In times of great emotional trauma, it’s easy to forget those who prop us up and lend a hand during our hour of need. However, one widower found the strength to write an inspiring thank-you note to those who cared for his dying wife during her final hours. The result was as inspiring as it was heart-wrenching.
Peter DeMarco has worked at the Boston Globe newspaper since 2001. In 2016 the writer and journalist was living in Somerville, Massachusetts, with his wife Laura Levis and their three cats, Cola, Puma and Evie. One day, however, everything would change for this young couple.
Levis was born and raised in New York City. She showed an aptitude for journalism at a young age and was the editor of Emerson College’s student newspaper, the Berkeley Beacon, before graduating in 2004. After finishing school, she embarked on a successful career in the media.
She moved to Massachusetts after securing her first job at the Boston Globe. That was where she first encountered DeMarco, who was working as a reporter for the newspaper at the time. Describing the moment he saw her, DeMarco said, “Laura turned the corner in this stunning green dress, and I knew. I knew.”
Pretty soon the pair became best friends, and later they became a couple. Then, Levis and DeMarco married in a ceremony in Bar Harbor, Maine, in August 2014. They made their vows overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by their loved ones.
Together, the couple enjoyed a lust for life and loved cooking, hanging out with friends and enjoying each other’s company. They also had a passion for traveling. Indeed, of the many places they visited, Levis declared that the Isle of Skye in Scotland was “the most beautiful place in the world.”
Then, just two years into their wonderful marriage, tragedy suddenly struck the young couple. Levis suffered a massive asthma attack before passing away while in the intensive-care unit at CHA Cambridge Hospital. She was only 34. DeMarco was left utterly bereft.
In order to cope with his heartbreak, the talented writer began to vent his emotions in a series of posts on his Facebook page. He spoke candidly about his late wife and shared intimate insights into their final days together. “She will always, always be with me, and part of me. The greatest part of me. To you, my sweet love, my Baby Lemur. Wait for me,” he wrote.
Then, despite his crippling grief, DeMarco found the strength to thank the people who made Levis’ final moments as comfortable as they could be. In a deeply emotional letter, he paid tribute to hospital staff and their dedicated work. Not overlooking a single person, he wrote about the doctors, nurses, specialist staff and even hospital cleaners he’d come into contact with during his wife’s time in the intensive care unit.
The beautiful letter, which was printed in the New York Times, revealed how DeMarco still has the name of every person who helped Levis etched in his mind. “‘How do you remember any of their names?’ they ask. ‘How could I not, I respond,’” he began the note.
DeMarco then went on to describe in great detail the level of compassion hospital staff showed to his ailing wife. “Every single one of you treated Laura with such professionalism, and kindness, and dignity as she lay unconscious,” he wrote. “When she needed shots, you apologized that it was going to hurt a little, whether or not she could hear.”
“You cared so greatly for her parents,” DeMarco continued. “Helping them climb into the room’s awkward recliner, fetching them fresh water almost by the hour, and by answering every one of their medical questions with incredible patience. My father-in-law, a doctor himself as you learned, felt he was involved in her care. I can’t tell you how important that was to him.”
Then, the letter went on to take an even more personal path. DeMarco went on to talk about how hospital staff had supported him, just as much as they were supporting Levis. “How many times did you hug me and console me when I fell to pieces,” he began.
“Or ask about Laura’s life and the person she was, taking the time to look at her photos or read the things I’d written about her? How many times did you deliver bad news with compassionate words, and sadness in your eyes?” DeMarco pondered.
After a few days of Levis being in intensive care, DeMarco decided to sneak their cat Cola into visit her, despite it being against the rules. Once again, he said, the hospital staff had his back. “When I smuggled in a very special visitor, our tuxedo cat, Cola, for one final lick of Laura’s face, you ‘didn’t see a thing,’” he recalled.
Finally, recounting their last intimate moments together, DeMarco wrote, “I nestled my body against hers. She looked so beautiful, and I told her so, stroking her hair and face. Pulling her gown down slightly, I kissed her breasts, and laid my head on her chest, feeling it rise and fall with each breath, her heartbeat in my ear. It was our last tender moment as a husband and a wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt.”
He also revealed how staff had allowed more than 50 of the couples’ friends and family to join them in the intensive care unit. In fact, they sang songs, ate nachos and drank dry cider as they gathered around Levis one final time. “It was an outpouring of love that included guitar playing and opera singing and dancing and new revelations to me about just how deeply my wife touched people,” DeMarco recounted.
He continued, “It was the last great night of our marriage together, for both of us, and it wouldn’t have happened without your support.” And, with that, DeMarco signed off the letter, “With my eternal gratitude and love, Peter DeMarco.”
The heartfelt thank-you note has made a huge impact since it appeared in the New York Times on October 6, 2016. On Twitter, for example, one user wrote, “My heart goes out to Peter DeMarco. Beautiful words to describe a great love.” Meanwhile, another added, “Thank you for reminding me why I leave my family at night to work as a #ERnurse. Stay strong.”
DeMarco’s letter has touched hearts around the world, but perhaps none more so than the hospital staff he praises in his tribute. Indeed, the New York Times article is printed in full and proudly displayed at the intensive-care unit at CHA Cambridge Hospital. His heartfelt words testify to the fact that, in the most desperate of times, even the smallest of gestures can make a profound impact.