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remembering Lynda

Updated: Jun 28

Lynda (Testa) Tenaglia passed away on June 6, 2024, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She was the beloved wife of 54 years to co-author Michael Tenaglia and personally contributed her caregiving story to our book. We thank Mike for sharing this heartfelt and personal letter, read at her service on June 12.

 

It was August 29th, 1964, when Barbara Antonellis, a co-worker at Sklars, invited me to a party. I was a shy 17-year-old, but I went to the party to have a good time and meet new people.  That’s when I saw a beautiful young lady…Lynda. After a while, I got the courage to ask her to dance.   She used to come into the store with her cousin; I was so shy that I hid to see her without her seeing me.  I finally got the courage to ask her out, and we had our first date on October 4th, 1964.  As Father Nick told me the other night, you were not quick at the trigger, well maybe for a first date, but we dated for 6 years before we married!

 

I was somewhat of a prankster, so when I decided to ask her to marry me, I didn’t get on one knee like a normal person; I put the diamond in a cracker jack box. On the day I proposed, we were with my niece, Lisa.  I handed Lynda the box of Cracker Jack’s, and she proceeded to open the box and give it to Lisa, what a generous person!  I was shocked and panicked. I begged Lynda to take the box and open the gift inside, which she did, and we were engaged.

 

We were married for 54 years.  In that time, there were struggles, some hard times, but many happy times.  She always wanted her family to be safe and around her.  On September 11th, she was scared; we were all scared. She called me at work asking me to come home because, not knowing what would happen, she wanted to be sure that her family was together and safe.  It was an eerie feeling at home, total silence, not a plane in the sky, afraid but happy to be together.  That started our many trips to New York because she wanted to see and experience ground zero. We also took advantage of our many trips to see Broadway plays and restaurants.

 

We enjoyed our time together with our children, family, and friends. Our vacations on the Cape with Maria and Peter or at my brother’s home in New Hampshire. Restaurants, BBQs, movies. We had many fun times, but that was before cancer entered our lives and changed everything.

 

Cancer entered our lives on February 5th, 2013, and nothing would ever be the same. 


The pain in her face and body was devastating and hurtful, but with every burden, there is a blessing.  In our frequent trips for Cancer treatment, whether it was to Mass General, Dana Farber, or Sloan Kettering in New York, we had the privilege of meeting many wonderful and strong people; Lynda and I often talked about meeting Alan Rubel and his wife, Sharon when we were in the waiting rooms at Mass General. We became strong and lifelong friends. We were great support for each other. Lynda and Sharon would often text each other in the middle of the night. We also met many courageous people in our weekly support meetings for cancer patients and their caregivers.  I can’t name everyone, and some of these heroes are here today who have battled and continue to fight the courageous fight against cancer along with their caregivers. They are the most amazing people you would ever want to meet.  They do it all with smiles and inspiration for their families and loved ones. Some of these wonderful people are no longer with us, but their strength, inspiration, and Lynda’s will stay with me forever. 

 

I have met many wonderful people in my 11-year journey with Lynda.  I recall one day when we were at Mass General for the daily radiation treatments, and I was approached by a young lady who handed me a piece of green candy.  She said, “My dad thinks the green ones are the best, and he wanted you to have this.” I looked over and saw a man in a wheelchair, clearly dealing with his own cancer battle, and he cared about me and what cancer was doing to us.  A real hero!!!!

 

I recently had an amazing conversation with my cousin at 11 o’clock at night, and we spoke about all the people afflicted with diseases.  Because of his work with various hospitals, he has also encountered many wonderful doctors and patients, again the real heroes!!!

 

Lynda may not have known it, but she made me better.  I love to eat Italian food, but she always reminded me that eating the way I did was not good for me and that I had to be careful. Of course, I didn’t like hearing it, but she was right.  She inspired me to work harder and enjoy the simple things in life. She was always looking out for me.  Even during her courageous fight with cancer, she watched out for me and made sure I was taking care of myself. 

 

I enjoy playing golf, and those who have played with me wonder if I’ve ever picked a club before, but nevertheless, I enjoy it. Whenever a friend would call, she always encouraged me to go out to play, but I couldn’t leave her because I could see the pain in her face and the struggle in her body.  It was very hard for both of us, but I would not trade one minute of caring for her because it was a privilege to care for her.  I would do it all over again if I could have her back with me but without the pain of cancer.

 

She was always strong, and through it all, she was always worried about how her struggle impacted me, Maria, and her beautiful grandchildren, Abby and Jack. She often apologized that she was ruining my life because of her cancer.  I did my best; I was only too happy to make sure she was comfortable and assist her in doing what she wanted. 

 

Lynda inspired me to work with Alan Rubel and Mark Resnick to write and publish a book, The Greatest Burden The Greatest Blessing.  Lynda inspired me to share our story through this book, hoping that our story could help others when cancer or other diseases change their lives forever. In Lynda’s memory, I commit myself to continuing to work in hospitals and churches to help others through this challenging journey.

 

May 31st was our 54th anniversary. All I could do was take some flowers to her hospital room.  We talked about our life together and promised each other that when she was better, we would take another trip to Aruba or her favorite Island, Bermuda.  Cancer did not defeat her strength and determination.  She sometimes accused me of being in denial; perhaps our conversation on our anniversary was one of those times, but she didn’t say it or show it.

 

She was so proud of our grandchildren and wanted to be a part of their special moments. She couldn’t attend her granddaughter’s graduation, but she saw the video replay and was so proud that Abby was the Master of Ceremonies. She was so proud that she showed the video to any doctor or nurse who came into the room. She was also so proud of her grandson’s success with wrestling and track, and I recently showed her Jack’s pole-vaulting videos from the States. She was so impressed. She will continue to look down and watch Abby and Jack pursue their dreams.

 

I miss you, Lynda, and will continue to miss you every day for the rest of my life.  I will continue to do some of our favorite activities: getting a cup of coffee and sitting at the beach, enjoying the sights and sounds of the waves.  I will watch for your signs that you are with me. Like all the times we got a coffee and a breakfast sandwich or a scone, and we would have seagulls stand at the hood of the car, staring at us, begging for food and bringing a smile to our faces. Even though we are not supposed to do it, I will give them some food and blame you. 


Despite Lynda's pain at the time, she always enjoyed being at the beach and having a cup of caramel macchiato. We would often sit there, whether talking about her cancer, our family and grandchildren, the members of our Mass General support group, or just sitting in silence. She loved being there.

 

Some of you may have heard of the national radio personality Delilah. I had the privilege of knowing her when she was in Boston.  I spoke with her Monday night, and she was helpful and inspirational. She encouraged me to seek help when I needed it and help others when they needed it.  No one has a perfect life; we all have pains and struggles, and as she reminded me the other night, I encourage you, and Lynda encourages you not to go through life’s struggles and pains alone. Get help when you need it, whether from a family member, a friend or sometimes even a stranger.  You are stronger than you think, and you can become stronger with the help of others. 

I love you, Lynda, and will love you and miss you every day for the rest of my life. I will see you someday so that you can remind me of all the things I did wrong in my life. But I won’t complain because you helped me become the best person I could be.  You raised a wonderful family and have two incredible grandchildren. I am forever amazed at how you could do it all, even during these past 11 years through the pain of cancer. 

 

You are and will always be my love and my hero!! I love you and miss you.

 

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