I didn’t blog about my first front-page Toronto Star story on the day it was printed because, well, I needed time to hyperventilate. To properly explain why, I’ll have to use grandiose adjectives thrice and break the following post into three small pieces.
The fascinating couple
My story was about Adam Warner and Meghan Baker, who met and fell in love when they were both 27-year-old English teachers in South Korea. Because their story is both beautiful and tragic, I don’t have the heart to build suspense: I have to tell you directly that Meghan died of cancer on April 27, 2010, just about a month after she and Adam were married.
Although ’til death do us part came far too soon for this young couple, Meghan’s love continues to be the driving force in Adam’s life. I had the immense privilege and pleasure of weaving their journey together, and his journey without her, into a narrative that crisscrosses through so many things that make us human.
Their incredible story
The song “Closing Time” tells us “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
In my story, we meet Adam just after he has lost “the best and biggest part” of his life, and just as he embarks on a project that both mourns the loss of his wife Meghan and celebrates their time together.
In short, Adam is taking on an ambitious list of almost 30 life goals that Meghan had shared on her popular blog “The Bees Knees.”
Her list is full of big dreams, like volunteering in India, running a marathon, reading 12 books a year, learning a musical instrument, living in at least five countries and earning a PhD. Adam stresses that it is not a bucket list, but a collection of goals. It has nothing to do with death or running out of time, and everything to do with “living hard.”
The story “Unfinished Business” was published on Tuesday June 29 on the front page of the Star. You can read the original story by clicking here.
Excerpt from “Unfinished Business: How one man keeps his late wife’s memory alive”
On the outdoor patio of a Brooklyn pub, surrounded by bright red walls and stringed lights, Adam Warner was cornered by a stranger’s small talk. He was sharing a canary-yellow picnic table with two New Yorkers, and one was probing Adam with where-are-you-froms and what-do-you-dos.
Eventually, the 29-year-old Washington native revealed his unofficial occupation.
“My wife just died,” he said, “so, I’m trying to set up a volunteer project to do all the things she wanted to do.”
His wife was Meghan Baker, a small-town girl from a place called Petrolia, Ont., near Sarnia. She was 29, and she had published a list of nearly 30 things she wanted to accomplish on her well-read blog The Bee’s Knees. When she died in April, her husband told Meghan’s family, friends and roughly 1,200 readers that he was going to take on her goals. (keep reading…)
My only regret is that I didn’t have the space to includes quotations from her parents, legions of blog readers, and from a grief counsellor/widow who thought–both personally and professionally–that Adam’s project was a really positive way to honour his spouse.
As I’ve said before, though, once could probably write a whole book about these two, and I’m not too worried that the details will never surface. Already many others have taken an interest in the love behind the list.
The overwhelming feedback
When it was published, Meghan and Adam’s story was the most read article of the day. Although the window for comments was very small, the story has been shared hundreds of times through social networking sites.
Adam has been contacted by many other media outlets and has already done interviews for radio and television. He told me that the day after the article was published, he went from 100 visits/day at the Bees Knees to 7,000 and that his charity fund “For the Love of Meghan” had also gone up dramatically. The Facebook page of the same name had just over 1,000 likes beforehand, and now has more than double that.
Many people offered very specific kinds of support. A long-distance runner offered to help train Adam for the marathon he’s going to run. A woman offered her travel advice for his upcoming trip to India. Another widower offered him emotional support in case he ever needs to talk to someone who’s been there. The Star’s editor in chief got a call from a rep for the Maple Leaf’s offering NHL hockey tickets.
Many, many people have contacted me either to tell me how great the story was or to get me to connect them with Adam. If my own inbox was stuffed with messages, I can only imagine his.
I am so happy that something I wrote has made such a difference in another person’s life. Adam really deserves all the help he can get. He’s taking all the love he had for Meghan (which is seemingly infinite) and pouring it into the improvement of self and of community.
If only we could all turn our personal tragedies into gifts for the world.