It’s been just over a year since actress and Food Network star Valerie Bertinelli lost her ex-husband Eddie Van Halen to cancer, and since their son, Wolfgang, lost his father. Needless to say, it’s been a devastating experience to process, which is part of the reason Bertinelli wrote a book about it.
The memoir, titled Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today, debuts January 18, and in an excerpt published in the latest issue of People, she details the rock guitarist’s moving final words.
The end of his life “came in slow motion,” she wrote. “When Ed told me that his cancer had spread to his brain, I stared at him, shocked, feeling myself go numb. I can’t imagine being without him.”
It was then that she and Wolfgang—or “Wolfie,” as they call him—began taking turns spending as much time as they could with Van Halen at the hospital. And then, one day, Wolfie called his mother in a panic. “[He] tells me that Ed’s breathing has changed and that I have to get to the hospital ASAP,” Bertinelli recalled.
Soon enough, they were both at his bedside. “‘I love you’ are the last words Ed says to Wolfie and me, and they are the last words we say to him before he stops breathing,” Bertinelli wrote.
The pair sat in silence for 20 minutes, taking in the moment. And then, they started reminiscing on the wonderful memories they shared as a family. “Suddenly, all of us are cracking up,” she wrote. “We laugh—and it is so much better than crying.”
Bertinelli and Van Halen were married for 26 years and divorced in 2007. Two years later, Van Halen married Janie Liszewski; Bertinelli also remarried, tying the knot with Tom Vitale in 2011. Bertinelli and Vitale split in 2021. Despite Bertinelli and Van Halen’s separation, the former couple remained close while co-parenting their son.
Van Halen died on October 6, 2020 at the age of 65. Initially, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer before it eventually moved to his esophagus. In a 2015 interview Billboard, he theorized it was due to the metal picks he held in his mouth, but the guitarist also smoked heavily when he was younger. At the time, he said his lungs were “clear,” but eventually he was diagnosed with lung cancer, too.
Although he and Bertinelli were divorced at the time, she still had immeasurable love for him. “I can’t explain the feelings Ed and I had for each other,” she told People. “I loved him more than I know how to explain and there’s nothing sexual about it. It was more than that. And Ed and I understood that.”
“There is no greater love than what we had between the two of us and with that, we made this beautiful son,” she continued.
“And I miss him. And I’m allowed to miss him,” she told Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on Today in February 2021. “He was a huge part of my life.”
After Van Halen’s death, she shared an emotional tribute in his honor on Instagram. “Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin,” she wrote. “I’m so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments. I will see you in our next life my love.”
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