01/16/2014 02:48 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Grieving Widower's Viral Message Encourages Others To 'Pay It Forward'

When an older gentleman went to dinner at an Ontario restaurant alone for the first time since the death of his wife to cancer, he didn't cry into his menu. Instead, he spotted a young couple, who looked to be in love, and decided to turn his grief into something good.

Lee Ballantyne, who lost his wife of 43 years, Carol, on Dec. 30, told Mail Online that watching the young couple "smile and chat as they studied the menu at first made me envious. But the longer I watched, the more I came to realize they are on the same journey as Carol and I experienced over the years. And they seem to be assured of many happy times along the way."

And so Ballantyne, 65, asked the waiter to put their dinner on his credit card and then he left the couple a touching note on a napkin.

"You don't know me, but my beautiful wife of 43 years died last week. Tonight I dined alone for the first time. You remind me of us many years ago. Please allow me to buy your dinner. It will put a smile on Carol's face and make me happy... for now," he wrote. At the end, he added "pay it forward" as a footnote.

The young couple was apparently overwhelmed with emotion, later managing to track down the kind stranger to thank him for the gesture. They even promised to take him out to dinner to pay him back for his kindness. The Ballantyne family has been bowled over by the response to the incident. A server at the restaurant photographed the note and posted it online and -- in no time -- news of Ballantyne's kindness had traveled around the world.

Carol Ballantyne was only 62 when she died of lung cancer on Dec. 30, 2013. The two met at a Boy Scout dance as teenagers with Carol telling friends afterwards that she had just met the man she was going to marry. And they did marry, in 1970, and later had three children.

Son Jason Ballantyne told CTV that his dad's act was one of love and charity. "Doing something for that other couple made him happy," he said.

For more on the story, watch the video above.