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Life After Death-Dealing with Terminal Illness

Signs of Dying

He stood in the kitchen, one hand holding up his black pants that were obviously too big.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, clearly alarmed with his sudden weight loss.

“I can’t eat,” he grimaced placing his free hand on his chest, “It hurts to swallow. I thought I told you that.”

My mind raced back through past conversations to when he mentioned that his golf weekend had been interrupted by a trip to the emergency room.

“I thought you had taken care of that,” I said with concern. “What happened?”

As usual, his medical follow up had been nonexistent. He rattled off reasons why he had not pursued seeking additional treatment, the top reason being that he couldn’t get in anywhere.

John was my best friend and ex-husband. Divorced for eight years we had remained close…in fact, he was my strongest support outside of my children. It pained me to see this Italian man, who enjoyed food as much as he did, unable to eat. Always a large man, his weight loss was significant.

“Call now,” I ordered, and refused to take any excuse despite John’s resistance not to.

After just two calls to local physicians, with my prompting him to mention the urgency of his situation, he was given an appointment that following Wednesday. I, in the meantime, was returning to California the next day.

“Call me as soon as you find anything out,” I said, “Promise?”


Standing in the frozen food department I received the call I had been waiting for.

“They found a tumor,” his voice said, still groggy from the anesthesia, “They did the biopsy and I have to meet with the surgeon on Friday.”

My heart leapt into my throat and I could feel every muscle constrict as fear raced through my body. “Take the girls with you.”

“No, I don’t want to bother them…they’re both so busy-I’ll be fine.”

“John, they’ll be able to ask questions that you may not think to ask. Please don’t be hardheaded about this.”

I later called my daughters to find out if their step-father had recruited them as support and was relieved to find that he had.

News About Cancer

The phone call from Christa, my daughter who is a nurse, came Friday afternoon as I was stepping into my session with my spiritual teacher.

“It was malignant, mom,” was how she began the conversation, “and the surgeon said it was inoperable. There was a tumor in his esophagus blocking the passage. He put a stent in to relieve the pressure and create an opening.”

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Again, the return of the fear turned panic and a flood of tears. All I remember was my repetitive, “no, no, no,” as if that would make it alright, followed by uncontrollable sobbing during the entire session. My teacher sat with me, supporting me in the beginning of this grief that would be part of the journey. I had promised Christa that I would be there with them to the end.

“He’s sleeping now,” she told me when I said I had to call him, “its better if you call in the morning.”

The next morning, on my drive into Berkeley, I couldn’t stop thinking of the horrific news. As I parked in front of the hospital the phone rang. It was John and as I said hello the rest of the conversation was sobs from both of us. When I was finally able to compose myself I reassured him that I would leave California to be at his side. I could not imagine him leaving this world without me being there, but worse, I could not imagine me living in this world without him.


Love has no limits and knows no boundaries

Love has no limits and knows no boundaries

Coping with Death

The first night we were alone I sat at his feet and put my head on his knees sobbing as if my heart would break-for indeed it was. “I’ll never find another man who has loved me like you have,” I cried in self-pity.

He laughed his familiar laugh with less boisterousness, “Dee, that’s not true. You’ll always be my love, and someday we will be together again, but you will find someone else.”

“No,” I replied, wiping my eyes and gazing into his eyes with all seriousness, “you don’t understand; I’ve never been loved unconditionally like I have been by you. That is rare and I will never find that in another person in this lifetime.”

The Art of Dying

In the course of the next four weeks we fell into a rhythm, me taking care of him and maintaining my contacts with my spiritual teacher via phone, and him receiving care with increased periods of silence. He had withdrawn from all friends and family except for a few.

Along the way I experienced a distinct shift from the journey being about my loss to one of service and gratitude, aware of the honor and privilege I had as companion to John’s transition from this life to the afterlife.

When John’s journey to death first began he told me of his plans to have a living wake. He was unafraid of death and wanted to have a celebration that included all of his friends and family. Unfortunately, due to his severe symptoms he was unable to do this as he had envisioned. However, a day before he passed away, his discomfort had abated and he was open to receiving visitors.

They came as soon as I gave the call to sit with him at his bedside for a few moments, hold his hand, and give him their last words of love. They brought food, comfort, and support for each other. It was amazing to witness.

That evening he fell into a deep sleep and we were unable to arouse him. I knew the end was very near. The following day, as I went into my morning routine of care, I talked with him as if he were fully awake, even though he was still unresponsive. As I sat washing his face he began to move restlessly attempting to wake himself up. I sent my daughter to get her sister and other family who were in the other room.

