Chris Cornell‘s family is honoring the rocker’s legacy.
The Soundgarden frontman’s widow, Vicky Karayiannis Cornell, exclusively shares with PEOPLE a poignant, heartfelt letter she has written to her late husband.
Cornell was only 52 years old when he died last Wednesday; a medical examiner ruled his death suicide by hanging. Just hours before his body was found in his Detroit hotel room, Cornell played what would be his final concert with Soundgarden at the Fox Theatre.
His suicide remains a mystery, as family and friends say he was in good spirits in the days leading up to his death. And, as the family’s lawyer, Kirk Pasich, told PEOPLE in a statement last week: “Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”
Cornell’s family — Karayiannis Cornell, daughter Toni, 12, and son Christopher, 11, as well as daughter Lillian, 16, from his previous marriage to Susan Silver — will lay the musician to rest at an L.A. funeral service Friday.
RELATED: Chris Cornell’s Life in Photos
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Below, Karayiannis Cornell’s full letter to her late husband, in which she recounts their nearly 15-year love story — and tells him, “you can rest in peace.”
To My Sweet Christopher,
I met you on a starry Paris night in January 2003 at Hotel Plaza Athénée after I received a call about Audioslave’s under-the-radar, after-show party for the following night. I remember being introduced to you, and how your eyes pierced through me.
The next day was your show, which I did not attend. I met up with everyone at your after party, and realizing I wasn’t at the show you dryly asked, “Well, where were you? Out having a sandwich?” We sat, a bunch of us. I recall you ordering fois gras and me asking if you were sure you knew what you were ordering. You always had such eloquent taste.
Someone was asking who was the most beautiful girl at L’Avenue. You got up in front of everyone, looked all around, and came back and pointed at me. We talked that night until the sun came up, and it was time for you to leave for the next city. You called me the very next day and three days later we found ourselves together in London.
I remember how you ran in, fearful I had left because you were late from Zane Lowe’s show and you were meeting me for tea time. At the time I thought I must be careful and tried to distance my heart from falling in love with you.
But you didn’t let that happen. You zigzagged back and forth across the world to visit me. You were permanently jet-lagged because you couldn’t bear our time away from each other.
I finally came to visit you in New York on the 2003 Lollapalooza tour and threw your 39th birthday party. A few weeks later, I was on Mykonos, and you were still on Lollapalozza, singing to me over the phone, “Oh sweet Ms. Vicky, won’t you come and marry me.” I didn’t know what to think other than I loved you, and I was all in.
I flew to L.A. with my mom the day before my birthday in August. You gave me the most beautiful surprise, from flowers, candles, and balloons everywhere, to wrapped boxes of all shapes and sizes, like it was Christmas. You made me feel like a princess.
You moved into the Beverly Hills Hotel because I was staying there. You woke up one morning doing flips on the bed. You asked me to come sit with you, and you said you had to take your necklace back. I thought no — why? But you proceeded to cut it off and take the silver ring it was on. You said, “I woke up and I had the strangest vision of doing this. I’m not prepared with a real ring but I want to marry you.” The ring fit perfectly and while you surprised me with a Harry Winston several weeks later, I could not bear to take it off, and I used it as my wedding band. The two always represented how different you and I were, but how perfectly we fit together.
I remember doing the civil wedding, and how you cried. I had never met such a sensitive and special man.
We had our beautiful babies, and you were convinced we were soul mates, that you had been looking for me. I’m so happy you found me. I’m so happy for the near 14½ years we spent together. We did everything together, literally, everything. You were my best friend, and when I wasn’t out on tour, we were on the phone at least four hours a day.
You were the best father, husband, and son-in-law to my parents. Your patience, empathy, and love always shown through.
You had always said I saved you, that you wouldn’t be alive if it were not for me. My heart gleamed to see you happy, living, and motivated. Excited for life. Doing everything you could to give back. We had the time of our lives in the last decade. I’m sorry, my sweet love, that I did not see what happened to you that night, I’m sorry you were alone, and I know that was NOT you, my sweet Christopher. Your children know that too, so you can Rest In Peace.
I’m broken, but I will stand up for you and I will take care of our beautiful babies. I will think of you every minute of every day and I will fight for you. You were right when you said we are soul mates. It has been said that paths that have crossed will cross again, and I know that you will come find me, and I will be here waiting.
I love you more than anyone has ever loved anyone in the history of loving and more than anyone ever will.
Always and forever,