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Couple renew wedding vows after husband, who has dementia, proposes for a second time

01 June 2018


Donald and Margaret Kerr, with the Revd Peter Walsh

Donald and Margaret Kerr, with the Revd Peter Walsh

A MARRIED couple have renewed their wedding vows at a nursing home — after the husband, who has dementia, popped the question for the second time.

Donald Kerr, a former journalist, had listened to weeks of chatter about the royal wedding at Brookfield Nursing Home, in West Kirby, on Merseyside.

The topic prompted his thoughts of marriage, the Revd Peter Walsh, who organised the ceremony, said. Mr Kerr and his wife, Margaret, had been together for 25 years, but married only in 2009, after he was diagnosed with vascular dementia and glaucoma, which have left him with severe memory loss and limited vision.

“Donald had forgotten he had been married when he asked Margaret to marry him,” Fr Walsh, the Vicar of St Andrew’s, Kirby, said. “There had been so much talk of the royal wedding in the home it had obviously got him thinking.”

Mrs Kerr said that she was “overwhelmed” when Mr Kerr, who is now 86, proposed again, and she asked Fr Walsh for a service to renew their vows.

“It was a wonderful day of celebration that everyone at the nursing home enjoyed,” Fr Walsh said. “When Donald said ‘I will’, everyone in the room was in tears. The renewal of vows has done so much for Donald and Margaret.

“It’s been a tough time for Margaret, but she has got to know the church community through the monthly communion service we hold at the home, and is part of that community.

“It’s a lovely example of how ordinary ministry in a nursing home can become very special. We had a sense of Christ’s presence with us on the day.”

David, from Brookfield Nursing Home, said: “Everyone at Brookfield loved taking part in their special day: the music and prayerful atmosphere helped jog memories for so many of our residents, their families, and the friends of Donald and Margaret.”

St Andrew’s is developing its ministry to care homes, as the area has a large population of retired and elderly people, and isolation and loneliness is an issue for many. “Those suffering from dementia can often be open to profound spiritual experiences. It is a vital part of our ministry to serve dementia sufferers, and to support those who care for them who may be suffering stress and mixed emotions of guilt or anxiety,” Fr Walsh said.

The disability charity Livability has launched a resource, “My Faith Matters”, to help those living with dementia to record and celebrate what is important to them about their faith. It enables people to record memories and information on their spiritual journey, to pass on to family, friends, and faith communities.

Livability’s assistant director of community engagement, Corin Pilling, said: “Churches have a vital role to play in being dementia-inclusive. So often at the heart of a community, churches provide an important touch-point and connector for people living with dementia.

“We hope that this resource will provide a really practical way for individuals and groups to provide more support in their context.”

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