A love letter not sent

Dear Gary —

It’s been four years since you left this earth for a cancer-free, pain-free existence in heaven. You were concerned about leaving me, so you hung on longer than predicted.

I have a sneaking suspicion you now know that I’m doing well.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

There are a couple things I think you’d be proud of me for, things you did (or would have done) for me that I’ve learned to do on my own:

Like, now I almost always remember to check the gas gauge.

Recently the printer drum and toner lights both lit up. So, I ordered toner and a new drum and actually installed both when the printer refused to run any further. And now it’s working just fine, thank you.

I was in Idaho with your family for Thanksgiving — these amazing people who include me around their tables.

And then there will be a holiday table in New Jersey for an early Christmas with our daughter, son-in-law and the grands.

Later, in northern California, I’ll be part of the gathering around your youngest brother’s table.

Followed by another holiday gathering at the northern California coast with your sister and her family.

At all four family holiday meals, there will be a place missing at the table. A place you would have occupied.

I just wanted you to know that we who loved you best and most are all living forward, and memories and stories of you are still part of our lives.

Not long before you died, you taught me how to use the GPS on my phone, how to do mobile check deposits, how to manage online banking.

And you said in your deadpan way, “You’re going to need to look for a rich husband.”

At the time, I knew I’d never remarry.

And yet, this past year I’ve been thinking—as I hike alone and keep Friday date night alone—how nice it would be to do these things with someone who knows me well … yet still loves me fiercely.

While I’m not looking for a new husband, I think if the right person finds me, you would be pleased.

And I think there’s room in my heart for two very important men who will have played different roles in two very distinct seasons:

You, the husband of my youth with whom I had children, with whom we built a good life, who loved me unconditionally, who I fell deeper into love with as cancer was stealing you away from me.

And the new guy who will partner with me in ongoing ministry, because even though I’m old—according to certain unnamed, teenaged members of my family—I still have a good deal of hope and energy and creativity and enthusiasm and a ministry vision.

Other than that, the rest will be the same: I will love and respect him as I did you. I will roll my eyes at his corny jokes, and be his best friend, and establish a nurturing home, and feed him healthy stuff, and together we will enjoy the great outdoors.

And so, during these holidays—this favorite time of year—I hope you know I’m happy and deeply content and have much on my plate to be grateful for.

Oh, by the way …

In the spirit of full disclosure … um … there might have been a gas tank incident one time while driving home from Idaho.

I didn’t stop to fill up in that expensive, middle-of-nowhere spot. And I sweated those last miles into Bend.

One good thing, though: I now know I can go at least forty-two miles after the empty-tank warning light goes on. Good information to have, don’t you think?


What is gift-blitzing?


Tidings of comfort and joy? But what about my loss?


  1. Julia

    Hi Marlys ! I came across your blog earlier this week when searching for information and real experiences of dealing with advanced prostate cancer. Your blog entries were helpful to me. Thank you for writing and sharing them !
    I loved reading that you are open to having a new partner in your life! I had been single for a long time . I met my husband when I was 47. We met online . He was a widower who had been married for over 30 years. We have been married for 4 years now . Our relationship brings us joy. (Hence my feelings of fear around losing him to prostate cancer.)
    As someone who is so grateful that my husband was open to a new relationship after loss of his wife ( also to cancer), there will be a very fortunate man who will be thankful that you are open to a new relationship!
    With gratitude and warm winter wishes to you!

    • Thank you for sharing your “new love” story, Julia, and the joy it brings you. I’ve often thought that if there is a “new love” story for me, it will be filled with so much wonder and gratitude — not that I wasn’t grateful for so many things about my deceased husband when we were married, but I think as humans there is a tendency to take things for granted. If I ever marry again, I never want to take even the simplest delights of marriage for granted – like hiking a trail together, or sitting side by side in church with his arm draped over my shoulder, or cooking in the kitchen together.

      What an encouraging and sweet note. Thank you, Julia!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2024 Marlys Johnson