When personal tragedy strikes, it is often our gut instinct to lash out with the groaning heart cry of God’s servant Job: “WHY??”
Why ME, God?
Why would you give me all of this JUST to take it away?
The never-ending list of questions following that slippery-slope of a three-letter word couldn’t be more familiar to widower John Polo.
After losing his wife, Michelle, to a rare, aggressive form of cancer just two weeks before their wedding, he was admittedly a “bitter” man.
“I was bitter. I was really bitter,” wrote John in a blog post summarizing their tragic love story.
John says he fell “madly in love” with Michelle when they dated for a year in high school. After going their separate ways for almost a decade, the two reunited eight years later and planned to spend forever together, along with Michelle’s daughter.
But just two years after rekindling their romance, Michelle was diagnosed with a form of cancer so rare that only one case per year is reported in the ENTIRE world.
Michelle fought valiantly for the next two and a half years, but she sadly lost her battle with the ‘Big C’ on January 22, 2016.
John couldn’t help but dwell on the list of questions bombarding his brain as he watched the love of his life slip away before his very eyes:
“Why did this happen to us?”
Why did this happen to us right after we found our way back to each other?
Why was our future stolen away from us in the most callous of ways?”
But while he was by his wife’s bedside in hospice, John’s sister asked him a question that changed him forever:
“Would you rather have not gotten back together and found out years later that she died of this terrible disease?”
“That question profoundly changed me,” wrote John.
Suddenly the focus on his heartbreak shifted to focus on the gift that Michelle was to his life.
“It shook me to my core,” he explained. “It changed my heart. It changed my soul. In an instance, I was no longer bitter. I was better.”
Now, John is using his blog and Facebook page Better Not Bitter Widower to form a supportive community for the grieving.
Most importantly, he hopes to share his powerful journey from “bitter to better” that was fueled by his boundless love for his bride.
In a recent viral Facebook post regarding the wedding dress his wife never got to wear, John does just that:
“That’s my wife.
In her wedding dress.
A wedding dress that I never got to see her in.
We were married at the courthouse a few days before her first surgery was scheduled to take place.
We rushed there. To become man and wife.
Not knowing if she would make it out of the surgery alive.
After the cancer came back and she was terminal, we decided to plan a real wedding.
She didn’t make it to that real wedding.
She died two weeks before it was scheduled to take place.
I have so many regrets.
Not getting to see her walk down the aisle is atop that list.
But, she got that dress. Her dream dress.
She loved that dress SO much.
While at hospice, she would talk to people about how great the wedding was going to be.
She wasn’t coherent enough to realize that she wasn’t going to make it to there.
Michelle died without me ever seeing her in that dream dress.
A week after she passed away I stumbled across this picture in her phone.
I lay motionless in bed, both happy and devastated.
Tears flowing down my cheeks as I laughed aloud at the memory of how giddy it made her.
In her dress.
I want to live a long life.
I want to remarry and have grandkids.
I want to write and teach.
I want to spread my message to the world.
I want to tell them everything I have learned about love, loss, grief and healing.
When it is my time, I am running up there.
No – I am sprinting up there!
To see her.
John says he plans to save Michelle’s dream dress for her daughter’s wedding day, so that the legacy of his beautiful bride may carry on.
Since it was shared on the Love What Matters Facebook page, the stepdad’s bittersweet story has tugged on the heartstrings of thousands across the web who are joining together to grieve this widower’s loss—but most importantly, “to celebrate his love.”