A man whose wife died of cancer two weeks before their Feb. 2016 nuptials has shared a photo he found of her posing in her wedding dress at a bridal shop, and revealed that he never got to see her actually wear it. John Polo, who first married his former high school sweetheart Michelle in a 2013 courthouse ceremony following her diagnosis, said the photo brought him both happiness and devastation.
“That’s my wife. In her wedding dress. A wedding dress that I never got to see her in,” Polo posted to his “Better Not Bitter Widower” Facebook page on Aug. 31. “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.”
The pair, who had dated in high school but separated after losing touch and reconnected eight years later, had learned that Michelle’s severe back pain was being caused by proximal-type epithelioid sarcoma, PEOPLE reported. Her first surgery was to remove a tumor found in her kidney. The cancer returned three years later and had spread to her liver, lung, ovary and tailbone, the news outlet reported.
“After the cancer came back and she was terminal, we decided to plan a real wedding,” Polo wrote. “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.”
Polo wrote that while Michelle was in hospice, she would continue talking about how much she was looking forward to the wedding, and that she wasn’t coherent enough to understand that she wasn’t going to live to make it.
“Michelle died without me ever seeing her in that dream dress,” Polo wrote. “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.”
Polo’s post has garnered more than 4,700 reactions and 440 shares, and he closes it with hopes that he has for the future.
“I want to live a long life. I want to remarry and have grandkids,” he posted. “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.”
Polo runs a Camp Widow workshop and offers one-on-one grief support as well as life coach support through his Facebook page and blog, BetterNotBitterWidower.com.