John Barlow of Bluffton, the cancer patient whose wedding to Krista Solley on her mother’s front porch swing on April 1 touched many hearts, died of heart failure Thursday afternoon.
As condolences poured in online, Krista wept softly on the screened back porch of that same home Friday morning.
Her main message was gratefulness to the people of Bluffton who wrapped their arms around them since John was diagnosed with stage four gastrointenstinal cancer on Valentine’s Day.
“I miss him so much right now,” she said in almost a whisper. “He loved this town. He found a family here, and this is his home.”
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John, 43, had been through three chemotherapy treatments and had lost 80 pounds. He was on oxygen. He had what doctors said was a massive heart attack while sitting in a chair in his mother-in-law Joan Solley’s bright and cheery home in Bluffton Park. He died en route to Coastal Carolina Hospital, they said.
A memorial service will be held next week at the Cornerstone Church in Bluffton. John’s ashes will be spread in the May River, where he proposed to Krista on a cold day last Dec. 10. They went ahead with their wedding on the planned date, though in a different venue, on a swing he’d hung for his mother-in-law.
That evening a “Jam for John” fundraiser was held at the Roasting Room in Bluffton, and John and Krista made a brief appearance.
“We’re soooo grateful that we had the wedding,” Krista said. “The good thing is that so many people got to see him. His best man said that all John ever wanted in life was success and a family. He told me, ‘He found success, and you gave him a family.’ ”
John had gotten weak but was doing a lot of things.
One night this week he hooked up two televisions at the home they had just rented in the Alljoy area of Bluffton. He had encouraged Krista to go to the RBC Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head Island and have fun. People she did not know hugged her when they realized she was the porch swing bride in their popular wedding story.
John’s rugby buddies had helped move them to their new home. Krista said while packing that they needed to call Goodwill to give them all John’s clothes that no longer fit, but he wouldn’t hear of parting with shorts he’d paid $70 for. He said they could be hemmed.
He had plans to fix the broken white gate in his mother-in-law’s back yard. It’s beneath a canopy of Carolina jasmine so thick the sweet scent almost takes your breath at this time of year, Joan Solley said. Her orchids and other potted plants, and a cool breeze ringing through wind chimes, made a peaceful place for Krista to mourn Friday morning with a glass of iced orange juice, two cellphones and a computer tablet dotted with tear drops.
The way it turned out, there was no formal farewell.
“We’re shocked,” Krista said. “His heart just gave out. But he wouldn’t want to suffer for a long time. He would battle just for me, but maybe this is best for him. He never got really bad off. We were talking every day, and he didn’t act like he was sick.
“He was planning on getting better. I really thought he was going to get better.”
They never asked doctors his life expectancy. They didn’t want to know life’s timetable that they felt could be six months, a year, five years — and probably wrong.
Krista cried when she said Friday was the fifth anniversary of their first date.
But as we talked, she kept returning to how good Bluffton businesses and individuals have been to them.
“John owns a 38-foot motor yacht docked at the Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head, but he had more fun riding the dinghy in the May River than he ever had with the big boat,” Krista said.
“He would drive the golf cart and tow the dinghy behind it down to Alljoy and he would say, ‘You can’t do this in many towns in America.’ Everyone would wave, and he would wave back. He really, really, really loved this town. He was really happy here.”
On Thursday night, Krista posted on Facebook a selfie taken in the boat on the May River when they got engaged.
“You can see that he’s so happy,” she said.
Also Thursday night, John’s black and white 13-year-old American pit bull did something he never does. Elvis got up on the sofa and snuggled against Krista.
Elvis was operated on last week to remove a 5 1/2-pound malignant tumor.
“And he made it,” Krista said, weeping.
Joan said, “He’s there for her.”