One of the happiest days of my life was on July 22, 1989, the day that I married and pledged my eternal love to Maury, the love of my life.
On April 3, 1993, Maury and I were blessed with another joyful event – the birth of our beautiful daughter, Jasmyne Gabrielle.
On July 11, 1996, joy found us again with the birth of our handsome son, Maury Louis II.
Through the years, we experienced many more joyful moments. To say I am grateful for the time we shared is an understatement. Without a doubt our joyful moments outweighed the not so joyful moments. Healthy marriages experience highs and lows and moments to learn and reflect, which is helpful for the growth of any relationship. We were no different than many couples.
Life’s Highs and Lows
It is true that life is fraught with many highs and lows and moments that are good and not so good. During our lives, we experienced many of those situations – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even though I had many joyful moments over my lifetime, I wasn’t prepared for the saddest moment to come, which was the absolute worst gut-wrenching experience of my life.
On December 12, 2022, my life partner, loving husband, strong protector/provider, and doting father of my children passed away. For over 30 years, he had chronic kidney disease (CKD), but managed it for most of his adult life while under doctor’s care. The COVID-19 disease was the catalyst for taking his life, which really broke my heart because he was such a vibrant man, full of life, and was never sick.
When he passed away, it was shocking, and it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. His vital signs were not good when I took him to the emergency room on December 2. Despite the numbers, I expected him to make a full recovery and get back to golfing and the other activities he loved. I expected him to come back to me.
I made plans with the hospital staff to find a dialysis center for him to go to after he was discharged. I thought about what we needed to do to make sure he kept his dialysis appointments. I wanted to do whatever it took for him to succeed.
When I got the call from the hospital on December 12 that he was in cardiac arrest, it was like I was in a false reality. It didn’t seem real, and I could not grasp what the doctor told me. I felt like I had an out of body experience and like my soul briefly left me. The CKD and COVID-19 worked against him causing double pneumonia. When the team tried to intubate him for ventilation, his heart simply stopped. They revived him, but his heart stopped once more never to beat again.
Love Can Move Mountains
When I took him to the emergency room on December 2, even though his vitals were grave he did not look sick. The doctor said emergency hemodialysis was necessary. He did not want that. I explained to him that I needed him to do it to save his life and when they discharge him from the hospital, we could switch him from hemodialysis to peritoneal dialysis, which was his preferred method of treatment. I needed him to live, but after thinking everything through, Maury did not want the emergency hemodialysis, and only did it because I begged him to. My love and desire for him to live was very strong. I was not ready for him to leave me. He agreed to do the emergency hemodialysis because of his love for me. I truly believe he did not want a life to include dialysis or a transplant that his body may reject.
I always saw Maury as a strong and mighty man. He was my knight in shining armor. The one who would protect and provide for me from the day he pledged his life and love to me in marriage. I cling to moments where he was so supportive of all of my endeavors as well as our children’s accomplishments. Our life wasn’t perfect, but we were perfect for one another. Our love was deep and strong for over 33 years. I will forever be grateful to him for choosing me to be his.
I felt safe with him. Even though he was a fifth degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do, he was always gentle with me. He was not loud or boastful about his accomplishments or what he did for others. In fact, he was a humble man and never bragged about his brilliance or intelligence.
I believe that God made him for me and me for him. Though he is not here physically, his spirit will always be with me to protect and guide me. Although I understand the spiritual implications of what I’m going through, that doesn’t make the reality of the situation easier.
When we lose a loved one, grief and mourning can look and feel different for each person. There are times when I am sad, and I cry and other times when I laugh about something he said or did. My grief has been a rollercoaster of emotions.
My Grief Stages
What I’ve come to understand about grief is that it comes in stages. I have experienced anger, guilt, anxiety, feeling strange, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, feeling disorganized, and exhaustion. Even in my moments of sadness, I’m fortunate to have never felt a day of hopelessness, which is very important. Ironically, when he went to the emergency room on Friday, December 2, I was preparing to start my new position at Princeton University on Monday, December 5.
I had to pull it together as best as I could, and he was very supportive of me starting my new job and sent me a message wishing me well, which filled my spirit with joy. He was in the hospital fighting for his life but still found the strength to wish me well. I owe him so much for that, and I felt that was very courageous and selfless of him.
The grieving process is slow and steady for me. Some days I feel alright and other days not so good. I let myself feel all of the feelings associated with grieving without holding back. It’s healthy to feel all aspects of grieving so that feelings are not suppressed, which can cause emotional distress.
