Linda Joyce tells PEOPLE she was ecstatic to renew her vows with husband Michael Joyce, who has Alzheimer's
Alzheimer’s disease has stolen most of Michael Joyce’s memory. But there’s one thing he’s remembered after all these years: he’s head over heels in love with his wife, Linda.
Michael, 68, was diagnosed with the illness in 2010, and has forgotten that he and Linda married in 1984. So, he proposed to his wife again — and the New Zealand couple wed a second time near a picturesque lake in their Frankton neighborhood.
Linda, 64, says Michael randomly popped the question in their home about two weeks ago.
“He got up, but he looked different. He looked quite anxious, like he was trying to tell me something. I jumped up and I held his hand and I said, ‘What’s wrong, darling? What are you trying to say?’ ” Linda tells PEOPLE, noting that Michael’s ability to speak is very limited. “He said, ‘Will you marry me?’ I was absolutely blown away … I said, ‘Of course!’ and his eyes filled up and he held me.”
They decided to plan a vow renewal ceremony for the following week, and Linda turned to her neighborhood community website, Neighbourl,y to find an officiant. Over the next few days, Linda worked with close family and friends to plan the event.
“The part that’s amazing is that he didn’t forget,” Linda says of her husband. “He woke up the next morning and said, ‘Do you still want to?’ He pointed to my finger. He remembered each day. He’d be trying to tell our friends … He’d point to my hand.”
Last Saturday, they renewed their vows in front of their loved ones. Photos from the event (taken by local photographer Desmond Downs) showed Linda in a colorful dress, and Michael wearing dress pants and a button-down shirt. She says neither she nor Michael could hold back their tears.
“When I had to repeat my vows, I was very emotional and my voice broke,” she tells PEOPLE. “I said I was going to love and honor him through sickness and through health, ’til death do us part — and that’s the part that choked me up.”
Linda says that the officiant read Michael’s vows, and the groom couldn’t help but become emotional during the ceremony
“I was overjoyed, overwhelmed and very ecstatic. I really was. I was elated,” she says. “Michael was completely relaxed and happy.”
The wedding proved to be extra special for the couple after what Linda calls a “difficult” journey. She says she first noticed changes in Michael in 2009.
“I noticed little changes in his personality. And his driving had gotten really bad — he used to be an excellent driver,” Linda tells PEOPLE. “He would watch a TV program and react to it and, the next day, I would see the same reaction. He’d forgotten he watched the same program the day before. Then he was making mistakes at his work as an electrician and I knew something was seriously wrong.”
Now, Linda cares for Michael at their home most days, she says, noting that he goes to a rest home every once in a while.
“It’s been very difficult physically and emotionally. You’ve always had this partner that you shared everything with. Decision making … I don’t have that with Michael. I have to make all the decisions for both of us because he doesn’t have the ability to communicate verbally. There’s no conversations between us anymore,” she tells PEOPLE.
She adds: “If I lost him I’d be absolutely, totally devastated. He’s my world.”