And by sharing it, John Polo teaches us a few things about love and grief.
When widower John Polo was looking through photos on his late wife’s phone, he came across a photo of his high school sweetheart posing in a bridal dress she’d picked out for their wedding. A dress she never got to wear again and Polo never got to see her in — until he saw the image of his late wife trying it on and beaming with happiness.
His wife, Michelle, died of cancer just two weeks before their planned nuptials, although as Polo explains on his Facebook page: “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.”
“In sickness and in health…” This couple’s 5-day marriage “beat cancer.”
After she was diagnosed with proximal-type epithelioid sarcoma having complained of severe back pain, Michelle’s first surgery was to remove a tumor found in her kidney. Sadly, when the cancer returned three years later it had spread to her lung, ovary, liver, and tailbone; it was terminal. So the couple decided to get married properly. Polo shares: “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.”
The discovery of the photo proved a very bittersweet moment for the widower, who told how “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. My bride. In her dress.”
Taking the advice of Michelle, Polo has put his tragic experience to good use by trying to help others who’ve lost loved ones. While she was still alive she tried to comfort him with these generous words: “John, we cannot change the world. Bad things will continue to happen. But if you can use this pain to help one person, for them the world will be forever changed. So make something good come out of this.” And he has taken these words to heart by running the Camp Widow workshop and offering life coach support and one-on-one grief support through his Facebook page and blog.
While Polo holds on tightly to his memories of Michelle, his post as Better Not Bitter Widower is remarkable in how he embraces the future with both hands, and an open heart, but he has one final aim: “I want to live a long life. I want to remarry and have grandkids.” He adds “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. But. When it is my time, I am running up there. No – I am sprinting up there! To see her. In that dress.”