One of the most important things we’ve learned through over 25 years serving our community is that jewellery is so much more than something pretty to put on your finger and wrist or neck. Often worn daily, it becomes a cherished symbol, inextricable from our lives and memories. That’s why we often share stories from our clients – and why we were so moved by Angeli and Keith’s.
Last year, Angeli dropped by to see if we could make a custom ring out of her wedding and engagement rings, to memorialize her late husband, Keith. As we got to know Angeli, we learned about the deep love she and her husband shared – and how much that love supported them through a long, painful journey through cancer. We’re honoured that she agreed to share their love story here.
Both from St. Lawrence, Keith was several years older than Angeli, so they didn’t really know each other growing up. Later, when Angeli was away in St. John’s for school, she met Keith through friends during a summer home. She says he was ‘super nice, sweet and really funny’ but she thought she was only interested in a summer romance at the time.
But between lots of phone calls and trips home from school, that summer romance turned into something much more.
Angeli remembers one spring when she and Keith were packing up her dorm room and she was debating whether she should stay in St. John’s or head home for the summer. Keith surprised her by pushing for her to come home – and when she agreed, he burst out, ‘I really can’t wait to marry you.’ That’s when she knew he was ‘the one.’
A few years later, Keith proposed at the beautiful Winterholme Inn, just before Christmas.
What Angeli remembers and loved most about Keith was his kind heart and his big sense of humour. She laughs when she remembers the jokes he always used to play on her. His family was really important to him, and the two loved going home to visit for holidays. And he was about as big a fan of his local St. Lawrence Laurentians soccer team as they come.
“He was just a very loveable person,” she explains.
She’s more shy to say what he saw in her, but she knows he loved her feisty personality. He would always tells her how she was beautiful and smart and one of the strongest women he knew.
That strength and love would prove critical, helping extend what was a 12 month diagnosis into 6 more years.
Keith first became sick not long after he proposed. They were living together in Carbonear at the time, but Keith was commuting into St. John’s for work. He was in town on a Sunday when Angeli got a call from his coworker, telling her to come into town. He’d had a seizure.
At first, Angeli thought it had to be one of his jokes – but she quickly realized how serious it was. She raced to the hospital to learn that Keith had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Keith went into surgery, where doctors learned that his tumour was the worst form possible – a grade 4 gliboblastoma brain tumour. His survival rate was 12 to 18 months. He was 33.
What followed was years of radiation, chemotherapy, surgeries, travelling to Toronto for specialized treatment – and many more seizures.
It was a tough journey. With support from his big, close-knit family, Angeli was always by his side and cheering him on. Life was difficult – but the couple found joy, too. It was important to Angeli that Keith get to travel and see the world, so they had some fun trips. And they finally had their dream wedding.
The Perfect Day
Keith and Angeli really wanted to get married, despite his diagnosis – and they tried three times, but treatment and complications kept pushing back the day. Finally, they were able to become husband and wife in Mount Pearl on October 28, 2008.
Because Angeli was worried about all the excitement causing another seizure (emotions could be a trigger), she says she was really focused on Keith; unlike many brides, she made the day all about her groom. They rehearsed their wedding vows in advance, in an attempt to help keep emotions in check – they knew getting through ‘in sickness and in health’ would be especially hard.
At the altar, Angeli held Keith’s hand close, wiping away his tears to help him stay calm. And everything went perfectly.
“The day was phenomenal,” she remembers. “It was the day we had both wanted and planned for so long.”
And some surprises were in store. Keith had arranged for 40 red balloons to greet them outside the church, and Angeli surprised her new husband with a big, beautiful show of fireworks at the end of the night. With their friends and family close, Angeli and Keith finally had the perfect night they deserved.
Their Biggest Challenge
Their wedding was perfect – but Keith was still sick. And things got much worse in January, just a few short months later.
Angeli thinks it was his big heart and his love for his family that helped him fight the odds so long. And he told his mother that he did not know what he would have done without Angeli, who took charge with the doctors and appointments while also planning a wedding and honeymoon, despite not knowing how much longer they had together. He always told her that her strength and support kept him going, when he wanted to give up so many times.
They’d come through many operations and bad diagnoses before. This time he was given 2-3 weeks to live, and he fought for several more months. He passed away on May 11, 2009.
In one moment, Angeli lost the love of her life and her partner of ten years. And she says it was also difficult to lose her care-taker role. So much of her life had been about Keith.
“His health and his needs were utmost,” she says, “you never go back to normal … You have a new reality – you face every day with what comes at you.”
But now Angeli sees Keith all around her. “I always feel like he’s around me, giving me the push I need.” A few years ago, Angeli found herself in the hospital with her own cancer scare and was feeling a bit anxious. She had to go to an isolated room to receive a special type of radiation, and she was led to one of the rooms Keith had been while recovering from one of his surgeries. She says she felt a warm feeling which calmed her down.
And he’s always giving her signs. In the bright sun in particular, she feels his spirit surrounding her. It’s these little moments that help keep her going, despite the many challenges she’s faced.
A New Symbol
A few months after Keith passed, Angeli placed her engagement and wedding rings in a box. They were so precious, but painful too, and she didn’t know what to do with them.
After a few years she brought her rings into a few stores, hoping to see if they could have them remade. She had a few mockups done, but nothing felt right – and so the rings sat in their box, which also didn’t seem right.
Then a coworker of Angeli’s received an engagement ring from Diamond Design and encouraged her to come see Sharon. She wasn’t hopeful, but she decided to give it a try.
“I wanted a bling ring!” she jokes – something beautiful and eye-catching to capture Keith’s memory. She met with our jewellery consultant Sharon and shared her story, and together, they came up with a design that excited her.
Angeli says it was difficult to actually let her rings go to be redesigned, and so she credits Sharon for making the whole process easy and comfortable. And she says she’s extremely happy with the result, which is stunning and so meaningful.
“It’s a beautiful tribute,” she says.
When you meet Angeli, it’s not hard to see what Keith saw, and how she could have helped him so much. She’s warm and friendly and quick witted. With the passage of time, she can reflect on her journey with Keith, and why it’s so important for her to have a meaningful token she can wear everyday to honour their time together.
“All of my younger adult days were spent taking care of a sick man,” she says. “Planning and scheduling appointments, hiding chemo pills so he wouldn’t have to see them, taking trips where we didn’t know if he’d get sick or what would happen, sleeping on blow-up beds by his side through three surgeries, and then finally the three months he was in palliative care … if I had the chance, I would do it all again for him. He was truly the love of my life and he meant the world to me. I would give anything to see him once again and hold his hand and tell him how much I still love him and still cherish the memories we have together.”
All of us are better when we are loved.