Love, Loss, and the Sum of Its Parts

This wasn’t the post we originally had planned for today. But when Wesley’s e-mail hit our inbox last week, there was no way we could just let it sit. At first there was a tiny voice in the back of my head saying that it might not be bright and cheery enough for the holidays. But when I floated it to the rest of the staff, they echoed what the other tiny voice in the back of my head had argued back. You see, Wesley’s post is about is about loss, but it’s also about the power of hope and love. It’s about cherishing the people that we care about the most. And I can’t imagine anything more appropriate for the holidays than that.

—Maddie for Maternity Leave

My name is Wesley. I am thirty-three years old and I am a widower. Some of you may know part of my story already, as my friend Courtney wrote about losing her friend—my wife—a short while ago. We had been married for just over five years. She was twenty-eight years old.

Losing my wife to brain cancer has been a traumatic experience. In a period of four months, I watched the woman I love go from a successful graduate student to almost entirely paralyzed before passing away. There’s a tremendous amount of anger, frustration, guilt, hopelessness, and a myriad of other emotions all wrapped into a very short time frame as you realize the love of your life is going to die and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s enough to make one think whether it’s worth getting attached to someone in the first place. After all, is it really true that, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all”?


Even knowing what I know today, I would marry her again in a heartbeat. There’s so much joy that a great marriage can bring. It’s not just about being in love. It’s knowing that someone will always have your back, just as you’ve got theirs. It’s knowing that there’s someone to talk to about both the smallest things in life and the biggest. It’s knowing that there’s someone to share the laughter, the tears, the joys and the sorrows of everything life has to offer. A marriage is something that’s worth more than the sum of its parts.

Don’t let anything sway you from marrying your true love. Don’t worry about what might happen later as far as death or illness. If you both love and respect each other, it will work out. Your wedding will last a day. Your marriage will last a lifetime.

It is worth all of the planning.
It is worth all of the fears.
It is worth all of the heartache.
To see her at your side.

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos

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  • PAW

    Wesley, thank you so much for sharing this. Your courage is profoundly inspiring – this post is a good way to start a Monday, even if I’m all teary now.

  • Naomi

    I have lurked for a while but never commented before. This post is so beautiful and heartfelt, and gives me so much hope for my own baby marriage. Thank you do much for sharing your story, and I wish you peace and happiness for the future.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. Your bravery and strength in sharing this with us humbles me.

  • ceebee

    … and also about feeling both the pain and joy of knowing the woman you have married, even when she remotely resembles her healthy self in body, you recognize her true self in your hearts.

    And that is worth it all.

  • Oh, dear. Thank you Wesley, for writing about your love and your marriage. It was a gift today (I’m going to go weep now).

  • Paranoid Libra

    Oh those last 4 lines should have had the tear jerker alert on them.

    So beautiful and a great reminder that having someone by your side can very much be worth all of hard stuff that comes up.

    Thank you Wesley and I am sorry you lost your love. Losing a loved one is never easy whether you get to spend decades with them or only a few years. It always hurts, but it generally is always better to have loved and lost than to never have loved before.

  • Wesley, thank you so much for sharing a little of your experiences and so much of your hope and love with us. I know this is a post I’ll be returning to.

  • KB

    Amen. So important to remember this, especially now.

  • Thank you for this. So beautiful and such a perfect reminder to go on loving in spite of the loss and heartbreak we see around us.

  • I can’t imagine this kind of loss… my husband and I have a friend who is in the hospital currently waiting for the results of his biopsy (he had a mass removed from his head just this weekend), and both of us couldn’t help but hold onto each other a little tighter and our young son. Neither of us wanted to voice the “what-ifs”, but we were both thinking it, and agreed we were grateful we’d never have to go through something this traumatic alone.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Thank you for sharing and I am so very sorry for your loss. My mother died of pancreatic cancer eight months ago at the age of fifty. I cannot imagine the sorrow of losing someone so young. For many people, Christmas is not cheery. That’s why there are Blue Christmas services all over the country — because the painful memories of loss are completely at odds with the “happy face” we’re expected to put on. Thank you APW for making this a part of what you publish this month.

  • Carryn

    Very beautifully stated…and a very appropriate reminder to love like today is the last day of our lives.

