My husband, David B. Oliver wrote a personal story about living while knowing you will die. He died of nasopharyngeal cancer 42 months after diagnosis. His e-book Exit Strategy is a legacy of his thoughts and emotions the first year of his journey. In his book he describes how cancer has made us closer and how he has fallen in love with me all over again. On this Valentines Day, I share the love letter he left me as part of his book. My forever Valentine.
Falling in love again
David writes “I don’t deserve to be cared for like this. She takes my keys but then drives me everywhere I want or need to go. She strokes my baldhead, snuggles close, and when we are able, we make fantastic love. Meals catered, meals prepared, medications sorted through every day, every hour. I’m falling in love all over again.”
Emotions of Love
He continues, “These are my thoughts throughout the chemo period and every day since. I suppose it is not unusual for an outpouring of love to come the way of people who are suffering, and perhaps even more so when they are dying.Regardless, I am overwhelmed by it, touched, and moved to tears. Debbie has been by my side through rough times but this has to be the biggest challenge of all. I see the stress in her eyes, I hear her crying in the middle of the night when she thinks I am asleep, but she gives away nothing. It is the best case of impression management that I have ever witnessed or experienced. But while she tries to hide the hurt from me she is unable to hide her love for me. Wow, I’m sure glad of that.”
Definition of Love
Explaining he writes, “Love has many definitions, many expressions, and while allusive, when we encounter it, we know what it is. It’s like magic, a chemical reaction that brings about a physical response over which is poured all kinds of emotion.A sense of well-being, it is like nothing in the world can take away from it. Ecstasy is not adequate to describe it, nor is serenity, but it is both and more. It produces a feeling that you are somebody, you count, you have value and worth. And it draws you very close to the person with whom you are sharing it.”
A Love Letter
Finally he personalizes it to me, “Debbie, this is my love letter to you; you have given me this wonderful treasure, solid gold, priceless!I would argue that without it, life is less meaningful and shorter than it would otherwise be. There are people living who no longer experience the kind of love of which I speak, but hopefully at some point in their lives they have experienced it. Memories are very special in this regard.”
Ending with his desire, “I pray that Debbie, and our children, and grandchildren, will draw on their memories of the wonderful moments of love and affection that we have shared. They will miss me because of them yet without these special times, our lives would not be what they have been. I hope they dwell on that thought, and celebrate it.”
In addition to falling in love all over again, David leaves each member of our family a final letter, many done only weeks before he died. David’s final legacy letter to me is shared in my book Legacies From the Living Room: A Love-Grief Equation.