We gathered around the bed as his gaze fixed momentarily on each of us enabling us to tell him individually how much he was loved and that we would be fine without him…sending him off without concern. When the last of us had spoken he closed his eyes once more never to awaken again.

In the course of John’s journey to death he had just three requests, which I was able to make happen: to stay out of the hospital, to remain pain free, and that we remarry. John and I were remarried on Sunday, September 25th, 2005 less than a week before he passed away.

Have I told you lately that I love you?

Have I told you lately that I love you?

John would frequently ask me this question, "have I told you lately that I love you?" followed by a big bear hug. He was a wonderful dancer and we danced often whereever there was music playing. He was a large, Italian man, but so light on his feet that when he took me in his arms I felt as if we were floating.

Our Remarriage

The ceremony begins

The ceremony begins

John and I with daughters: Cara (L) and Christa (R)

John and I with daughters: Cara (L) and Christa (R)

Our love-sealed with a kiss.

Our love-sealed with a kiss.

The story behind the photos

Although it was thunderstorming outside, our minister came to the house in a moment's notice. She understood the gravity of the situation given John's condition. We had a lovely ceremony and one of the things that we brought out was the original family wedding portrait of the four of us-all so very young at the time. It was fitting that our remarriage ceremony included the young girls who had been part of our first marriage, then ages eight and ten; now grown women with husbands of their own.

If you look carefully at these photos you will see the family portrait on the mantel behind Cara. Facing the portrait Cara is on the left and her sister, Christa, is on the right.


John died in the early morning hours of October 1, 2005. While my daughters and I kept vigil at his bedside, laying on the mattresses we placed on the floor in his room, I noticed his breathing had turned into the Cheynes-Stokes rhythm...often called the 'death rattle'.

The next thing I was aware of was awakening a few hours later to silence. I checked his pulse and then gently took his hand in mine savoring the time alone. Soon, I realized, that would all change as people began the process of funeral preparation. But for now...this was my last opportunity to be with my husband.

This Hub is dedicated to the memory of John, and to my two daughters: Cara and Christa, who kept vigil with me and served as support during the time of his journey to meet death.


Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 23, 2013:

Hello Anand, my friend. Your words are sweet to my ears. Knowing that your heart has been touched by this dedication to my husband's life and death is moving. Thank you for taking the time to read this hub and leave your thoughts. I appreciate it.

mr-veg from Colorado United States on October 13, 2013:

Denise (Wonder woman), Reading through it, i felt Sad somewhere for sure.. The way you and your Daughters dealt with it is truly something to look towards to and reflects the sense of Strength and togetherness.. I am Sure this dedication made here by you would have touched many hearts and met its final destination... left me touched too...

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on February 13, 2013:

Hi Vicki-welcome to Hubpages. Thank you for your kind comments. I have managed to carry on, and the anniversary of the beginning of his journey doesn't stop me in my tracks as badly now, as it has in the past. Thanks for reading.

Vickiw on February 12, 2013:

Hello Denise, I have not been on HP very long, so it has taken me a while to find your Hub. It is very touching, and I see that your loss happened some time ago, like mine. So good of you to write about it, and this is so helpful for others. I hope you are recovered somewhat by now. From my own experience, and those of bereaved that I work with each week, I know that you never forget, but do manage to carry on.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on February 10, 2013:

Hi aykianink-wow, I'm so sorry about you losing your friend to cancer. It's never easy losing someone you care about. It was more difficult for me each August which was the month I moved in with John to take care of him. I would get very melancholy and go through another grieving period. I think it was like a PTSD.

About the nickname-it was the nickname I had when I was a kid growing up. Most of my close friends and family call me that. :) As for our relationship-yes, I agree with you that some couples seem happy or 'comfortable' with each other. We were definitely one of those couples, even after our divorce. We could pick up where we left off. We'd always make time for each other and even vacationed together. It's easy being with someone who's a good friend and has your back. No need for jealousy, that kind of relationship is available to anyone. A good friend of mine always says, "you have to be the person you want to be with before you can find the person you want to be with." I think there's some truth to that. Best to you with handling your grief and being happy in life. :) Thanks for reading this and for your lovely comments. I appreciate that you shared your feelings regarding your friend's death. Hugs to you.

aykianink on February 09, 2013:

80 comments in. *nods head* Of course.

[“I can’t eat,” he grimaced placing his free hand on his chest, “It hurts to swallow. I thought I told you that.”]

