The coronavirus is testing couples around the world.
Exactly 55 years before, on April 3, 1965, the couple — then 27 and 20, respectively — got married for the first time at the same church in Copenhagen. That marriage didn’t work out.
The couple, both artists, had four children together. They owned a small pottery business producing and selling ceramics. For a while, life was good.
A series of hardships ultimately led to their divorce in 1989, a time they both remember with unsettling clarity.
It started when Kjeld spent over a month in the intensive care unit battling cancer — a fight he nearly lost. Since he was bedridden and Lotte was looking after their children alone, the business went south.
Just as things were looking up for the Preislers, their home burned to the ground; the wedding album, priceless keepsakes and millions of precious memories, all reduced to a mound of ash.
“That was another really hard blow,” said son Simon Preisler, 44, from his home in Ramsey, N.J. “There is a limit to how much people can take and how much hardship they can endure. At some point, the shared pain between them got to be too much, and they decided to part ways.”
Being apart, though, proved more difficult than staying together. After two years of living separately, the couple gradually made their way back to each other.
“I couldn’t find myself without her,” Kjeld Preisler said.
She said she felt the same way.
Still, the couple endured more obstacles over the years, including her declining health. In 2009, complications from a ruptured appendix left Lotte permanently in a wheelchair. He cared for her through it all.
Then last month came the coronavirus.
In the wake of the pandemic, they suddenly wanted to get married again, said their son. “They knew the virus could be lethal to both of them, and the risk of either of them leaving this world without officially becoming husband and wife was something they could not accept,” he said.
The thought of losing a loved one is especially real right now, said Abby Rodman, a Boston psychotherapist specializing in marriage and divorce. “We’ve been put in this unique circumstance where we are forced to think about the possibility of death. For a lot of couples, they are actually rediscovering exactly what their significant other means to them.”
In late March, Kjeld Preisler mustered up the courage to propose again. He got down on one knee and asked his ex-wife to marry him for a second time, 31 years after their divorce. She said yes.
“Even in my old age, I managed to get back on my feet again after kneeling down,” he said.
He added that he had been hoping to remarry his lifelong love at some point, and “the virus made me realize that the time was now.”
Immediately after the proposal, the newly engaged couple called their priest. The church was closed, but given the special circumstances, she agreed to marry them in a private ceremony.
They dressed up and headed to the same church where they were first married exactly 55 years before: St. Nicolai Church.
Unlike their initial ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of people, Lotte’s sister and brother-in-law were the only ones in attendance, though they sat six feet away in the vast, mahogany hall.
“I cried the whole time,” Lotte Preisler said. “I was so moved by the ability to mark this occasion during such a difficult time.”
The couple then celebrated their marriage on a Zoom conference with their children and nine grandchildren, as the family toasted the newlyweds from four countries.
“I’m not a person that usually cries, but this was definitely one of those moments,” Simon Preisler said.
The groom looked at his bride and said, “We simply cannot live without each other.”
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