Letter to My Sweetheart

Posted By admin on April 12, 2011

I ask GOD to strengthen me to write to you today. I can not tell you in the time we have, about all the beauty Sandra had, it would take a lifetime. But I’ll briefly tell you how incredibly amazing she was through my eyes and heart. My sweetheart, the love of my life, who loved me unconditionally as I loved her. My wedding band says it all: NOW and FOREVER.

We were two different people, but we complemented each other. We relied on each other to walk the road of life together. We laughed together, we cried together, we sang together, we worshiped together.
I promised her when we married that I would always make it interesting… she said I did. She told me a long time ago, she had no checklist for what she wanted in a husband except one, “that he love me for me,” and that was it plain and simple That I DID!

I remember the day I walked into the Edmonton office and saw the most beautiful girl I had ever laid my eyes on. She wore a pretty blue, knee length dress with a lace collar and belt, her long blond hair reached to her derriere. Her back was angled towards me as she was filing documents.  I frantically tried to think of something to say to catch her interest but couldn’t… so, leaving the room I intentionally walked into the door, making a bit of a scene. This caught her attention,  she laughed and this initiated a conversation and ultimately our life together. You see she was told by one of the employees that I had…well… a bit of a reputation with the girls. And I was told by a cohort that there was this certain Girl that worked in the office (that just happened to be the boss’ daughter) that was very attractive and single.

I just had to check her out. So during the conversation I asked her out for dinner to which she agreed… it was obvious we were both interested. I took her to a great Chinese restaurant. After the meal while I was opening the door to my 4X4 I had to give her a “boost up.” (The step was a little high.) I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a smack but I thought I’d try anyhow. (I’m always pushing my luck.) She squealed as I boosted her up into the truck and I saw a spark in those eyes that told me she accepted my flirt but — watch out.

This was the start of a night of non-stop conversation between us. It was great. I finally walked her to the door at the end of the night and kissed her and said “I’ll call you some time.” The next morning I ordered an orchid to be delivered to her at work thanking her for an amazing night. It was a year later that I called her up again for the second date. Boy was I messing with her head! You see I had to get some things out of my system…mainly 2 other girls that I was going out with. I knew after that date with Sandra that she was the girl I wanted to marry. All our lives we have bantered back and forth about these times, reminiscing how great it was!
As we became better friends Sandra’s dad started sending me on assignments farther and farther out of town: Vermillion, High Level, half-way in the middle of NO where between Edson and Hinton. But our relationship just kept getting stronger. (And her dad’s long distance bills just got bigger and bigger.) I was not a Christian yet but was attending Sandras church in Sherwood Park and was interested in having a relationship with Jesus Christ. One thing led to another and I accepted Christ and was baptized.

It finally came to a head one day when I walked into Irv’s office and asked to talk with him. I closed the door and told him that Sandra and I were really enjoying the time we spent together, and asked Irv for her hand in marriage.  He sat back in his chair and after a few seconds responded by saying “I’ll have to let you know.”
Unknown to me, Irv and his wife Rhoda were leaving that afternoon for a week-long holiday. I found out that night when Sandra and I were together. I was going to have to wait at least that long for Irv’s answer.
During our time together that weekend (remember, Irv had me working far out of town) Sandra keep asking me, “what’s up with you? You seem out of sorts and not able to focus. What’s on your mind?” You think I was going to tell her? Uh-uh! I’m a person that doesn’t show his cards till I have everything in place and figured out. Irv, by not giving me his answer, had me rattled. I was desperately trying to rationalize WHY he didn’t say “yes”. There had to be doubt in his mind and I couldn’t for the life of me think what I had done to make him to hesitate in giving his blessing.

A week and a half passed and there was a scheduled meeting out at the construction site, 2 1/2 hours past the middle of no where. We were relocating an outpost and I was the superintendant there. Irv was coming out to sit in on the meeting.  He arrived at the new site and I escorted him around and brought him up to date on progress. He said nothing about his decision. We then drove in his truck to the original site to attend the meeting. Again, he did not speak about his decision during the  10 minute drive. We completed the meeting and jumped back into his truck to return to the new site.
We discussed the project as we were driving … there was a time of silence… and then finally Irv spoke up.

Rhoda and I have been talking…

there was a LONG, LONG pause….

As I waited to hear the rest of his statement I felt my heart start to beat faster and harder… it seemed that time had stopped and I was the only one still moving… and then Irv announced… “we would like to have you as our son-in-law.”  When I heard this I caught myself exhaling — I didn’t realize I was holding my breath. I responded by saying and nodding my head “that’s GREAT, thank you! You had me going there for a bit with that pause.” He looked over at me, smiled and said “yes I do that, that’s my nature.”