My mother's friend told her, a loved one 'couldn't eat' and that was the beginning of the end. If [my mother's mother] ever gets to that point, it's the end. And you know what? It was.

In a way, it's good to know before someone's going to pass. I lost a very, very good friend of mine to cancer. We had a talk before he passed. It's good to know because the alternative would be if they passed in a sudden car crash or something and you feel cheated out of a goodbye. On the other hand, it hurts...WATCHING someone die.

My friend was (I'm pretty sure) literally the tallest and biggest person I knew. (The most generous, too, for sure.) Chemo hurt him. It hurt him a lot.

He beat his cancer, by the way. But that [expletive], stupid, piece of [expletive] cancer crept back up on him.

Ugh. It still gets to me. I grew up with about zero traditions. New Year's at his place was about the only one I had. New Year's is...less special to me now.

Sorry. Zoning out. Beautiful hub.

You're a good person, Denise. By the way, very cute that he calls you "Dee":-)

["He was a wonderful dancer and we danced often whereever there was music playing."]

That is so...amazingly...AWESOME. Some couples just seem to be happy. I think if I saw you two in real life, I would have been very jealous. Good stuff:-)

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on February 05, 2013:

Hi Randi-thank you so much for reading and commenting. I've written August poetry about missing him. I'll be back to see your work. :)

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on February 05, 2013:

So beautiful, so words!

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 01, 2012:

Hi Pamela-thank you for stopping by and offering your feedback. It really was an important piece of closure. Thank you for the votes and share.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 01, 2012:

Denise, This is an absolutely lovely tribute to your husband. I'm glad you re-married him. I think it is so special when you have an opportunity to spend those last days together. Sometimes we do not get that opportunity. This is a beautiful hub and I am so glad you shared this experience with all of us. Voted up, across and shared.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on August 31, 2012:

Thanks...I do feel that is true; but, it still is difficult to accept. Thanks again for sharing your experience. :)

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on August 30, 2012:

Denise, the Hospice nurses old us when Mom was dying we should take turns leaving the room, always telling her we were leaving and would be back so she would always know who was there. That way she could die either alone or with whomever she wanted to. My brother, who lived five hours away and was the sole employee for his company came to visit every Saturday during the last six weeks. She went into her coma on a Monday, and the nurse said it was a matter of 24-72 hours. We started hearing the death rattle on Tuesday in the early evening. I and the caregiver she loved as a friends were with her. We believed she wanted to go, but would try to hold out until Saturday, so we called my brother, told him she was almost gone, and asked him to say goodbye and give her permission to go. I held the phone to her ear, he said goodbye, and 20 minutes later she was gone. Probably, for whatever reason, your mom wanted to go while you were gone.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on August 29, 2012:

Thanks for your comments and sharing your feedback. My one regret with helping my mother during her time of cancer is that I could not convince my father to let her stay at home. He insisted she needed to be in the hospital and that was absolutely the wrong decision. She wanted to be with loved ones. Although we kept a constant vigil, it was not the same. In the end, she sent me home on Christmas morning to fill the stockings and was left alone to die. I know that she probably had intentionally done that, but my heart is still sad for not being able to grant her the wish of being at home like she wanted.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on August 29, 2012:

This also moved me to tears. I'm glad you and John and your daughters were able to have that special time together near the end of his life and see him off into the next one. Many people fear having loved ones die at home, where most of them would rather be at the end, because they don't think they'd know how to handle it. Hospice made it possible for me to keep Mom at home during her last weeks after her cancer diagnosis, and I know it meant the world to her to be in her own home with those she loved around her when she moved on. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on April 29, 2012:

Hi Minnetonka Twin, I appreciate your comments. I was blessed indeed. It is a love that I doubt I will ever find again in this lifetime. He was a special man to me and so loving in every unconditiional way. I miss him now more than ever. I do agree with you. I think of him often 'looking down' on our family and his presence shows up in the most distinct ways. Thanks once more for your thoughtful comments.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on April 28, 2012:

What a beautiful story and tribute to a beautiful man. You were so blessed to find such a deep and true love with John. You both needed each other in his journey of illness and were both blessed by it. I am so moved by this story of love and how you gave John his last wishes. I am sure one of his missions now is watching over you and the girls. Many blessings to you.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on April 16, 2012:

Angel-thank you for reading this special hub and leaving your lovely comments. It is true that we never know how long we will be here on earth, or how long we will know one we care is important for me to tell those people I care especially about, how much I love them. I try not to miss an opportunity to do that.

