In 2018, I thought my life was almost perfect. I was doing well in my career, working in my fourth year as the lead partner on one of KPMG’s largest clients. My wife Jean and I had just celebrated our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. We lived in our dream house with panoramic views of Long Island Sound. Our son Paul was having a successful start to his career in finance. We were all healthy and happy.
Then, in September, Jean was diagnosed with cancer, and my entire world was turned upside down. She had surgery almost immediately to remove the tumor and commenced chemotherapy. Jean and I prayed constantly that God would heal her. Early in 2019, the tests showed the cancer was gone. We were elated. But the feeling was short-lived. A routine ultra-sound in March showed that the cancer had returned with a vengeance.
We, particularly Jean, never lost faith. We continued our prayers, asking God to take away the cancer. Despite our prayers, it was not God’s will for Jean to be cured, and she passed away on August 31, 2019.
While I was praying to Jesus and Mary during those final months, I was convinced that Jean was going to be cured. I almost felt Jesus telling me not to worry, so I had complete confidence right to the end. What’s more, I have never in my life met a person with a stronger faith than Jean, and that faith was never more on display than in those final weeks. So why did God let her die?
Over the past few years, I’ve become certain that God had decided that, because of her faith, Jean was ready to move on to eternal life, and that she could accomplish more for him in heaven than she could on earth.
In the days after Jean’s death, I lived my life in a complete fog. I simply couldn’t process the fact that she was gone, and I would never be with her again during my time on earth. And, I could not suppress the memories of the moment she died – even though Jean passed very peacefully from this life to the next, the images haunted me.
Exactly one week after Jean passed, I returned home in the evening after being with my in-laws. It was the first time I was alone in the house. Jean passed at 10 p.m. at home, and as I got closer to 10 p.m. a week later, I became extremely apprehensive. I didn’t know how I was going to get through that hour.
The feeling continued to get stronger as the clock approached 10. I was extremely anxious. I didn’t want to be alone in the house, but I didn’t know where to go. Then, just a few minutes before the top of the hour, I felt the Blessed Mother say to me, “Why don’t you go outside on the deck and say a rosary?” Jean had a particular devotion to Mary, and we prayed to her often, including saying the rosary. We often said our prayers together on the deck; it was private and quiet, with a beautiful view of the Sound.
I went out to the deck and did just as Mary suggested. I got lost in my prayer, and when I was done, I realized it was almost 11, and that awful hour had passed. I felt at peace. This was the first indication that I was going to get through this – with God’s help. It was going to be tough and take a long time, but during the most difficult days, my thoughts often returned to that night, and I was always reassured.
In fact, it was really tough — especially during the first year. But just as Mary spoke to me on that Saturday night, God gently nudged me toward him as the months went by. Sometimes it was a passage in the Bible or a spiritual book that reminded me of his love for me.
Another time when I was feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t have Jean with me, God quietly told me, “Don’t worry. She’s with Me.” At other times, God would pull me closer to him during the Mass. Over time, his constant presence pulling me toward him got me through my grief.
While I still miss Jean, I am happy for her because I know she’s in heaven, and I also know that she’s constantly standing guard over our son and me. Moreover, because God reached out to me at the time of my greatest need, I am closer to him now. I still have a long way to go with my faith, but I know one thing for certain: God will never abandon us when we turn to him.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul E. Tupper II, a native of Greenwich, graduated from St. Mary High School in Greenwich and spent his career in public accounting at KPMG LLP in New York. His father, the late Deacon Paul Tupper, was assigned to St. Clement Church in Stamford and later St. Mary Church in Greenwich.