For my sixteenth birthday, I didn’t want a party—unlike other girls my age, I wanted to go to the mall and shop. The day after my birthday was the Fourth of July, and all I cared about was “being fly.” When I got to the mall, I had no idea that in addition to my birthday gear I would also find my future husband.
I can still remember those beautiful brown eyes as he walked on the opposite side of the mall. Yeah, I saw him checking me out. We exchanged smiles and he waved for me to come over. Me being me, I waved for him to come to me. He came over, we introduced ourselves, and enjoyed an afternoon of shopping together—helping each other choose outfits. The moment was spoiled when my brothers approached, loudly, to remind me that we were going to miss the last city bus. My newfound friend smiled and said, “I’ll see you around.” Then he turned to walk away.
I stood there in disbelief watching him leave. My brother tugged at me complaining about possibly missing the bus, but I didn’t care about the bus! I was more concerned about the possibility of me missing out on this cute guy. “He didn’t even ask for my phone number,” I said, annoyed.
“Maybe he didn’t want it,” my brother said, joking and laughing.
I turned back around and yelled at the top of my lungs, “Hey! Aren’t you going to ask for my phone number?” Cute guy turned around, came back, and took my number down. I smiled at my brother, feeling accomplished, while he just shook his head. Look, I know what you are thinking…. And no, I’m not ashamed.
When I got home that day, I could not wait to tell my mama. As soon as I got in the house I said, “Mama, guess what? I met my husband in the mall today.” She quickly shot that down by asking what I was going to do with the guy I was already dating. I told her I never said I was going to marry him.
I waited by the phone all evening for that call. My brother laughed, “I told you he didn’t want your number.” I was heated! I eventually gave up on him calling and went to bed. Early the next morning the phone rang. My mama called out that there was some man on the phone for me. I reached for the phone and said, “Hello.” She stood right there.
The gentleman on the other end asked, “Is this Tammy?”
“Yes, it is.”
“My name is John, and you met my son Tony in the mall yesterday. He came home and said that he had met Mrs. Right, and we want to meet her too.” John then invited me to their Fourth of July cookout. I accepted. And well, as they say, the rest is history. I can honestly say that was one of the best days of my life.
Now image the worst day: Fast forward 32 years. Tony and I are happily married with adult children. We’re planning for retirement and travel, but instead I find my husband unresponsive on the bathroom floor. As a nurse, I know he’s had a seizure, so I rush him to the hospital by ambulance. After extensive testing and MRIs, the doctor walks in, looks at me and says, “Your husband has level 4 Glioblastoma.” He goes on to say, “He maybe has a year.” I continued to stare at him, but I don’t remember anything else after that moment.
For the next two years and one month, I cared for my husband at home, watching what I thought were my dreams dying right in front of me. On March 20, 2022, it felt as if they did. My husband lost his battle to brain cancer. Initially, I felt defeated; my emotions were all over the place. But one day I thought about what Tony would want for me. I was able to talk to God and let Him know that I wanted to spend the rest of my life honoring my husband but not grieving him.
So, I started a foundation in his honor for brain tumor patients. This foundation has been able to help individuals with treatment and other community resources. And it has brought me so much joy being able to assist individuals with the same diagnosis as Tony while honoring his memory. Helping others has been pivotal in my healing process. Who would have ever thought I could find joy in my grieving?Leave a Comment