My Wife, Marg

By Ken Penrose of Ontario, Canada

My wife, Marg, died on September 3, 2000 at age 60. She valiantly had fought for her life over three years with metastatic breast cancer.

Marg and I were happily married for 40 years and went steady for five years before we were married. We had a daughter (Debbie) and two sons (Doug and Paul). They are currently ages 38, 37, and 34 respectively. Among them, I also have seven beautiful grandchildren ranging in age from six months to seven years.

In January 2001, when looking at photos of our vacations in Naples, Florida in the early 1990's, I decided to spend a week there revisiting these memories in person. This was a most significant yet bittersweet healing intervention. I walked the beaches we had walked, and went to the same hotels and restaurants we had been to. I focused on being guided by my feelings for the entire week. It was an intense yet highly satisfying experience.

When I was in Naples, Florida, I found from reading Tom Attig's book The Heart of Grief that when I could let go of the painful yearning and longing to have Marg by my side and could instead focus on all of the wonderful memories of our holidays together there, I would experience a real shift toward lightness and gratification. This worked very well! What a great insight to find that grieving is not about letting go. I can continue to feel and express my love in separation. Tom helped me to see how I can keep my love for Marg alive in new ways. The heart of grieving is really about loving people in separation.

Thanks again to Tom Attig. I focused on Marg's legacy and what it is about her that I wanted to continue to integrate into my being. I knew that she was a very positive person and stayed positive throughout her illness. I knew she would want me to get back to being a positive person, and I'm committed to doing this. Marg was so loving, accepting, and non-judgmental of others. This I take with me to work on as well. Marg was a quietly spiritual person and got to a great place of peace, love, and acceptance through her illness. I'm taking this legacy with me, too.

While waiting 2.5 hours for the flight home from Fort Myers, Florida, I wrote a lengthy letter to Marg, expanding on her legacy to me and my family; this letter appears below.

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January 29, 2001

Dear Marg:

In a few days, it will be five months since you died, and next Tuesday would have been your 61st birthday. I'm glad I'll be having dinner with Debbie and sharing some great memories of our 45 years together.

I was glad to read in Tom Attig's book The Heart of Grief about other spouses who continue to talk to their spouse who has died and frequently feel their presence. Being able to talk to you so often and feel your spirit with me so often has helped me deal with incredible pain of losing your physical presence.

I want you to know what a great legacy of qualities you have left all of us to draw on and further integrate into our lives in the years to come.

Most importantly, you have shown us the way in how you handled the last three years of your life. I will draw on the amazing strength, courage, and will to live that you demonstrated throughout those very trying times. You showed us how to live in the moment and not focus on the future you had planned before the cancer came on so strong. You got to such an amazing place of acceptance and peace of mind, and an ability to find joy in the little things that will always be an inspiration to us all.

Going back to the changes in lifestyle we had to make in the early 90's, you quickly accepted and adapted to them without blaming me in any way. You made the best of what life had to offer. For example, the great fun we had riding our bicycles in the trails around Toronto and Barrie [Canada] was so satisfying -- at such low cost.

You are a model of unconditional love in the way you supported me in setting up our own business in 1979, knowing the security and stability we were giving up. And the support you gave me in going off to Nigeria for 5.5 months was amazing. And you always were behind me in taking all of these personal and professional development workshops through the years.

Another example of the unconditional love you showed was how you were always there when the kids needed you. Even more clear is the total love and devotion you had for each of our grandchildren. You had an unlimited amount of energy to play with them all day long. This is a legacy I will follow to the best of my ability.

You know what was right for you and you followed your heart and best instincts, in how you dressed and how you so beautifully decorated all of our homes -- and you knew it was time to leave real estate and focus on being the world's best grandmother.

You were so content and satisfied with your life -- and you looked forward to and enjoyed so totally each of our wonderful winter holidays together. As I said at your funeral, I'm so glad we didn't wait till our 60's to take these holidays.

Through all those busy years in the 1980's and early 1990's, you always looked forward to and enjoyed going out to dinner once a week. Those were very special times where we shared so much at such a deep level.

You were so accepting and non-judgmental of people, and reminded me when I would get into being judgmental.

You set a great standard in how clean and beautiful our homes always were. That's rubbed off on me -- to a large extent.

A day never went by when you didn't tell me you loved me and gave me a hug. That made all the difference!

You were always so real, practical, and down to earth. And you were so sensitive not to hurt other people's feelings.

I'm so glad you encouraged me to be an independent person. And you were a strong self-sufficient person as well. And yet, we shared so much and were dependent on each other in so many healthy ways. It was a great balance.

You developed a great faith and trust in yourself and the Creator, to let life unfold as it will.

Dear Marg, these are some of the memories and legacies we will carry with us and live out in the years ahead.

With all of my love,
Ken (and our children and grandchildren)