Publishing stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver - author, editor, and publisher of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan. We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also publish genres of healing and wellness, humour, children's fiction, and rural poetry. Visit our website to learn more about our books.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our 40th Wedding Anniversary - From A Hospice Bed

Today is our 40th wedding anniversary. Strangely, we are celebrating that today for the first time in 40 years.

You see, Al and I were married twice - to each other both times. December 29th is the date of our first, legal marriage ceremony. January 17th is the date of our second, church ceremony.

We've never celebrated on December 29th before, but this year is different. This year, my husband is dying from cancer and it is important that we take every moment possible to celebrate whatever we can in whatever time we have left together. Even though he is lying in a hospice bed, getting weaker every day, we celebrate that we've been married – happily – for 40 years. That is a big accomplishment these days and we’re proud of ourselves.

Al and I met in college in Calgary, Alberta in the fall of 1973 and we became best friends before we began dating in January 1974. Al went home to Regina, Saskatchewan to work at the Regina Leader-Post newspaper for the summer of ’74 and I stayed in Calgary to work at summer jobs. Those were excruciatingly lonely months without him, but he phoned me often, in the middle of the night, using the Regina Leader-Post's long-distance phone plan. (Thank you, former sports editor Bob Hughes for being so kind as to allow these calls between two lovesick youngsters.)

The first thing Al said to me when he returned to Calgary in August 1974, for our second year of journalism school, was, "Will you marry me?"

I eagerly said, “Yes.” I couldn’t imagine a life without him.

We didn't officially get engaged until the following spring, at the top of the Calgary Tower, a few days before our two-year journalism course ended. Al had a job waiting for him in Regina and I only had him, so we agreed that I would move to Saskatchewan. It was an excellent decision on my part.

Our first wedding was a legal ceremony performed by a justice of the peace at the Regina Court House on December 29, 1975. We did it for the money.

One of Al's dad's friends informed us that if we got married before the end of the calendar year, Canadian income tax rules (in those days) would allow Al to claim me as a dependant for the entire year. This meant a significant tax benefit for a young couple who had nothing.

I was working as an invoice typist for a company that sold paper. I lied to my boss and said I had a doctor’s appointment that morning. (I had to lie - I needed them to still give me time off for our "real" wedding a few weeks later.) I left work at 11 a.m. to meet Al, his parents, his sister Linda, and one of our male friends, Terry, at the Regina court house. I didn't have any friends in Regina yet and Al's sister was still underage, so Al's mom signed the marriage documents as my witness. Our friend Terry signed for Al. (Strangely, Terry was an usher at our church wedding and not one of our best men. Our best men were likely both working that day and we must have decided not to bother them with this trivial event since Terry was available during time off from his job.)

The marriage ceremony lasted less than 15 minutes. Al took my wedding ring out of a box and put it on my finger at the appropriate time, as I did with his; we signed the papers; put the rings back in the boxes; took a couple photos; then went for lunch at a nearby pizza restaurant. I couldn't even eat much lunch because it took a long time coming and I would have been too late going back to work.

December 29, 1975.

Al's mom is wearing red. Al's dad is in the background.

Linda, Al, me, Terry.

Al continued to live at his parents' house while I lived in an apartment that became our first home as husband and wife after our "real" wedding weeks later.

On January 17, 1976, we had our church wedding in my hometown of Athabasca, Alberta. We made our vows in front of God, our families, friends, and many people we didn’t even know who were invited by my parents. That’s what good Ukrainian weddings were like in the 1970s.

January 17, 1976.

We have always considered January 17th to be our wedding anniversary. December 29th was quickly forgotten.

Until now.

It’s unlikely that my beloved Al will be alive on our January 17th, 40th wedding anniversary. His colon cancer has spread to his bowels and he has been unable to eat for most of the last few weeks. It is sad, maddening, distressing, and heartbreaking to watch, but we have had many precious moments these past 12 days since we heard the news of the failed surgery attempt to remove his bowel blockage.

We have said all that we need to say to each other. I have read him dozens of tributes about him written by family, friends, co-workers, school chums, and more. We have seen many wonderful glimpses of his life and his impact on others through their eyes, and it has been good. Very good.

Al is strong mentally, when the painkillers wear off a bit, and he has surprised us many times over these past few days: waking to watch the world junior hockey games (hockey is his favourite sport); asking us to bring him an Orange Crush and then absolutely savouring the taste of it; providing a suggestion on how to further streamline our accounting processes for our book publishing business; telling our children, children-in-law and grandchildren that he loves them; and, as usual, correcting my verbal errors when I say the wrong name as I tell a story, and, I am sure, mentally rolling his eyes when I say dumb things. He has opened his eyes and wished me Happy Anniversary twice today, including after I read him what I intended to post on this blog. He is a good man.

And we have laughed. A lot.

Al watching world junior hockey with our
son-in-law Kyle, son Dave, and daughter Lisa.

Enjoying Orange Crush, with our
daughter Dani.

Al has been at peace with the notion that he is dying. Everyone dies. It is apparently his time. 

He wanted to make it to Christmas, which he did.
Al was able to come home for a few hours on December 22, to
celebrate an early Christmas with our beautiful family

He wanted to make it to our anniversary, which he did. 

