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After seeing his wife tear up watching someone on television use a flash mob to propose, Carl Gilbertson made a mental note to do something similar for their 10th anniversary.
Last weekend, he pulled off the feat and a video of the accomplishment is now making viewers around the world tear up along with Gilbertson’s wife, Laura, who has multiple sclerosis.
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Gilbertson, who lives in Liverpool, England, recruited students from a local performing arts college to serenade Laura as part of a flash mob that sang “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars.
“When we met, although having MS, she was fully able bodied, worked as a children's nurse and we'd been together for a little while before she even told me, because it no big deal,” Gilbertson, 38, explained in an email to TODAY.
“So the song was important only in the sense that I wanted her to know that no matter what may change, I love her just as she is and that to me she's perfect.”
The couple met 15 years ago at a Liverpool nightclub. Although Laura experienced occasional MS relapses back then, “she always bounced back,” Gilbertson said.
MS is a neurological condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, meaning it can have an impact on everything from limb sensation to vision, hearing and bodily functions.
Shortly after the Gilbertsons returned from their honeymoon, Laura experienced a serious relapse that was more difficult to recover from. A few months later, she retired from work and began using a wheelchair.
Today, "other than the obvious," Laura, 36, is doing well, her husband said.
"She has no pain, nothing stops her, she drags me to musicals I don't want to see and concerts where I don't know what they're singing," he joked.
“I guess I wanted to make a fuss of our 10th anniversary because she's been so brave in fighting back,” he said.
Last Saturday, Gilbertson told his wife they were visiting his parents at a Liverpool shopping center. Instead, he had arranged for family members and wedding guests to gather at the mall’s plaza, where he gave her a rose as a choir began to sing to her.
The video shows her getting overcome by emotion, particularly by the end of the song when the group unrolls a banner that says, “Happy Anniversary Laura.”
The video has been viewed tens of thousands of times on both the YouTube site for Liverpool Media Academy, whose students appear in the video, and the Facebook site, Love What Matters.
Gilbertson said both he and Laura “think it’s crazy” that so many people have watched it.
“We've been very touched by people who've said 'how much in love' we are, because it's not like it's something we rehearse. It’s just the way it is,” he said.
Gilbertson expressed gratitude for the tremendous support team the couple relies on, since he often works long hours at the business he owns. He said the flash mob also served as a nod to his wife's parents, who come to their home every day.
“They're the type of people who wouldn't want thanks, so knowing how much their daughter is loved is fine by them,” he said.
Gilbertson also is grateful that the video has helped draw attention to multiple sclerosis.
“Not everyone is as lucky as we are to have such a support team and if this makes folk stop to think about the neighbor, colleague or whoever who may be struggling but not able to ask for help — then that's great,” he said.
“We never talk about MS as a way to define Laura. Right now, it's causing her difficulties and we do what we can to make those tough things easier, but she lived a very normal life once and she'll fight with everything to make sure she gets as much of that back as we can.”