You see Irv and Sandra had a very special relationship. A long time ago when she was a young girl they had made a pact: that if ever there was a guy that was interested in her for any reason, friendship or courtship; anyone pressing her on the issue of a serious relationship or if the question of marriage arose, they would talk it over together before it became an issue and a decision was made. If Sandra felt in any way pressured or uncomfortable with the guy, Irv would be the one to deal with him. This was Irv’s way of protecting and shielding her. This was the special relationship a father has with his daughter, that Irv had with Sandra. They understood, respected, trusted  and loved each other this much.

When I learned this, it became clear what I had earned: a fathers most precious treasure. I was truly  humbled and blessed.

I remember as we were attending pre-marriage classes Pastor Wicks asked me a very blunt question: “Why do you want to marry Sandra?”  It was the easiest answer I have ever given: because I think I can make her happy! We were married May 21, 1984.  I took the vow spoken before God when we were wed very seriously and have tried to fulfill it in its entirety to this day.

Following the wedding, we moved to my childhood home in Ontario, taking over management of my parents business. Moving so far from her parents was extremely hard for Sandra, but she graciously followed. Sandra’s desire was to follow in her Dad’s footsteps, and she enrolled in architectural studies at the local college where she made the Deans List and was at the top of her class. She completed her first academic year before becoming with child, and devoting her time to motherhood. Mitchell arrived three years after we were wed, and 2 years later Matthew was born.

Sandra could not understand “boys” as she had been brought up with just her sister. She would constantly phone me at work and ask “WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?… I have to KNOW! She always had to understand everything. After giving birth to two boys in a row, Sandra drew the line at having more kids, protesting “get away from me with that thing! You don’t know how to make girls!”

Sandra stayed home with the lads for 5+ years, giving them an unparalleled start in life, a gift that few children could ever get. She challenged them beyond their years, and when they entered school they were 1 to 2 years head of their classes. Mitchell tested at Fourth Grade reading level in Grade One, because of Sandra.  Mothers have a special relationship with their sons and this was so evident with Mitch and Matt. She always knew the right thing to say at the right time to encourage and help them… She was the PERFECT MOM! She is proud of both of them as they have made their own decisions to walk with the Lord.

Sandra and I renovated our home and converted it to a triplex. Her decorating and architectural skills were amazing. Her upbringing in the construction industry with her Dad helped her immensely. She took a job with a luxury plumbing fixture retailer and then moved to a color your world retail store and her expertise took flight in both these venues.  But all along we both knew these were far below her academic capabilities.

The time came in 2000 that the Lord saw fit for us to move back to Edmonton and she was just elated. “Seventeen years exiled in Ontario” she used to say… “I’m never going back, never. These feet aren’t moving off Alberta soil.” She started working for her dad again, heavily involved in the architectural fixture business with the desire to eventually take over, allowing both her parents to retire. She was always concerned for them. It became apparent that she needed more knowledge of the business, so she made an upgrade at MacEwan University where she again excelled to the top of her class and made the cut to enter the NAIT engineering program. Thus, at the age of 40 Sandra enrolled in a Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Engineering Course, desiring to excel like her dad. At Christmas 2005 she found a lump the size of an orange in her breast.

Sandra was driving home from class when she answered a cell phone call from her doctor, with the biopsy results: the frightening news that she had a malignant tumor. Our world stopped. She managed to finish the year at school, standing before her classmates the last day to explain why she would not be back the next year. She was heart broken.

But God had a whole new plan for her. We prayed and prayed and finally came to the conclusion that we wanted Quality of life over Quantity of life. We knew where she was going if and when this horrible disease took her. We put our trust in God.
Sandra described the cancer as a ticking time bomb inside her and she didn’t know when it would go off. So again, as Sandra had always done with any challenge, she attacked this threat with the ferocity of a lioness. She began tirelessly researching on the internet. Her findings ruled out standard treatments because survival rates with malignancies as advanced as hers were minimal at best. Also, the available treatments carried serious side effects, with very little chance of cure. Told of our decision to forego mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy, Sandra’s oncologist informed her that neither he nor the resources of his hospital could be of any further use to her. Without access to medical treatment, he gave her 2 years to live. With this rejection and grim prognosis we were devastated anew.

However, Sandra refused to give up, she was determined to overcome the disease. And thus she discovered her greatest strength: as a student of medicine and cellular biology, to save her own life and to help others. Sandra’s online research led her to the news that a small molecule, an orphan drug called DCA, showed exceptional promise in the treatment of cancer. As this news spread, cancer patients around the world gathered at an online forum, theDCAsite.com, where Sandra earned her spurs as a solid researcher with a reputation for compassion, diligence and brilliant intuitive leaps. Through this web site Sandra exchanged ideas with hundreds of cancer patients around the world.