In my everyday meetings with people I try to practice patience and kindness. We never know what another person is experiencing in their personal lives and our interactions may create a better or worse place for them.

Thanks again, and I'm touched that you were touched by this writing. :)

Angelme566 on April 16, 2012:

Dear Denise , i wasn't able to finish reading this hub heart breaks already.. tears are flowing like i can't hardly see the words in my monitor. It was a mixed emotion . i was happy because despite being divorced love was still with both of you , i can really tell , that feeling was still there , in my mind if divorced you will never be friend with that guy..I was touched , you became beautiful.

I just can imagine the scene , seems am also there weeping with you. I can see the unconditional love you have for him..he is so lucky then and for that i know God will bless you more and more.

While reading more ,this hub tells me that life is really short , one snap all relationship be gone..that is why while were still here ,lets us enjoy life..though it have plenty of nightmares .its alright !

This inspired me very much especially that i am always on the other side of life ,looking the negative side and sometimes feels like giving up. Thanks for today you lift my spirit high..

May he rest in peace and may you have moved on now..i know pain of loosing someone can hardly be accounted. Cheers.. God loves you. Hugs to you and to your beautiful kids.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on April 08, 2012:

Good morning Deborah-thanks for reading it and commenting. Happy Easter Sunday to you. I hope you have an enjoyable week. I've been visiting my children/grandkids in MI and have had the opportunity to visit his gravesite which I was grateful for. I don't often get that chance. He's been on my mind during this many good memories.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on April 08, 2012:

This is a beautifully written tribute to your husband. Thanks for sharing it.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on January 05, 2012:

Stessily-I think I understand what your mother was saying to you. During the last 2 weeks the Presence was so prominent-thick and supportive. It was amazing. Thank you for sharing your mother's experience. God Bless...

stessily on January 04, 2012:

Denise, in the last year of her life my mother told me that as my father was dying, my mother felt that they were both in a bubble of eternity. She wanted so very much to stay in that bubble with my dad, but she thought, "I have to stay behind for the kids." My mother had a talent for expressing the most beautiful concepts and events in a clear, poetic style. I was reminded of her experience as I read about you and John. You are indeed blessed to have shared such powerful intimacy with John, in life and in death.

Thank you again for sharing this beautiful experience with an incomparable love.

Kind regards, Stessily

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on December 30, 2011:

Hi Stessily-thanks for your insight into this matter. It is comforting when I think of good times spent together and the moments just before his death. We shared an intimacy that I've not found in another, and I think that is one of the things I miss the most.

stessily on December 30, 2011:

Denise, Personally I think that John has never left your side. Such a powerful love does not die or disappear; it's there in the air around you. Perhaps some day, through your commitment to spiritual insights, you will have unequivocal confirmation of John's loving presence. I hope so.

In death there is still love.

Thank you again for sharing such an amazing tribute.

Many blessings and kind regards, Stessily

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on December 30, 2011:

Stessily-your beautiful words have brought both tears, as I cannot help but re-read and gaze at the photos...while the music plays softly in the background, and smiles of the memories of better times.

Thank you so much for bringing this gift to me this early morning following my shift. I feel I will be sleeping with John by my side once again. :)

Many blessings to you.

stessily on December 29, 2011:

Denise, This is one of the most endearing, enduring love stories I have ever come across. John's love for you is almost palpable! I love the faith that he had that you would see to it that his last three wishes were realized --- that is the greatest gift that you can ever give in bidding farewell to a dear one who is leaving this earthly existence.

I love this beautiful sentence:

"He was a large, Italian man, but so light on his feet that when he took me in his arms I felt as if we were floating."

Thank you for sharing this incomparable tribute to an incomparable love.

Kind regards, Stessily

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on November 08, 2011:

Hi homesteadbound-yes, go wake your husband and tell him how much you love him and fall asleep in his arms. I miss John every day, but he is with me when I visit my children and hold my grandchildren. He is with me when I hear a special song and if I have an especially lonely day.

October 1, 2005 -- it's been six years now. Thanks for your comments. God Bless.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on November 08, 2011:

I am not a crier, but I am crying after reading your story. This was such a touching story, now I have to go wake my husband up and tell him how much I love him, although I already have just earlier. I am so sorry for your loss, and it is obvious that you both had something special. I don't know how long it has been, but I feel for you none the less. What a touching story. Bless you.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on November 05, 2011:

Hi femmeflashpoint-thanks for following Gail's lead, LOL and nice to meet you. She is wonderful to add hubs to her anniversary celebration. :)

I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. It's been brewing for awhile and I'm satisfied with the results. It won't bring John back, but at least I know that I wrote something of a tribute to him. Thanks for reading.

femmeflashpoint on November 05, 2011:


I followed Gail's lead, and this is the first of your work that I've read.

