Robert Rice was determined to see his wife, but he couldn’t do it alone.

Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when you’ve been by their side for most of your life. But imagine knowing your loved one could pass away any day now, and you can’t get to them to say goodbye?

That was the awful situation a San Bernardino Mountains resident found himself in a few weeks ago when a massive snowstorm stranded him at his home.

Why One Veteran Wasn’t Able to Visit His Dying Wife

cabin surrounded and covered by snow
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Vietnam War combat vet Robert Rice was used to the snowy landscape around this time of year in Running Springs, California.

The 79-year-old had lived there for more than 40 years, and when this particular storm started in late February, he was stocked up on food for his Labrador retriever, Ranger, as well as soups, chili, and an extra canister of gasoline and a generator in the garage.

What he wasn’t prepared for was to learn that his wife, Ann Rice, was nearing the end of her life. For the past five years, Ann had lived 27 miles away at a skilled nursing facility, where she was dealing with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and cancer. Now, carbon dioxide was building up in her lungs, and the doctors didn’t think she had long to live, as per the New York Times.

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“We just kind of came to accept the fact that he wasn’t going to be there, and we were trying to prepare him for that,” Rice’s daughter, Shelly Renison, told the publication. “He was in denial. He kept thinking he’d figure out a way to get himself down here.”

Rice kept trying to shovel the driveway enough to squeeze his car out, but it was fruitless.

“It was snowing so hard, it just didn’t do any good,” he said. “It was almost like a blizzard condition; wind was blowing, and I just couldn’t keep up with it.”

The Desperate Plea a 79-Year-Old Man Made on Facebook

With each day that passed, Rice grew more worried. The doctors were giving his wife blood transfusions and had found a way to dispel the carbon dioxide through Ann’s ventilator, but it was still a matter of time. Meanwhile, nobody could get out of their snowed-in driveways, and everyone in the region was stuck at home.

By the beginning of March, the bay window in Rice’s living room began cracking under the weight of the snow, and things looked pretty hopeless. Some friends came over with shovels, but it was no use. Three days later, the publication reports that doctors recommended Rice stop medical intervention.

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“I sat there and thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s going to die before I get there,’” he recalled.

So, he did something completely against his reclusive nature, and he went on social media to ask for help on a local Facebook group.

“I never thought I would have to do this. Here goes,” he wrote. “My wife Ann is in a skilled nursing facility down the hill. She does not have long to go. I can’t even get down to say goodbye. Is there anyone who can help with my driveway. It’s about half done, needs to be wider so I can back my small car up. I’m an Army Vietnam veteran and retired LEO. This is very embarrassing for me to even ask for help. Sorry.”

The Overwhelming Response One Man Received on His Facebook Post

Rice had included his number in the post, and his phone soon started ringing. People wanted to drop off food or donate money for a hotel near Ann. Firefighters came by for a wellness check. At least five neighbors showed up with shovels. And dozens of people shared support in the comments of the initial post, offering extra help and telling Rice he had nothing to be embarrassed about.

“I was hoping that people wouldn’t think I sound corny,” Rice recalled. “There were other people who probably needed the help more than me.”

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Eventually, one neighbor showed up with a tractor and a front loader bucket. Three hours later, they had a small path carved out. Rice tried to back his Chevrolet Trax out of the garage, but that path was still too narrow, so he shoveled for another two hours, broadening the space.

Finally, after many agonizing days, he was on his way to see his wife.

How One Veteran Proved It’s Okay to Ask For Help

For someone like Robert Rice, being vulnerable is hard. As a vet, the man learned early on that if he got close to someone, that person could be gone the next day. So he’s always had a hard time letting people in, as per the NY Times article. But when it really, really mattered, he knew he had to ask for help. Otherwise, he might always regret it.

So often, people want to help others in need, but they aren’t sure how. That’s why, sometimes, asking for help is just as important as giving it is. Yes, this is a lovely story of a community coming together, but it’s also a story of a man who faced one of his biggest fears for love.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with a work project, the kids, planning a big event like a wedding or a shower, or even just life in general, remember Robert Rice. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it, and people may surprise you by really coming through in unexpected ways. After all, we’re all in this thing called life together.