At first, I was shocked and denied he left. I was not ready to let him go. I couldn’t see my life without him physically in it. When you spend most of your adult life with a person, the thought of them not being there is inconceivable. I had pick to up the pieces of my broken life and face my new reality.
After the shock of losing the love of my life, came the emotional flood of pain and anger. The pain was so great at times I physically felt my heartbeat change and my blood pressure elevate. In addition, my appetite changed, I had sleepless nights, and was exhausted. Anxiety crept in as well as feeling disorganized and out of control for the simplest tasks. I still have bouts with anxiety but have learned to manage those moments better. I felt like I was robbed of having more time with him, which was why I was angry.
Moving into a new life has been a challenge because it feels like part of me is missing. In a sense, that is true because I feel like my husband was literally my other half. I pray every day for strength to get through each day, and it really has helped. The prayers of family and friends has helped too. I truly feel their prayers and get strength and energy from them.
Maintaining activities is very important. It’s critical to be active in life when you lose a loved one because it’s so easy to close yourself off to people and become recluse. Because I’m an ambivert who leans mostly toward being an introvert, I have moments when I love being in my space enjoying my alone time, but I make it a point to see people and enjoy every aspect of life outside of my house that I can.
I have finally come to the point of accepting the fact that I’m now a widow. Even now, I struggle with saying that word however, I understand that is my reality. He won’t be coming back physically to be with me, but I will always have him in spirit. That does bring me some joy because my superhero has become supernatural. I’m reminded of him everywhere I look in our home. Whether it’s pictures, the furniture we sat on or things he has fixed – everything is a reminder of my husband, and I’m grateful for the reminders because I loved him very much.
I’m triggered by little things like music, old pictures, videos, and text messages. The triggers are not bad, I just have to settle into the feelings that come when I experience those things. I listen to music daily because it calms me. We both liked listening to music together. Certain songs that I listen to remind me of him, and when I close my eyes and think of him as certain songs play, I go to the moments we had while listening to those songs. Those moments make me happy.
Staying Connected with People
During this mourning process, I met some very supportive people. My new friends/co-workers at Princeton University are genuine and treat me with kindness as I go through the worst time of my life. I believe timing is everything and starting the position at Princeton allowed me to be in a safe comforting and understanding space. My co-workers exceeded my expectations on how I would be received by the department under the circumstances. Their kindness was more than I imagined. I only started working for one week before I had to leave due to my husband’s passing and through all of the heartache and pain, their kindness helped lift my spirits.
My family and friends were absolutely amazing during this time, and they continue to be. They provided support by being with me, visiting me, sending donations, cooking for me, ordering food, sending plants and floral arrangements, taking me out to eat, going to concerts with me and just being available means the world to me. I must admit that I’ve been humbled in this experience because I am so independent that it’s hard for me to accept help. I allowed myself to give in and let people to help me especially since I have never experienced this before.
The support of Maury’s work friends, golf friends, friends from Tae Kwon Do, and our friends from church has been wonderful. He was well liked and well-loved and that gives me encouragement and makes me so proud. Their presence and participation at his funeral and the beautiful cards and gifts we received will always be cherished.
Learning to Live a New Life
Thanksgiving will never be the same. Christmas will never be the same. New Year’s Eve and Day will never be the same. Birthdays, our anniversary, and many other life events will never be the same, but I feel it is time to create new family traditions in memory of my husband.
Grief is an ongoing process with no foreseeable end date. However, through the pain, I see and feel joy. I see and feel hope. I see and feel love. Participating in activities with family and friends gives me more joy than I could have ever imagined. My grandson, Jru, gives me joy in our video chats and when I see him. The love and support I feel from my daughter, son-in-law, and son gives me immeasurable joy. The prayers, texts, calls, and social media posts have been amazing.
This is a pain that I would not wish on anyone, but I understand that there’s nothing special about me that I shouldn’t experience what many others have. I am a human being like everyone else, and the one thing I asked God is to let me feel everything I’m supposed to in this process and not suppress anything. It’s completely healthy to go through the full mourning process.
Life will definitely not be the same, but I’m writing a new chapter in which I will carry him with me. I am grateful to God that he allowed me to experience the love of a lifetime. I feel privileged and honored that Maury and I found each other and had over 33 years of marriage together. I’m truly grateful for our love, and I will never take that for granted. I have wept and experienced joy in the same space. Psalm 30:5 has always been my favorite scripture. I am confident that I will continue to grow and learn new things about myself during this time. For me, joy has come in the morning, while mourning, and will remain after mourning. Sleep in peace, Maury my love, until we see each other again. My love for you remains the same.
Live, laugh, love, and pray.
God Bless You with Good Health and Wellness,
Antoinette Shar’ron Johnson