I'm so sorry that your family suffered this injury and loss. And, yet happy you faced it together, supporting one another on the journey.

My thanks to you for sharing such a deeply personal experience here, and having done it so beautifully.

And, my thanks to Gail for leading her readers to it.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 27, 2011:

Hi Admiral-thank you for your kind words. I have written other 'grief' pieces of this exerience, one called: August Poetry, the other, a hub called: Unresolved Grief, because it returns-this anniversary of the shock and trauma...the sense that there is something gravely wrong...And then, the rememberance of it all. So, I am usually inwardly prompted to write about whatever arises and it is so therapeutic.

Admiral_Joraxx from Philippines on October 27, 2011:

I greatly admired the strong woman in you Denise. Such experience is truly heart breaking. But here you are, standing and keeping on with life. This is a masterpiece of life itself. Great courage of sharing your story. 1 up beautiful and awesome.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 26, 2011:

Hello AA Zavala-it's been awhile since I've been on Hubpages, sorry for the delay in resonding to your comment.

Thank you for following Gail's link and reading/commenting. I appreciate your time and kind comments about my experience. Grief is an amazing teacher.

I've read your profile and noted that you have a similar background in education. While I am working as a nurse, my undergrad is in psychology and I've worked as a psychiatric nurse for over 25 yrs. It is an interesting and baffling field (psychology) isn't it?

Thanks for the following.

Augustine A Zavala from Texas on October 22, 2011:

I was compelled by Gail to pay a visit. This is such a touching story, heart felt. Thank you so much for sharing.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 20, 2011:

Thankyou, Hyphenbird for reading and your sweet comments. I, too, am grateful to Happyboomernurse for her link-totally an unexpected surprise.

Frannie Dee-thanks for reading. :)

Hug received, Susan--thanks. I appreciate your comments.

Awww, Peggy-my condolences for the loss of your parents. My mother died on Christmas morning in '03-lung cancer; then John became ill with esophageal cancer in ' isn't easy to lose anyone, is it?

Suzette-you are right: a guardian angel. Thank you for your comments.

Poetic Fool-thank you for reading and leaving such a beautiful comment.

Movie Master-thanks for following HBN's link to here. She is a sweetheart! I appreciate your comments. You and I share a similarity-we both are hubbers who have daughters (cardelean here) who are also hubbers. :)

Movie Master from United Kingdom on October 20, 2011:

Hello Denise, I came here from happyboomernurses link.

I am so sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing your story.

It's beautiful and sad, and I like the other readers have cried, I am at a loss for words...

My best wishes MM

Poetic Fool on October 19, 2011:

This brought tears to a normally stoic man. Beautiful story, beautifully written. John was a lucky man to have you.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on October 19, 2011:

What a beautiful story and memoir of the one you love. I am so happy to hear that you remarried. I think that is an important aspect of nonconditional love. It all happened so quickly that I am glad you have taken the time to recall and revisit what happened to all of you. You are a brave lady with a very brave husband. My heart goes out to all of you, but the best part of this story is that none of you have any regrets - you loved fully and completely up to the end of his life. Now John is watching over you and you forever have a "guardian angel" in your life.

Beautiful hub and very well written! Voted up and beautiful!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2011:

Hi Denise,

Thank you for sharing this very touching and personal story and thanks to Gail who publicized it in her latest hub for those like me who missed reading it when you first published it. It is an amazing love story and so nice that you could all be together at the end of John's life on earth and his passage into the next life.

We did the hospice bit with my Dad when he was dying and that was before hospice in San Antonio, Texas even existed. We had a rented hospital bed in the living room and he was surrounded by family when he died.

I related to your wanting to hold your dear John's hand for a while before all the business of arrangements would begin. I held my mother's hand when she died last year and hated to let that last earthly bond be broken. Reaching for some tissues now!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on October 19, 2011:

Denise, I am so sorry for your loss. This is such a beautiful dedication to your husband and daughters. I am at a loss as to what to say and if I were beside you right now I would give you a great big hug.

