Meat Loaf's wife, Deborah Aday, is cherishing the loving memories of her late husband as she mourns his passing.
The Grammy-winning rocker died on Thursday while surrounded by his wife, daughters Amanda and Pearl and close friends. He was 74.
In an exclusive statement shared with PEOPLE, Aday says: "The grief I feel over the loss of my husband is gut-wrenching. I was lying close to Michael when he took his last breath and my sadness is beyond words. I've always called him by his given name because I didn't see him as 'Meat.' I feel much gratitude for the outpouring of love I have received from around the world."
She continues, "He meant so much to so many people, and it gave me joy to be able to share him with the world. As his wife, I also want everyone to know how much he meant to me as a husband."
Dennis Clark/Getty Meat loaf and Deborah Gillespie
Aday fondly describes her love story with the musician, saying, "For me, it was always about him. From the day we met, he was my world and I loved him. There wasn't a day that went by that we didn't tell the other how much we loved them. Not a day that we didn't hug each other."
Cameron Richardson/Newspix/Getty Meat Loaf
The couple tied the knot in 2007 and were married for nearly 15 years at the time of Meat Loaf's death.
"Some of my fondest memories will always be about how we so often laughed, and how we brought out the silliness and playfulness in each other," she says. "Michael was a hugger–such a physically affectionate and kind man, and I'm grateful that he brought out those traits in me."
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Andre Csillag/Shutterstock Meat Loaf
Aday also explains why she never got married before meeting her late husband.
"I waited until later in life to get married because I was waiting for the right man," she says. "And oh boy, was he ever the right man for me! I realize how blessed I am to have shared my life with such an incredible person. He didn't hesitate to let me know how much I was appreciated, and often sweetly told me, 'You're a good wife.' I will miss hearing that."
She adds, "Our life together was an adventure. He was my best friend, my confidant, my lover and I miss him terribly already. As much as my heart is in pain right now, my heart is also so full of the love and glory we shared together. I will love you forever, Michael."
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Meat Loaf's daughter, Amanda Aday, previously spoke to PEOPLE about her late father's death, revealing that she and sister Pearl rushed to Nashville to be with him after receiving a call informing them that his health "was declining very rapidly, more rapidly than expected."
"As soon as we could, we just went to his bedside at the hospital and just sat with him and held his hand," Amanda recalled, adding that she is "very thankful" that both she and her sister had a chance to see their father before he died.
Amanda said she hopes her father will be remembered for all of his talents, both on and off the stage. "He was a singer, he was an actor, he was a father, a husband, he was a grandpa," she said. "It was Papa Meat to my nephew. He was everything."