She had the unique quality of befriending people and persuading them to help her in her quest to fight cancer. This translated into the professional realm of doctors, scientists, researchers, and university professors all over the globe. She had a warmth that was genuine, a desire to help anyone, and generously put others first. You could not help but be attracted to her selfless spirit. To look into her eyes you would see her true beauty and sweet spirit. Life experience and diligent study made her knowledgeable in everything and she could mix with any crowd.

The founders of theDCAsite are the people Sandra wanted any donations forwarded to in lieu of flowers, and she founded a Memorial Cancer Fund for this purpose. She considered Jim and Ilene dear friends, remarkable for their wish to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients. Sandra visited Jim and Ilene as often as she could, and considered them family.

As interest in DCA became widespread, an unscrupulous individual in Edmonton took it upon himself to profit from this discovery by selling fake DCA. You’ve heard of him, he made the news around the world, unjustly giving DCA a bad name in the process. He was tried and found guilty, fined thousands of dollars, and is currently serving time in a U.S. prison. The back story is, Sandra is the one who put him behind bars! The investigation was going no-where for lack of information — one of this guy’s scams was an alibi service, and he was good at covering his tracks. But he hadn’t counted on Sandra, who learned to read the source code in the scammer’s web sites. Long hours of analyzing HTML and javascript, running whois and traceroute,  searching Google and hacker networking sites, led to her discovery of facts that law enforcement had missed. Her big break came when she found his request for a pre-release gmail account. He used a pseudonym but somehow Sandra made the connection, and other hints began to fall into place. She tracked down and interviewed some of his victims, even obtained samples of the fake DCA for analysis. She eventually assembled a hefty information packet for the RCMP including the perpetrator’s address, photos of his home and silver Mercedes, his class schedule and extra-curricular activities, a list of the other scams he was operating, and complete downloads of his many scammy websites. The RCMP shared Sandra’s information with the FBI and the bad guy was eventually taken into custody in Amsterdam and flown to Arizona for trial and sentencing. Don’t ever get on Sandra’s bad side.

Sandra quickly discovered that the more you learn, the more there is to know. She was tireless. Day and night she lived on the computer. Hours became days, weeks, months, years.

She was good at seeking input from others, learning from research papers, following helpful suggestions. She had a knack for finding the right peer-reviewed papers and asking the right questions, to the point where she had friends all over the academic world… a Harvard University professor… a Dean of Medicine at another university… a physician who sees a world-famous Royal personage in his practice… and Sandra was on first name terms with each of them. We just called her “Dr. Sandra.”
All through this she remained strong, maintaining a home, being a mother and wife, and serving the Lord that she loved as best as she could. Witnessing to anyone that would listen. She came upon a man who was considering suicide; he had failed cancer treatment and felt there was no hope and therefore no reason to endure the constant pain. Sandra combined her mothering skills and newfound knowledge of alternative medicine, and put his life, and his health, back on track. Only God could write this script, and only Sandra could read it so well.

In everything she did, she demanded perfection, she was hard on herself but that is who she was. Required to travel for medical treatments and tests, she took up photography and recorded her journeys in beautifully captured images. She also began to study rocketry, and was soon a regular at the world’s premiere private launch facility. In relationships with others she was gracious beyond measure and had the most beautiful spirit. She could speak on any subject with hard-earned knowledge, integrity and conviction, while still having a cheeky side to lighten up the conversation. But most of all she could light up a room with just her entrance, she had a presence about her. And Sandra always gave God her reverence and respect.
No she didn’t do sports, that was up to me with the lads. If there was a “sniff of hockey” on the TV she was outta there, off to her Apple laptop, researching. No she wasn’t into fitness (I used to tease that her only fitness program was when she took a bath she would pull the plug and fight the current.)

As Christmas 2009 approached I pondered: how much longer will God bless me with Sandra? She’s been 4 long years fighting this monster, throwing everything she can think of to douse its appetite for her body. Our 25th anniversary was coming up in May and I decided I must do something extraordinary for her, even if just to lift her spirits for a short while. Any time away from the constant research on the computer would be a holiday. The stress she was under was unbearable. She was relentless and I loved her even more (if that was possible) for her tenacity not to just heal herself but for the innumerable people she was helping through this ordeal.

