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During a business meeting today in regards to my husband’s recent death, I was stunned by the comment that a stranger directed at me. Through eyes glistening with tears, she said, “My heart aches for you and I’m so moved by your grace during this difficult time. It’s obvious that you are sad and grieving, but your composure is amazing.” Hmmm. I’ve heard a variation of this a few times over the last 26 days from family and friends, but hearing it from a stranger gave me pause. I can hear my husband’s voice in my ear, as if he were still lying beside me in our bed. “Girl, you’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. You don’t see it, but everybody else does.” Ironically, one of MrTDJ’s favorite Whitney Houston songs was, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”. That’s one of the songs that has been on repeat over the last couple of weeks.

I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster that seems surreal and dizzying most days, but I suppose my internal struggles aren’t visible to the world. I feel as if my heart has been shattered into a trillion pieces and there’s no such repair kit available. I’ve always heard the term that everyone grieves differently, and now I actually understand what that means. As the minutes, hours, days and weeks begin to pass, the loss of my life partner has actually gotten harder. Since I’m an event planner by trade, my brain outvoted my heart and I put on my business hat to make it through the moments and days right after his death. I’ve not really allowed my deepest emotions to show because it’s been easier to focus on the “to do” actions.

Our love was strong, flaws and all. There are moments when I simply crave the perfect imperfections of my life prior to June 9. Allow me a few minutes to talk about my dear MrTDJ. Often in death, the deceased is unintentionally canonized into a model of perfection. Um, no. Not gonna happen here. No one walking this earth lives as such and I don’t seek any such illusions for my husband. My statement isn’t meant to color him in a negative light, rather to say that he was as imperfect a creature as any of us.

When he and I met, we were both young and new to love however we knew from the beginning that we’d found something special in one another. Folks around us weren’t quite as certain because we appeared to be polar opposites, but we naively and innocently dug our heels in pushed forward. From 1992 to the morning that my husband passed away, humor united our hearts. Laughter stayed at the core of our relationship, through all the highs and lows that a twenty year relationship can traverse. Thinking back, I can’t help but smile at the memory of teaching MrTDJ to tie a necktie, and in return, he taught me to shoot dice. LOL! See what I mean? We were so different, yet alike in the areas that mattered.

I am so happy to have shared the milestones of my youth and adulthood with my husband. I am blessed with a son who looks just like his father. Looking into my son’s face, I am transported back to the hallways of T.C. Williams High School and the first time that I laid eyes on my husband. There are moments when the similarities between the two are a little too much for my fragile heart, but I am hoping that one day those things will bring me nothing but joy. As a testament to the strength that he believed I possessed and with the support of my family, friends, neighbors, listserve and facebook friends, and this amazing blog community, I am holding it together minute by minute. I’m wearing clean clothes, keeping my pedicure fresh and not crying in line at Sam’s club. Being told that I look composed, graceful and calm is a good thing, I suppose. But please don’t let the glowing skin that’s due to consuming more water than food in the last month fool you into thinking that I’m ok. My wounds are deep and raw.

Monday, July 2 was my 36th birthday and I was without MrTDJ for the first time since 1992. He and I celebrated my 16th birthday with Good Humor bars from his neighborhood ice cream truck, and he gave me a shiny new “Virginia is for Lovers” key chain as a gift. I wanted to write a little something for a few days, but Monday took me to a low place and I wasn’t yet ready. Today I felt compelled to write. I debated if I wanted to write in my journal, or share things on the blog. Words have always brought me peace and comfort, so I decided that a blog entry might be a baby step toward my healing. MrTDJ was my biggest fan and always encouraged me to write something every day, whether I shared it with no one, him or the world. He even mailed me an actual “fan” letter once. That dude. ***deep sigh***

My husband was known for his loving heart, his quick wit and certainly his smile. Do a little something for me, would ya? Please share a laugh and a smile with someone today. Tell someone you haven’t talked to in forever how much you miss and love them. And, if you wouldn’t mind, please continue sending all the positive energy and prayers.

Taya Dunn Johnson,


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