Lee Ballantyne lost his wife, Carol, just before New Year’s Eve. They had been married 43 years.
A week after her death, commencing with days and nights filled with many firsts, Ballantyne did something strangely novel: He ate alone at a restaurant.
At Cicco’s Ristorante north of Toronto, the widower saw something that brought memories of Carol flooding into his mind — a couple sitting next him who reminded Ballantyne of his marriage of nearly half a century.
“I just wanted to write what I felt at the time so I scrawled it on a napkin,” Ballantyne, 65, told “Today.” Here’s what the Barrie, Ontario, man wrote:
Ballantyne gave the note to the waitress and asked her to put the couple’s bill on his credit card. The waitress asked Cicco’s owner Lindsay Weiss to assist bestowing the note to the pleasantly surprised couple.
“They were beyond touched and grateful,” Weiss told Today. “I cried. The waitress and chef cried. It was one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever witnessed.”
Ballantyne got a phone call from one half of the couple he saw at Cicco’s, and the man expressed condolences to Ballantyne and said he and his wife would like to take the widower to dinner.
But the news spread farther than Cicco’s.
“It was just a simple gesture and it seemed like an ideal time to do that. I guess I had a selfish motive, I wanted to make myself feel good,” Ballantyne told “Today.”
“And it did for a while. It still does.”
Ballantyne said he’s happy “people got to know a little about Carol” — who was 62 when she died, having suffered from lung cancer and other health issues.
“My wife’s strength and joy of life is now known to millions of people just because of that gesture so I accomplished something there.”