My name is Michael Stalter and my wife, Mary, died from breast cancer January 6, 2008. As she was in the hospital for the last time I came face to face with all the different scenarios that Mary and I had talked about since she was first diagnosed with cancer back in 1990. We had tried to plan for the day when I would leave the hospital without her and how I should go on with my life and how I should finish raising our children, Tom 18, and Sarah who had turned 13 the day before.
The last good conversation that Mary and I had a couple of days before she made that last trip to the hospital, she had told me that I needed to find someone and to be happy, because she had seen how hard it was on me losing my dad 4 months earlier to a heart attack. She also said she knew how hard it would be on me to lose her and that the kids also needed a mother, especially Sarah. However, we had also talked about other things before that, what to do about raising the kids, how to survive financially, and what to do for her funeral.
Mary had wanted a closed casket; she didn’t want people to remember how the cancer had made her look. She wanted people to remember her from her pre-cancer days or to remember her for her smile or to remember her for many other reasons than what the cancer had transformed her into. So my first priority was to have a funeral that she wanted but that was also what Tom and Sarah felt comfortable with. Mary had felt very embarrassed and humiliated about what the cancer had done to her body. I was going to protect her until we laid her to rest and I did. I was a Rottweiler on guard duty and I was rude to a few people who came early to the visitation while family members were viewing Mary.
About 3 months after Mary died, I felt it was time to start working on the other thing Mary had told me to do. I needed to find someone for myself and a new mom for my kids. There were no guides or manuals or books that I could find to help lead me in this task Mary had set for me. I was in a haze and I thought if I did what I was told to do like I had for the last 23 years of married life, things would be fine. This wasn’t going to be the case! Mary was wrong in not telling me to wait until I was out of the haze of her and dad’s death. She was right in her goal but neither she nor I realized that I needed to have a grief-less mind before I started on this task!
I made the biggest and most humiliating mistake of my life. I met and married someone 18 months after Mary died. Most people would say that 18 months isn’t too soon to remarry after the death of a spouse and I would agree. However, the mistakes I made were not listening to friends who said I had picked someone who didn’t match me, someone who was so different from Mary that it wouldn’t work, someone who had too many red flags for me. After being married for 13 months I asked for a divorce. I felt ashamed, humiliated, and embarrassed because of this failure.
My name is Michael Stalter, and I wrote a book about my wife’s 17 ½ year battle with breast cancer and the 4 years since her death. I talk about these issues and many more that a couple has to deal with when the wife has cancer. I hope that I can save other men, their children, family, and friends from my mistakes by telling my story. I have a driving hope that I will one day find that right woman to share my life with and I now know how to do it after failing once.