Frannie Dee from Chicago Northwest Suburb on October 19, 2011:

Denise, this is beautifully told and very moving. sniff

You are truly special. Up and beautiful.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on October 19, 2011:

Bless you for your compassion and love that made John's dreams come true. This entire story is so touching and poignant. I wish the entire world could read this and know that love is the strongest force on earth. What an amazing person you are. And I thank Happyboomernurse for sharing the link to this Hub.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 16, 2011:

Hi JT-thanks for visiting the hub and commenting. It seems to be an annual thing, although there are many memories I have from songs, places, etc.

Hello Jim-thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your reading and commenting.

James Bowden from Long Island, New York on October 16, 2011:

Hello Denise:

Your article about the untimely passing of your prior husband John, was very sad and at the same time touching. It makes us realize how important it is to share our time with loved ones, because we never know when it is time to depart this world and enter what I believe to be a much more pleasant one. I voted your article up as well as beautifully written. However I,m sure that many others within the hubpage community would agree, these are only mere labels and your story here, deserves much more acclaim than words can say here. Again my most sincere condolescences on the untimely passing of your exhusband.

With warmest regards,

Jim Bowden

JT Walters from Florida on October 16, 2011:

Hi Denise Handlon,

I feel your pain in this hub and I am so sorry for your loss.


Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 13, 2011:

Thanks yusefblack for reading and commenting.

Hi injurycase-thanks for reading. It is a difficult thing when you are close to someone who dies, but it is a part of life, I know. Thanks for your comments.

injurycase from North Pearl Street, Albany, New York on October 12, 2011:

hi there. thank you for posting. this is saddest part of our life that we have to face with courage. keep on writing and have a ice day. Enjoy life!

yusefblack on October 12, 2011:

Hi Denise, good of you to share. He is still around, just in a different way. Keep at it and all the best.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 12, 2011:

Hi b. Thank you for reading this hub. You know it is a special one for me. I appreciate your comments.

b. Malin on October 12, 2011:

What a Heartfelt story Denise...John sounded like a Wonderful Human being who loved you as you loved him, unconditionally. You showed such Strength and Courage when he needed you the most. Someday, when you meet again, he will Smile and say "Thank You"!

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 11, 2011:

Danette- I know the photo you are referring to. I think it was Cara's grad from MSU. They were a couple of goof balls there. Thanks for commenting.

Danette Watt from Illinois on October 11, 2011:

what can I say? I miss John too. One of my favorite pictures is of him and Quincy at - I think - Cara's college grad. They both look so young and so happy (sigh, what happened...?). I know it is still painful for you but thanks for sharing your story.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 08, 2011:

Aunt Ceil-Wow, thank you for your lovely comments. I'm glad you had a chance to read it.

Martie-I appreciate your feedback. Thanks for reading.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on October 08, 2011:

This is heartbreaking! The strength, courage, patience, insight and tolerance of people who are in tragic situations like this always amaze me. This true and well-written story will certainly means a lot to many others.

Aunt Ceil on October 07, 2011:

Denise I am trying desperately to write this comment thru tears streaming down my face.Thank you for sharing this heartfelt time with John to all of us. Altho I did not see you & John often enough, I knew you 2 were truly special people that God brought together in this life & the next. Lots of love.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 07, 2011:

Credence2-thank you. I appreciate your comments.

thelyricwriter-my grief has abated greatly, but in the anniversary of the news, treatment and death I find a melancholy creeps in and then I recall. I write to honor that. I wrote one last year as well: Unresolved Grief; and this August a set of poems titled: August Poetry. I didn't think to link them here, but maybe I will now. Thanks for your comments.

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on October 06, 2011:

Denise, my poor dear. So, so sorry. This hub keeps his name sake alive and I am sure he is thankful for that. I am sure this was hard for you. I don't know what to say cause I haven't experienced that. Death to grandparents, yes. But what you write about is entirely a much higher level. I can only imagine if I lost my wife. You will see him again though so hang in there. Time does heal all pain, but love is everlasting. Your story is inspirational though. Even though the years have past, may God watch over your heart and soul. For in Heaven, he awaits. God Bless.

Credence2 from Florida (Space Coast) on October 06, 2011:

I am extremly moved by this experience, written as if I were there myself. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family on a loss of such magnitude. Cred2

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 06, 2011:

ambassador-thank you for your comments. I appreciate them. I've learned early in life to tell those you care about that you love them.

ambassadornchains on October 06, 2011:

This is absolutely beautiful. I can't imagine losing the man I love. I worry about it, sometimes, because of his health issues, but what you wrote really showed me that we must cherish the time we have with those we love for you never know when you could lose them. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. It is very touching and beautifully written!

