that happy memory of him.
“Over the last few years I felt I’d been losing my husband to dementia,” says Anne, 65. “When he couldn’t remember who I was, I felt broken.”
Her beloved husband had slowly forgotten their first marriage. He no longer knew who Anne was, believing she was his carer. But he fell in love and proposed again. The ceremony was officially a renewal service, but was carefully worded so Bill believed it was the first time.
“At first, I thought I’d do it to humour Bill and make him happy,” says Anne.
“But when I looked around and saw our family and friends celebrating, I filled with tears and realised it was for me too.
Anne cares for Bill’s every need with moving tenderness. She does not leave his side without squeezing his hands and kissing the top of his head.
“On our first wedding day we had a spectacular party with magicians, singing, music and dancing,” she says. “Our second wedding, even though it was tinged with the sadness of Bill’s illness, means even more to me.”
“Bill can’t stop kissing and hugging me, as if he’s a newlywed. I slipped off my wedding ring so he could re-present it, and to me it signified giving us some happiness back.
“It feels we have real, true love that can survive even the hardest times.”
Anne and Bill, 71, first met in July 2001 on a blind date set up by his ex-wife. “It was clear pretty much from the beginning that we were mad about each other,” says Anne. Bill proposed five years later in their garden and they held an extravagant wedding in July 2007. But after three years, Anne spotted small signs of Bill’s dementia.
She says: “Bill and I had the same routine every weekend. Each Saturday and Sunday we’d take it in turns to bring up breakfast in bed which was always a tray of four slices of toast and two cups of tea.“
“One Saturday, when it was Bill’s turn, he only brought two slices of toast and I joked, ‘Oh, are you trying to tell me to go on a diet?’. The next day, determined to get it right, he took my turn and brought up two slices of toast cut in to four. I knew something was wrong.”
When Bill’s colleagues pointed out he was making uncharacteristic spelling mistakes in emails, Anne gently persuaded him to see his GP. The result came on January 6, 2011 and found out that Bill has Alzheimer’s disease.
“Bill was positive and brave, but I could tell he was also frightened so I made sure he always saw me cheerful,” says Anne.
“One weekend he went to a magic convention in Blackpool and I spent the days doing online research and nights crying myself to sleep. When he came back, I suggested we pull our pension forward so we could spend our days making fun memories before they’d be taken.”
Anne and Bill retired and enjoyed far flung holidays in South Africa, India, Australia and America. A year ago, he started forgetting Anne’s name and the fact that they were married. It was a painful blow.
“He started saying to me, ‘Excuse me please, but who are you? I just want to go home’,” she recalls.
“I’d keep smiling and try to remind him I was Anne, his wife. But he’d ask me who I was again a few minutes later. Over the years, Bill slowly stopped showing affection towards me. In his eyes I became just his carer.”
Things changed one month ago when they attended a marriage renewal for Bill’s nephew and he said: “We have done this.” Anne was thrilled at the flash of recognition. Days later, Bill suddenly became more affectionate. Soon talk turned to marriage.
“I thought he might forget the next day,” says Anne, “but instead he kept asking. When I said yes, his face and entire body language showed relief.”
Anne bought a new dress for their special day on August 3 ceremony in their garden in Aberdeen. She walked down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon – the same music picked for their original wedding day. Anne says it shows you can still feel joy and look forward to new experiences despite dementia.
“Seeing people close to us with such big smiles, gave me a real lift. That was my wedding gift,” she says. “I said to Bill, ‘Look, you have always made people happy and you’re still doing so now’.
“His demeanor since the wedding is much calmer. We’re closer now, it’s as if we reconnected. There’s life, and lots of love, still in Bill. He’s such a special man – how could I not look him for the rest of his life?”
What a very lovely story. Share this to your friends and family to make their day bright.