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Sidney senior with dementia falls in love with husband all over again


As Michael Ray looks back on the beginning of his love story with Marie, he recalls knowing, when they’d first met at a dance, they’d eventually vow to have and to hold.

“I just realized that this was the girl for me,” Michael smiles. “And fortunately she thought I was the man for her.”

The couple was also confident about the richer or poorer part of wedding vows, because they already had no money at all.

“The lady who was fitting [our wedding bands] said, ‘Should you be getting married if you can’t afford the ring?!’” Michael recalls with a laugh.

While the ring could be paid off through instalments, buying a wedding dress for Marie, let alone staging a ceremony, just wasn’t possible.

Marie and Michael exchanged vows in their ordinary “work” clothes.

Because the newlyweds couldn’t afford a home of their own, they shared one apartment with two other couples. Marie and Michael slept in the living room.

“That first year was very, very hard,” Michael says.

But they couldn’t help recalling the words of the man who married them, who said he’d seen couples with elaborate ceremonies get separated by the end of the honeymoon.

Money doesn’t matter — he’d said — unconditional love does.

And now — after 65 years together, and despite life’s inevitable ups and downs — Michael praises Marie for “making me the man I am.”

“On good days, she’ll says it was an exciting life, a happy life,” Michael says, cradling Marie’s hand as she sits in a wheelchair.

But most days, since Marie suffered a series of strokes and was diagnosed with dementia, she doesn’t recall much at all.

“She knows me,” Michael says. “But she doesn’t know we’re married.”

Although Marie can’t remember vowing ‘in sickness and in health’,’ she never forgets to keep falling in love with him all over again.

“She says, ‘You know, we got on well. Why don’t we get married?,’” Michael says fighting back tears. “She said she wants to get married in a wedding dress.”

So Michael accepted Marie’s proposal, and the staff at her Sidney care home sprang into action

“This is a very happy day,” Joan Smith, the director of the Sidney Care Home, says before attending to countless last-minute details.

Joan found a dress and arranged for bouquets and a boutonniere, while the residents made decorations, and the nurses moonlighted as make-up artists.

“We’ve got hidden talents we didn’t know we had,” Joan smiles.

Photographer Sheri Rypstra captured images of the countless people who volunteered their time to stage the sort of ceremony Marie and Michael never had.

As the pianist performed the wedding march, and a 103-year-old ‘flower girl’ tossed petals along the path, Marie’s daughter pushed her mom’s wheelchair down the aisle in the care home’s dining room towards Michael, who was waiting in a tuxedo.

The bride was wearing the sort of elegant white dress (with a headpiece and veil) that she had dreamed of.

“Age has not withered her looks in the slightest,” Michael smiles. “If anything it’s enhanced them.”

And after renewing their marriage vows, Michael thanked Marie for teaching him so much about living life and loving well.

“Love is giving and caring,” Michael says. “It’s helping them to become everything they’re able to become.”

Marie couldn’t have been happier to become a bride on this day. And even when memories fade, it’s a reminder of a feeling she can’t seem to forget — being loved every day. Top Stories

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