As recounted by Exeter resident, Jen Chinburg, written by Phoenix R
Bob was in his 70s, recently widowed, blue-eyed, blue-blooded and living in Rye, NH. Joanne was in her 50s, single and intermittently living on the NH seacoast to spend time with her children. It was the summer of 1996 when Bob and Joanne first met. Immediately, those intense blue eyes laser-beamed in on Joanne. He was smitten.
A consummate romantic, he wooed and wooed hard. They doted on each other, exchanging thoughtful gifts of care and caretaking; many bouquets of flowers and romantic trips from him to her, beautiful cashmere sweaters (blue to match his eyes), elegant clothes, and delicious home-cooked meals for him. A love story had begun; one that lasted just shy of 15 years. By December of that same year, less than six months after they met, Bob and Joanne were married.
Fast forward to 2009. Bob, now 86 years old, received a diagnosis of cancer. The prognosis was not good although his attitude remained bullish and positive. In the rehabilitation facility he often proclaimed with optimism and confidence that: “…when I get out of here I want to get back to work and do...” All the while his impish Paul Newman eyes still brightly twinkled and his loving, generous romantic overtures toward Joanne continued.
On the afternoon of Valentine’s Day in 2010, Joanne and her daughter Jen were together in the room just after Bob had passed. Intensely sad, beautiful, poignant, powerful: they took in his death together as mother, daughter, wife and adoring step-daughter. They said goodbye sharing their last words and embraces with him.
After dinner that evening, drained and emotionally spent, Jen took her mother back to her home. For Joanne the mantra of “what now?”, although dulled with exhaustion, pulsed in the back of her mind and heavy heart. On the doorstep they discovered a delivery: a vase filled with eighteen, glorious long stem red roses. Once inside, Joanne discovered the card tucked in the bouquet. It read: “Dear Joanne, All my love, always. Love, Bob”
Bob was a man who, among many other things, was defined by beautiful caring gestures in life and in death. It is likely that, in ordering these roses for Joanne, Bob knew they would be his goodbye to her. The beauty of those red roses, the quintessential symbol of enduring romantic love, paired with his posthumous note: what goodbye could be more perfect.