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 06, 2011:

Fennelseed, your words are most appreciated. Thank you.

Hello my old friend, BJ Thank you for reading and remembering. Hugs.

BJ on October 06, 2011:

I remember this.........

Annie Fenn from Australia on October 05, 2011:

I am so glad I read this Denise, it is a most beautiful account of a couragous journey, full of love, respect and dignity. The devotion you have shown to your ex-ex-husband is so inspiring and his last few weeks of life were made so much more bearable because of you, not to mention the huge amount of happiness and contentment he has been able to take with him because of you. You are a very special person, and this quality has obviously been handed down to your beautiful daughters. Thank you for sharing this amazing story of courage and devotion.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 05, 2011:

Cara-thanks for your lovely comment. I'll be sure to give you extra hugs when I see you on Thursday. :)XO

Jo-thank you for your beautiful comments. I have to apologize for not emailing you the information we talked about last month. I appreciate the hugs.

AEvans-thanks for stopping in and leaving your thoughts. I know you have experienced this journey with your own mother. God Bless...

Gail-I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to read it once again. :)

Sunshine-thank you for your feedback. I was amazed at the number of (men actually) that I met later who had suffered from this disease and the number of family members who reported to me their (husbands, fathers, grandfather), had similar symptoms that he had experienced with the inevitable result of esophageal cancer. All of those years of indigestion was a tumor in the making.

Hi Liz-wow, I really appreciate you adding your thoughts here. Thank you. I guess the subject of my remarriage never really came up between us. And, you are absolutely right re: his being more of a father to the girls then their own dad. We were blessed with that.

Jean-hogtie your husband and take him for the exam. It is so imperative that if he is ill he gets early treatment. Denial does not make it go away. Oh, my...I wish you the best. Thanks for your comments.

Dear Om-thanks for your comments. I really miss him, but do have the memory of our time together, even when we were apart.

umakeit-thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts.

umakeit on October 05, 2011:

So beautiful and touching, yet so sad. Thanks for sharing.

Om Paramapoonya on October 05, 2011:

Thank you for sharing your story, Denise. It was really beautiful. A journey to meet death is never easy, but I believe at least John passed away in peace because he had his loved ones close to him. Many people live their entire lives without being able to find someone who loves them the way John loved you. I hope your memory of him will always keep you strong.

Jean Bakula from New Jersey on October 05, 2011:

Oh Denise, I have such heavy tears in my eyes I can barely type. You are such a brave and beautiful person. Lately my husband has symptoms similar to what you describe. He starts to swallow food, and he can't. The last time we had dinner out he began to have bad issues, and I rushed him to the ER. When I parked the car, he actually ran away! He's always been thin, but now he looks like he's a concentration camp survivor. He won't go to doctors (grew up in a hypochondriac family), but he did finally go to a general one. But he never went thru with the chest X-ray, though he had blood tests. It's so scary. Now that I read this I will make him go if I have to drag him. Thank you for sharing this story, and it's so great you got remarried. I know there's only one for me too! Take care. I love that song, but if I play it now I'll be completely hysterical.

Liz on October 05, 2011:

Dee, That was beautiful. I had a hard time reading it through the tears. I only meet John a couple of times, but I thought he was a very nice man. I'm glad he was such a good stepfather, more father than step, to my nieces. I didn't know you remarried John. I'm so glad you did, it always seemed the two of you belonged together. What a beautiful way to remember him. Wonderful story.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on October 05, 2011:

Thank you for sharing your story Denise. Wow. Both you and John were blessed to have had each other and your wonderful daughters. Esophageal Cancer isn't spoken about much so thank you again for bringing it out in the open with your hub. Voted AMAZING! :)

Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on October 05, 2011:

Compelled to read and pushing my own feelings aside from my own life experiences. I cried reading your hub. It is so touching and the love you two shared before his passing will be forever eternal. What a beautiful life lesson that love can be both conditional and unconditional and for that both of you were so blessed to be with each other again. Touching story and thank you for sharing your journey, your heart and your love for your husband with all of us.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 05, 2011:

Came back to see the photos and story behind the photos that were added after I first viewed this hub. Like Cara, I'm crying all over again, but this true life love story is simply beautiful as are the photos. Thanks for sharing.

