Love is a concept we try to understand and make sense of. While it comes down to brain chemicals and hormones, love is such a profound concept that we can't always use logic to define it. That would mean setting rules ad bodies to it that simply don't apply.
For this couple with Down Syndrome, the whole world stood against them and told them they wouldn't make it. They decided to prove everyone wrong and they did...until they received a devasting diagnosis on their 25th anniversary,
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The Fateful Encounter
The couple met at a life skills training center in 1990 ad it was basically love at first sight. At the time, Tommy was living in residential care after losing both his parents when he was just 12 years old. He was making the best of his circumstances despite having a craving for more.
The day he met Maryanne, everything changed. They were instantly attached at the hip. Her parents took him under their wing and the two became inseparable. About a year and a half later, Tommy asked Maryann's mom for her blessing to marry her daughter. He bought a plastic ring from a vending machine and proposed. Maryanne said yes without hesitation.
A Wedding Against All Odds
Due to their illness, news of their engagement didn't well in their community. Linda, the mom explained: "When I sent out the invitations people said it wouldn't last and asked me what I’d do if it didn’t." Yet she was convinced that the couple was just as deserving of love and happiness as anyone else: "we need to treat Tommy and Maryanne like adults. Everyone should be able to marry the love of their lives."
Maryanne and Tommy Pilling made history when they became the first couple in the UK with Down's syndrome to marry. They tied the knot in 1995 at a magical wedding with 250 guests. Maryanne said: "I had a white dress and I wore a crown like a princess...My wedding day was the best day of my life. I love my husband. He is my best friend."
The Fairytale Marriage
Maryanne and Tommy's beautiful love story didn't stop there. Their marriage was always filled with love, and cuddles on the couch. Maryanne's sister recalls that the day Tommy came into their house, it was always filled with laughter.
The couple had their own place next to Maryanne's parents: "It was like watching a fairy tale, They were in their own little bubble and only had eyes for each other." She adds: "They would talk all the time, from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to sleep. I had to bang on the wall because they'd be in hysterics.
Celebrating 25 Years
The couple set the example of what a happy marriage should look like. They cooked together every night after learning from Linda."These two are marvelous in the kitchen. That's where Tommy gets into his element."
While Tommy prefers cooking, Marryane loves taking care of their home and cleans every day. Their home is filled with Elvis memorabilia to celebrate their love for him. Tommy would put on his CD, take her by the hand, and dance with her around the room to Love Me Tender. The couple wanted to do something special every year to honor their love. They renewed their vows on their 20th anniversary, but when it was time for their 25th...tragedy was around the corner.
A Devastating Diagnosis
At 62 years old, after 25 years of blissful marriage, Tommy was diagnosed with dementia. He now struggled with basic everyday tasks like washing his hair. But the worse of it was that there would be days when he would forget his wife of 25 years.
However the family refused to send him to a home, they wanted to do everything possible to stay near each other. They all stepped in to prevent Tommy's condition from declining and support Maryanne through the process.
The Harsh Reality Of Living Memories
The heartbreaking reality of living with someone with dementia quickly set in. Linda explains; "These last few years have been substantially harder and Maryanne does get upset - Maryanne had dreamt of a big white wedding since she was a little girl, and their relationship is one that has always been full of love."
This makes it harder for Maryanne to deal with the times when Tommy experiences mood swings and memory loss and takes it out on her. Her sister adds: "He’s forgotten who Maryanne is a handful of times. He pushes her away and says, 'I don’t know who you are’ and ‘I don’t love you’"
The Cost Of Staying Near Each Other
When Maryanne hears her husband telling her he doesn't love her she breaks down: "She calls me and I go across the road to calm them down. It's scary for Tommy too but then he forgets anything has happened," explains her sister.
It's hard for Maryanne who is also struggling to understand the depth of her husband's condition: "We tell her Tommy forgets things because his brain’s a bit poorly and he’s getting older. But we take each day as it comes because we’ve been told if Tommy needs residential care, Maryanne wouldn’t be able to go with him. We’d do whatever we could to stop it happening."
Love Is Devotion
Despite the circumstances, Maryanne just wants her husband to know how much she loves him so she tells him "three times a day." After all the two have not been apart for more than a few hours since the day they met. Her sister recalls: “The day she met him, she had the biggest smile on her face and she couldn’t stop talking about him.”
Unfortunately, Tommy's health got worse and he had to be hospitalized with a chest infection which led to the couple being separated for the first time. Maryanne watched her husband being rolled into the hospital shouting: "Tommy, I'm here! Tommy, I love you! You’re going to be all right" as she was waving and blowing him kisses through the frosted glass.
The Bitter Sweet Ending
The couple's love story was cut short when Tommy passed away at the hospital. The husband of the UK's first couple with Down’s syndrome to marry had died from Covid-19. Maryanne's family said she was "completely devastated". They were all grieving his memory and the impact he had on their lives.
Linda said: "Tommy has left a vast hole in our lives that nobody will ever fill. I considered him as my son and I’ve never regretted a single moment of the three decades he was in my care."
In any relationship, always look at how you feel and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?
Love is more than just kisses and butterflies, it's much more than that. If you want to know more on what your birth chart reveals about how you love and what you need out of a partner, check out this personalized report based on date of birth.