I wanted to take her somewhere spectacular, some place she hadn’t been. A place full of history and information, culture and renaissance, of romance and excitement. Then it dawned on me, it couldn’t be just one place in the world, I wanted to give Sandra the whole world — she deserved it, she earned it and it was my responsibility to give it to her.

But how? Money was scarce, cancer is expensive. We had bills, our financial plans had gone astray. So I prayed. Prayed that somehow God would reward Sandra for her faithfulness to him. “Let her enjoy this world you’ve created for the time she has left here.” She didn’t deserve this disease but somehow it was in his plan for our lives. I knew everywhere she went she was a testimony to him and his majesty. Just allow me to be the way and means to get her there. I want to give her everything. So I came to the conclusion that a smorgasbord of places was most fitting. A cruise: the Mediterranean. History, culture, the Med had it all. This is what I wanted for her, for us, and I had to surprise her because she would never go for the cost.

Sandra was frugal, another of the qualities I loved about her. She could attire herself in the grandest apparel for the cost of a near pauper, deck out our home in decor that would fill a 5th avenue home magazine. Whip up something for friends and guests that would rival a meal at Buckingham Palace. So after the Christmas holidays I began my search for how, where and when. I realized that I needed suggestions but could not ask anyone in the immediate family circle as I knew Sandra would find out.
A travel agent, then. So while driving between jobs during work my cell phone never stopped. Dates, times, tour operators, cruise lines, points of interests, shuttles, car rentals, accommodations, passports, insurance, scheduling time off. All these things came together in a few short weeks. And not a peep slipped out past my lips. Then it started to unravel.

I had printed the airline itinerary and inadvertently left it in the printer. I came to find this out as the Lord blessed me with a car sale (that paid for the trip) and I needed to have Sandra photocopy a bill of sale and send it to the buyer. While doing this she saw the itinerary and asked me what it was. I quickly blew it off as “just messing around” on the PC the night before dreaming about a CHRISTMAS vacation somewhere and told her I couldn’t talk I had another call coming in. I thought I had dodged that bullet until she called back 5 minutes later after examining the confirmation letter and informed me that I MUST cancel it as we didn’t have the money to do it. I attempted to blow it off as she was wrong it was really just an inquiry and I’d talk to her when I got home, it was really NOTHING!

Well as soon as I walked in the door that night from work Sandra was standing there with the confirmation paper waving in the air and her other hand on her hip in a gunslinger stance. I’d seen this picture before and knew I was in trouble. WE HAVE TO TALK were the words out her mouth before I was able to close the door behind me. I immediately went for the door to the garage and replied I have to work on one of the muscle cars right now…

At times like this, there is an unwritten rule that you “do not look directly into the eyes of your opponent” and expect to get away… with your testes.  ”Christopher Richard Hiles!” she proclaimed, “get over here right now!” (My mother used this way of addressing me when I was a young lad only when I was in serious trouble. When I heard this I would automatically bolt for any available avenue of egress unless she was in close proximity. That was the case this time so I had to face the music.)

“We cannot afford this trip” she said with an edge to her voice that made clear she meant business. I replied that I wanted it to be a surprise and that it was our 25th anniversary and we deserved to celebrate it by going somewhere special. “You have 24 hours to cancel these” she snorted, “and you need to do it now!” I knew she meant it but this was one of those times I was going to have to make an ‘executive family decision’ that wouldn’t be mutually agreeable.

“Babe,” I began, (that was the nickname I called her when I really wanted her to listen to what I had to say) “this is important to me and it’s something I really want to do for you, for us, to get away and to get your mind off things (the cancer). This is our 25th and it’s special for me.” (In the back of my mind I was thinking, I don’t know if we would ever be able to do this together again because of the cancer). “I am not cancelling the flight. We’re going!” There were words back and forth between us but she knew the decision was final, and she relented with a cry of “Aagghhh!”

Meanwhile I’m chuckling to myself that she had no idea of the cruise portion of the trip, I still had a surprise for her up my sleeve.

Or so I thought.

At the time I booked the cruise I put down a deposit and the balance was due 30 days prior to departure. I had done all the coordinating on my cell phone with the travel agent (Jennifer) while driving between service calls at work. Then I got a phone call from Sandra:

“BUSTED!” she proclaimed… “A Jennifer” just called… ‘Good morning Mrs Hiles is Chris around?’ (Sandra was reciting the conversation she had with Jennifer) ‘I need to have the balance of the Mediterranean Cruise paid for now, is he home?’ Ha, SEE, I ALWAYS FIND OUT!” she shouted from the other end of the cell.

