Nova Scotia

Halifax woman plans unforgettable gift for her husband to find after her death

After Randy Tresidder found the present left by his wife, Shelly Sarwal, he says he 'basically just sat there crying most of the morning.'

'I basically just sat there crying most of the morning,' says Randy Tresidder

Randy Tresidder and his wife Shelly Sarwal. Sarwal received a medically assisted death a year ago at the age of 48. (YouTube)

Of course, he knew his wife was extraordinarily thoughtful, loving and kind.

And he knew she was super organized — so much so that she planned and attended her own funeral so she could "enjoy the shindig," according to her obituary.

But what Randy Tresidder didn't know — and what his wife, Dr. Shelly Sarwal, had meticulously planned and carefully hidden for months before her death — was that she had prepared a one-of-a-kind goodbye gift for him to find after she was gone.

Sarwal, a Halifax physician, died a year ago at the age of 48 after being diagnosed with multiple system atrophy, an incurable disease. Her medically assisted death on Aug. 31, 2018, was followed by the donation of her organs, including her brain.

For more than half a year before she died, Sarwal had secretly been working with musician Meaghan Smith to create a song written and composed for Tresidder.

The song, called Take Your Love, is filled with the details of the couple's life — having tea in the kitchen, going for walks with their beloved dog, Ira, the fact that she wore a purple dress on their wedding day, that he would sing the wrong lyrics to songs.

Tressider told the CBC's Maritime Noon he discovered the song wrapped up under Sarwal's desk the morning after her death.

"I was by myself in the office and, you know, I didn't really have to leave the office all morning, so I basically just sat there crying most of the morning."

Listening to the song now is sad, but also joyful, Tressider said.

When Smith first received Sarwal's request to work on a song, she didn't think it was real.

"I thought this is just some random crazy request.… It must be a joke," she said.

But once she realized that Sarwal was serious, she wanted to get involved.

"She was really struggling with knowing how to say goodbye to Randy and I wanted to try and help," Smith said.

Smith and Sarwal met every couple of weeks to hash out lyrics.

"I loved going and visiting her just to be able to be with her," Smith said. "She was so open. I could ask her anything about her life and dying and what she believed and what she thought … and she was so honest and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life to get to know her."

Sarwal was a physician in Halifax. After her death, her organs, including her brain, were donated. (Submitted by Randy Tresidder)

Aside from the song, Sarwal also left Tressider an eight-page "to do" list — and even a "to don't" list.

Those lists are helping Tressider move forward without Sarwal, including these instructions: "No man bun, don't get grumpy and continue to love."

A documentary called Her Last Project chronicling Sarwal's end-of-life journey premieres this fall at the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival in Halifax.





Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at

With files from Maritime Noon


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