He has lived a good life and, as he told me a few months ago before we knew how mean this cancer would become, “We’ve had a good run.”

Yes, we have, my love. Forty great years. Happy Anniversary.


  1. Happy Anniversay to you both. I know it will be a good day.

  2. Suzanne SauderDecember 29, 2015

    Dear Al and Deana

    I have been thinking of you often over the last few months since Al’s first surgery. So much of your experience echoes that of my lived experience with my husband Ken. He too was diagnosed with colon cancer which turned out to be terminal.

    Deana, I love this story because it also reverberates common experience of a much happier memory for me. Ken and I too got married twice, yes like you to each other both times. We were also aware of the tax benefit of marrying before year end. We unfortunately didn’t take into account the day or so it took back then to arrange for the license and blood work that was required and missed the December 31st deadline. We forged ahead with the courthouse wedding none the less on January 7th 1977 and enjoyed a church wedding with friends and family later that year on May 27th. Sometimes we celebrated both and sometimes when life got busy there were times those days passed with anniversary forgotten and no celebration. Ken wasn’t much for special occasions and fanfare which miffed me sometimes but his commitment and love within our marriage infused each day.

    Thank you for reminding me of this special time and the gifts of my marriage. My heart is with you both as you live this difficult time with courage and love.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you.
    May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
    and be gracious to you.
    May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
    and give you peace.


    1. How nice that we share a similar two-wedding story, Suzanne. And thank you for the blessing. I have read all these positive thoughts, memories, and tributes to Al - when he was well enough to hear them. They have been wonderful for us and our family.

  3. Deana and Al--love and hugs to you both, and congratulations on your 40th anniversary. An amazing marriage and an amazing couple.

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful love story. John and I send you congratulations on 40 years ......Each of you have inspired your family and friends with your devotion to each other. .

    May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow
    May the soft winds freshen your spirit
    May the sunshine brighten your heart
    May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you
    And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.

    1. Thank you for the blessing, Jeanne. I love the images in it and the peacefulness.

  5. Dear Deana and Al,
    Congratulations on reaching this milestone of 40 years. You are truly a fine example of Long Lasting Love. I love the photos...they are priceless. It is such an unique story.
    It is inspiring to read that Al is accepting of death. This is what our Christian faith teaches us however, it is so hard for those who are left behind.
    With your eloquent words you have provided peace and understanding to friends and family.
    Your situation and life journey brings to mind the poem by Linda Ellis titled. The Dash. My favourite verse:

    For that dash represents all the time
    that they spent alive on earth.
    And now only those who loved them
    know what that little line is worth.

    Just for Today ---- enjoy life.
    It does have an expiration date.
    Lots of love and prayers

    1. Life is indeed short and precious, Janet. Thank you for your message and support.

  6. Happy 40 Anniversary Al and Deana. This is a significant accomplishment due to the commitment you have to one another. Al it is commitment and loyalty that I have witnessed in your work and volunteerism in the community, at the rink, and within the church. Thanks to your commitment in these areas we, as well as many others, benefited. I will remember you as a big, friendly, caring gentleman with a keen sense of humour. We always enjoyed you in our cheering section at the rink. Our boys always knew you were their biggest fan and defender. Faye and I have had the pleasure of knowing you since high school. We have appreciated our connections with you over this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Deana, and your family as you say good-bye. Good-bye big guy, good-bye my friend.
    Thank you
    Craik and Faye Wotherspoon

    1. Thank you, Craik and Faye. Al smiled as I read him your comments. They brought back many happy memories.

  7. Hi Al and Deana
    Happy Anniversay, Wow Forty big ones that is something to be proud of.

    Hey Al in was so nice to run into,you this summer! When you yelled out Ozz I was so surprised to see ya! It was great to catch up! Been thinking of you often , take care buddy! Til we play again on big ball field!

    Love from Morgan (Ozzy) and Deanna Fargo

    1. Thanks, Morgan and Deanna. He told me about running into you and what a pleasure that was. Good friends remain so forever.

  8. Deana, I just came across this while reading about Dionne winning Citizen of The Year. You may remember me more by seeing me and not by my name. You coached community ball with my husband Chris, back in the day. May I say how sorry I am to hear of Al's illness. Even though Al is a wee bit older than me, I remember what a fine young man he was when he attended Thom Collegiate. Al and his sister Linda were always nice to everyone.
    The love and respect you had for each other was easy to see. I just wanted to tell you how sad I am for you and your family. May good memories help you through this difficult time. Pam Jacobs Mario (and Chris)

  9. Buddy StroichJanuary 06, 2016

    Hi Deana, Al,
    Amazed to hear of this development in your lives. I still have fond memories of Al at Thom, the day we held Larry W. out the second floor window in Lit class, driving past the school in my black car and waving as we skipped class, carrying Al's books while he navigated the halls on crutches. I remember your wedding, the church one, and how the band thought we were all out of time with the music. My oh my time has flown past. I find it hard to express the sadness I feel in my heart but realize this is part of life we will all face. Deana, I know you have a million pictures and memories cherish these, Al will be with you all the time. Buddy Stroich