Jo_Goldsmith11 on October 05, 2011:

Oh! my heart goes out to you! I am so sorry for your loss. I rejoice with you and your girls to know such a wonderful spirit! I think you gave John the same unconditional love that he gave to you. Just beautiful and touching! May God bless you and give you comforting thoughts of your last days with such a blessing.

(((( Denise)))) spirit hug! Lots of love! Jo

cardelean from Michigan on October 05, 2011:

Now how am I supposed to go to the dentist after reading this? I already told you that I bawled my eyes out the first time I read it and now after reading all of the comments, I'm right back there. He would feel honored by this hub.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 05, 2011:

2uesday, you are so right about how lucky we are. I am saddened, not just because I miss him, but because he never lived long enough to see Cara's children and what an awesome mother she is. Thanks for reading.

Thanks for reading Marky-I appreciate your kind words. You are lucky to be with Linda. I really understand the depth of your longlasting relationship. That's how it was with John and I.

Thank you, Acaetnna. I am touched by your words. You are the romance poet Queen, :)

acaetnna from Guildford on October 05, 2011:

Sorry Denise I have only just been able to see my keyboard. Tears have been streaming down my face and I have literally used dozens of tissues. What an amazing hub you have written and it most certainly pulled at my heart strings. You are such a brave lady to have shared your ordeal here on HubPages. You clearly had such an amazing love for this man and to remarry must have been so amazing. I know he will be looking down on you now and you will meet again in another life that is for sure. God Bless you dear Denise, you have been through so much but you must have happy memories that you will treasure forever. Voting up and of course pressing all of the appropriate buttons. John is looking down on you and your wonderful daughters, he is the brightest star that you will see.

Mark Bruno from New Jersey Shore on October 05, 2011:

I have to tell you Denise, as I was reading this tears began to fall. So sad. I am so glad Cara and Christa were there for support and to confort John and you.. I sure can tell just how much you loved each other. YOu will see John again one day. He is looking down at you and your daughters everyday keeping you safe and you will always feel him in your heart and by your side.

God Bless you and your daughters Denise

2uesday on October 05, 2011:

It is brave of you to share this, I think others who have suffered loss can find reading experiences like yours helpful. Four years ago my dad was diagnosed, I lost him in the spring time, still missing him. We are lucky to have shared their lives are n't we.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 05, 2011:

emichael-thank you for reading and leaving such a beautiful comment.

Thanks Delmer-it was an amazing journey. We couldn't believe how he pulled himself awake and received and then let go...

Marilyn-what a delight to see you here. Thanks for visiting the site and leaving your comment.

Lord de cross-thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts about this. I appreciate it.

Hi EHQ-I was a privilage. A rare opportunity indeed, and for that I am blessed.

Peter-your loss for words is enough. Thank you for your compassion.

PETER LUMETTA from KENAI, ALAKSA on October 05, 2011:

It is hard to think of anything to say, your story is so powerful and heart rending I am really ar a loss for words. What can I say,


ExoticHippieQueen on October 05, 2011:

What a blessing to him to have had you, and a blessing for you to have had the opportunity to take this journey with him.........peace and love to you!

Joseph De Cross from New York on October 05, 2011:

You don't know how much you have loved until it is gone...keep on and lieve as he would've told you. Of COURSE I'm emotinal right now... we all will depart and we will meet the ones..that made our lives and hearts worth...slowly making the journey on this earth...


Marilyn Aberlich on October 05, 2011:

Denise, It was very touching to read this very personal glimpse into your life. I am so sorry for your loss; yet the obvious love that you had with this man and with your children is so evident. I am happy for you that you were able to have such a wonderful re-connection with this man.

delmer47 from Nebraska on October 05, 2011:

Wow. Crying here at my desk also....what a powerful heart felt hub of your last moments with him. I am so glad that you had the chance to spend that time with him. Truly beautiful.

emichael from New Orleans on October 05, 2011:

This was beautifully written. It evoked a lot of memories and emotions for me. Thanks for sharing something so personal and powerful.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on October 02, 2011:

Gail-your comments brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. And, thanks for all of your ongoing support. Much appreciated. :)

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 02, 2011:

Even though I knew some of what you've written here, this hub really squeezed my heart and flooded my eyes with tears.

How beautiful, yet oh so sad, that you were able to grant him his last wishes and that your daughters were also such wonderful supports, as were other family members and friends.

I pray that you will find love again although I know that isn't something you focus on, it's just something you so richly deserve. John knew that. It's why he also wished you would find love once more during the course of your own lifetime. Only time will tell if John's heartfelt words when he predicted that you, "Will find love again," were prophetic.

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