To celebrate the month of love, we’re sharing stories of Better Place Forests customers that have chosen to live Together Forever in one of our forests. Spence, and his bride Sheila, had a love that most of us only read about — until cancer took Sheila far too soon. We sat down with Spence to learn more about his love story and how he chose the Point Arena forest to spend eternity with his soulmate.
Spence and Sheila enjoying a stroll through the woods
An eternal love story
Spencer, or Spence as he prefers, moved to Portland, Oregon in 1989 to start a new airline job. Little did he know that his new next-door neighbor would be the future Mrs. Spence. At the time, Sheila lived across the street with her daughter, Jana. Spence and Sheila met on Halloween of 1989. Immediately the two became inseparable and found solace together walking in nature. Spence recalls his favorite moments from that time, “just being with her holding hands, enjoying the quiet. Sometimes we would just sit on a rock and listen to the woods — listen to the quiet.”
“The woods were one of her favorite places in the world. It was just nice to sit there — quietly be with each other — we didn't have to say anything. We’re not in a hurry to go anywhere. We're not in a rush. We don't have to impress anybody. We're just enjoying each other.” - Spence
After four months, Spence was ready to make Sheila his bride. On a flight to Honolulu for her birthday, Spence arranged for himself and Sheila to be invited into the cockpit where Spence had hidden the engagement ring. “I said, ‘Honey, in front of two official witnesses and the aircraft commander, I want to know, would you marry me?’ When she said yes, the copilot at my request was marking the exact spot we were at in the Pacific Ocean,” he said. Once Sheila said yes, the aircraft commander marked the latitude and longitude of their engagement. “You always hear people say that X marks the spot, but I can actually show you the X.”
When it came time to get married, Spence already knew that their wedding date would be March 17th. After a few weeks of convincing Sheila, the two agreed. On the day of the wedding, Spence began a lifelong tradition of sending Sheila roses. “I sent her a dozen roses to the beauty salon where she and Jana were getting their hair done. Their appointment was at 2 pm and I said I want the roses to be delivered at 2:15 pm, not 2:14 pm not 2:16 pm, I want them delivered at 2:15 pm. From that moment forward, every 17th of every month for 29 years I gave her two red roses. Believe it or not, she saved every one of them. It was just under 900 when we did the math,” said Spence.
No matter what came up, or where in the world the two found themselves, Sheila received those two red roses. “I always told her, there would never be a 17th that you will not get two roses,” said Spence. Even when Spence had to have his aortic valve replaced on August 17, 2001 — Sheila received her two red roses.
Sheila’s memorial marker in Better Place Forests Point Arena
A new beginning
After battling cancer for thirteen months, Sheila’s story came to an end on January 29, 2019. After 29 years of marriage, Spence found himself without his soulmate, searching for a place to lay her to rest. Spence came across Better Place Forests and had to see it for himself. Upon entering the Point Arena forest Spence found immediate relief. “It so cleansed my soul and brought me to peace with what happened,” he said. “The forest indicates to me that she and everyone else are continuing. Their life hasn’t stopped — it's just in a different form that you and I can’t see.”
“[The Point Arena forest] is so beautiful. It's soul-cleansing, which just reinforced in me the knowledge and the belief that there's more to come — this isn't the end, it's a new beginning. And that's the way Jana and I looked at it. You know, it's not the end of something, it's the beginning of something else. As we said, mom has the entire forest to play with. It's a new beginning for her.”
After choosing the Point Arena forest, Spence and his daughter Jana had to choose the right memorial tree. Walking through the forest, Spence found the tree off the beaten path. Something about it stood out to him, but it wasn’t until he saw the tree number that he knew this was the one. “The thing that sealed the deal was the number of the tree, 317, our wedding anniversary. So I like to say the tree actually picked us."
Spence looks forward to the day that he can join his bride in the Point Arena forest. “I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but I can't wait to catch up with her because we’ve got to continue with our galavanting and seeing the world. Obviously, I hope it doesn’t happen for a while, but at the same time, I'm excited to catch up with her when that time happens,” said Spence.
Spence continues to honor his bride by living the way she would want him to live, and soon he will finish another promise — to take Sheila to every continent. In 2022, Spence will embark on a trip to Antarctica with Sheila’s remaining ashes. Showing Sheila her last continent, even if it’s slightly different than they originally intended.
When you’re ready to begin planting the roots of your loved story, book a free online forest tour with one of our advisors. We’re here to help you and your loved ones create a meaningful legacy for the planet and the people you love.