01/14/2014 03:06 EST | Updated 03/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Widower's secret napkin note to dining couple goes viral

A grieving Ontario man's note on a napkin, which alerted a couple he was paying for the pair's meal as an ode to his late wife of 43 years, has gone viral.

Lee Ballantyne is originally from Kirkland Lake, Ont. His wife, Carol, died of lung cancer late last year.

A few days after her death, he ate at an Italian restaurant in Barrie, Ont., where he now lives.

“That was the first time he’d be dining alone without my mom,” said his son, Jason Ballantyne. “They had been married for 43 years.”

During dinner, the grieving widower spotted a younger couple in the restaurant. His son said the couple reminded his father of the times he and his mother had spent together.

“He told the waitress he wanted to pay for their meal and wrote an anonymous note on a napkin that basically said, ‘I lost my wife, I’m hoping this will put a smile on your face and I’m sure my wife would appreciate me making this gesture,’” Jason Ballantyne said.

‘Special relationship’

Not long after leaving the note and paying for the couple's meal, Lee received a message online from a family member who said a picture of the note had appeared on the social media site Reddit.

Days later, Jason Ballantyne said, family members started seeing photos of the note on international news sites, as far away as Australia.

He said he’s not surprised the note was posted online.

“I think it’s the fact that Dad — in the midst of his grief, because it’s a tremendous loss to lose your best friend … of 43 years — was able to look past that grief and make a meaningful gesture on his and mom’s behalf to [people] who reminded him of better times,” Jason Ballantyne said.

He added he’s positive the gesture would make his mother smile.

“I know my mom would be tremendously proud,” he said. “My parents had a very special relationship.”

Carol Ballantyne was 62. She was born in Kirkland Lake where, according to her obituary, she met and later married Lee, her high school sweetheart, in 1970. The couple had three sons and five grandchildren.

The family eventually settled in southern Ontario.