My heart sank, the jig was up, some how Jennifer had phoned the house number and not my cell, I couldn’t understand why. I’d told her it was a surprise for Sandra but obviously she forgot. So what the heck is this all about now Sandra asked.
I relented and told her the whole story about the cruise, a ten day Mediterranean trip leaving Rome and stopping in Florence, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Tunis, Palermo, Sicily, Naples, and back to Rome. I spent the premium to get us a room with a balcony so as to give her the ocean view. I thought it would be an experience she’d never forget, (and it was lounging on that deck beside her, taking in the sights and scents of the places we sailed past, that will be forever etched in my heart).

So now that it was no longer a surprise she wanted to know everything, as usual. I told her I planned to fly into Rome two days before the cruise, get a place on the sea, acclimatize ourselves, make the cruise, return to port, rent a car, drive to Venice, spend two days there, return to Rome for three more days and then come home. This is when Sandra got really excited (after again telling me we couldn’t afford it and succumbing to the fact is WAS GOING TO HAPPEN). She began to search for accommodations for us before and after the cruise. She was amazing, finding us the most beautiful places to stay that added to the ambiance of the trip. I couldn’t have done it without her!

We had the time of our lives. The places we went, people we met, food we ate was simply more than I had ever experienced or imagined and she made it so complete. Everywhere we went she took her camera (see her Flickr page it’s loaded with photos). Sandra was in her element and I loved watching her excitement and experiencing the trip through her eyes.  That’s what made the journey memorable for me.

For a short time the cancer was gone, forgotten, she had not taken all the arsenal of pills and supplements with her on the trip from home. She wanted a vacation from them. But by the end, her back was in such pain she couldn’t walk. Our last day in Rome was spent in the hotel room in bed. She had pushed herself so much that her body couldn’t keep up with her excitement and exploratory curiosity.

When we got home I presented her with a pear shaped topaz ring thanking her for 25 years of making me the luckiest guy in the world. For the sacrifices she made, for giving of herself to me and mothering two terrific sons, for her tenacity and courage to fight the cancer and her unwavering faith in GOD.

The last 6 months we saw her body slowly failing. Becoming more dependent on an oxygen supply, loosing more and more physical strength. But her mind remained as strong and brilliant as ever, right to her last breath. Even during the last weeks before her death, she still had the attitude that she was going to beat the cancer! She was amazing. The strength she radiated from her weak body was nothing short of the proof of God in her life. Her will was powerful, as many of us can attest. You can tell the character and heart of a person by the fruit of their life… Sandra had a cornucopia full. In her last days at the cancer center, she still reached out to patients and friends, helping them out, suggesting things that would improve their life. Always remembering to thank the many nurses who showed such concern for her welfare.

Sandra was so selfless. We as a family talked about the way God was dealing with Sandra and with all of us in the last days. I asked if it would be better if God just took her quickly instead of slowly drawing it out as it happened. We all agreed that the way he took Sandra home was best. We prayed for mercy and he gave it. He gave us time to say all the things we wanted to say to her. One message rang out crystal clear… our love for her and her love for us!

Sandra’s last desire she wrote in her journal (because she had lost the strength to speak), was to live long enough to see our friend Randy saved, to hear him say “I Accept Christ.” I had been emailing him all week, gently witnessing to him. As Sandra was failing I telephoned to ask if he would come to our side, and he said yes. He also emailed that he wanted to accept Christ as his Lord and savior. He said the decider for him was not only Sandra and I witnessing to him over the last 3 years, but also the strength and love he had observed in our marriage.

I immediately printed this email and walked into the hospital room announcing “Great news.”  I handed the paper to Sandra and upon seeing his declaration, she dropped the page, put her hands together in prayer position, pointed up to heaven and mouthed “Thank you God.” She asked, how long before he’s here? I told her 24 hours. She wrote in her journal she would try to live until then. Randy walked into the hospital room the following evening, at 5:30. He hugged her and kissed her and told her how much she meant to him, and that he had accepted Christ as his savior.

I started to pray, for the evening meal and for everything, and just as I finished, Sandra said “I love you, I love you, I love you…” I took her hand and said “Go to Jesus Babe” GO be healed… and she was gone.

 

God answered Sandra’s prayers and ours. She WAS HEALED! Standing in that room, the thirteen of us, family and friends, experienced a peace that was unexplainable. Yes we wept… oh we wept, but it was for joy as our prayers were answered and Sandra was finally free from cancer. The bible tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD. She was at that moment!

The bible also states that Christ goes before us to prepare a mansion for us. I cannot imagine the one Sandra has been given, it must be a palace! God is so gracious! Sandra had inscribed on my wedding band “NOW and FOREVER” .

She was, is and will always be the love of my life.

In and for her memory,

— Chris

 


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