  • SJG

    i so needed this today. thank you for sharing your heart with us, wesley.

  • LT

    thank you for sharing, I admire your strength and wish you a peaceful and fulfilling future.

  • Yes. Just totally yes. To all of it.
    Thank you.

  • Kat

    Ooof. Good thing I’m alone in my office as I sniffle quietly in the corner.
    Thank you.

  • amy

    This is such a great post, thanks for sharing. I am currently engaged to a great man with a mystery illness…literally like some Dr.House type stuff. It kept him from proposing for a bit, because he had this notion of why would I want to marry a sick person. We’ve been together for 7 years, and I was pretty taken aback when he finally brought it up, but for me it’s a no brainer…I would marry him come hell or high water, so in sickness and in health was just as easy a decision.
    A few months later he proposed I said yes, and even though we still don’t know what his whole prognosis is, although latest tests say not life threatening, though life altering, we’ve set a date and are happily moving forward, and I can’t wait for the future. Come what may, we’ll be together through it.

  • Class of 1980


    Thank you so much for this life-affirming message. It seems to me that you came out of the experience knowing what’s important – to grab happiness even though you don’t know how long it will last.

    I know a couple who’ve gone through hell this entire year – the husband has had a series of operations, infections, and emergencies. Just when we thought everything was getting better, he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. His operation went well, but soon he will hear his options with chemo. No one knows what will happen next, but we’ve gotten really good at enjoying the good days.

    I think even when you lose someone, they leave a glow in your heart that wasn’t there before … because they loved you.

  • Caroline

    I wanted to say thank you, so much. My partner and I have been talking marriage for a long time, and hve decided we’re ready and excited. Today is the day we picked last week to call my parents and announce our engagement. We don’t really expect them to be thrilled and possibly to disapprove a lot, so I’ve been focusing on us being happy for us, ad the rest of our community which will be excited for us, and not freezing from fear.
    I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything as scary as telling my parents and all weekend, my heart has been racing like a rabbit’s in fear, but I’m so excited. I’ve read your last two paragraphs, about not letting anything stop you, about 10 today, because every time I do, my heart slows back down and I smile, and get excited because someday really soon, we’re going to be husband and wife! And that is so exciting and worth it, even if telling my parents is super scary.
    So thank you for your words which remind my head that this is worth being brave for and my heart to stop running out of my chest.

    (PS folks who know me in real life and recognize me on here, please hold off on mentioning anything to others until we announce it, which should be soon)

  • Sophie

    None of us know how much time we have with those whom we love. I’m remarrying someone I met when we were both in our forties and I’ve been regretting that we didn’t meet sooner, but I would rather have a few years with him than ages with anyone else.

    I’m so sorry for your loss and I pray for your healing.

  • This is so beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your words here on APW. This may be one of the best things I’ve read all year.*

  • MEghan

    Thank you for sharing. This is beautiful, thoughtful, and inspiring.

  • Wesley, thank you for sharing this beautiful story. No words.

    Meg, what a beautiful place your blog has become. What at first was you planning a practical wedding has become a community of people all around the world supporting each other’s choices, helping others during loss and disappointment, and providing a healthy dose of “me, too.”
    Thank you for this site!

  • Liz

    This is a beautiful post. I’m non-religious and quite pragmatic and occasionally have trouble voicing why marriage is so important to me, but this sums it up perfectly. I wish you only awesomeness for 2013.

  • Angela

    I totally agree with you, Wesley.
    Life (as marriage) is sometimes short, but always worth it.

    Stay strong, and good luck.

  • Kara

    Thank you for your lovely perspective on love and loss. I’m glad you had each other.

  • Abby

    Really, truly, thank you for this.

    My 29-year-old boyfriend is, to all outward appearances, an exceptionally healthy person. But 6 months ago he was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure, and half a year of dialysis later things are still not regulated. I worry. He worries. We worry. So thank you for reminding me that we never know what the future holds. That loving each other now won’t look like a foolish decision later. That being with the person you love is what you’re meant to do.

    I’m so sorry for what you have gone through. For what you’re continuing to go through.

    But thank you.

  • Athena

    Wow. So poignant, Wesley. Thank you.