Tony’s illness and death brought me to my knees. Not many things could do that before, or since. The pain has been indescribable. My life and the boys’ lives have not been the same.  

As painful as this has been…as hard as this has been…it begs the question: would I do it all again? Would I have fallen in love with my handsome, smiley chocolate Hub?

Are you crazy? I say to myself. Why would I?

I’ve even had people ask me: If you knew what you would go through, what would happen, would you have married him in the first place?

Three years of going between medical places, home, and work. Doctors’ appointments, surgery centers, waiting rooms. Eating food in hospital cafeterias. Sleeping in reclining chairs. Glaring and/or yelling at doctors and nurses to clean him, fix him, help him somehow.

Worst of all, silently begging Tony to get better. Beat this shit that’s trying to kill you. Then muffling my sobs in the bathroom or behind the closed door of the bedroom we should have been sharing.

Who’d want to do THAT again?

How about having to sit for hours next to his hospital bedside, listening to doctors and nurses saying things slightly louder than a whisper: “It’s not looking good.” or “What else can we try?” or “Let’s call in Dr. So and So and see what he thinks.” or “Should we ask her what she like to do?” (she being me.)

What about having to figure out how to plan a funeral service with the input of people who weren’t there to help you until this point. Being told “what he’d want” or “here’s what I think you should do.”

Are you kidding me?

Or, trying to navigate life as a solo parent, while trying to work through your grief, developing anxiety and depression in the process? Working to keep all of the bills paid, alone and emotionally supporting your grieving sons?

Who would volunteer for ANY of that?

Me. I would. I would do it all again.

Because of what happened before and even during his illness, I would.

I certainly would.

Tony was not perfect, but he was perfect for me. His smile lit up a room, but he only had eyes for me.

He wasn’t a romantic guy in the sense that he bought me flowers and gifts all of the time. But when he wanted to express his feelings for me, he’d go to a store and search out a greeting card that would say it all. He always picked the perfect cards for me by spending time thinking about what he wanted to say.  I kept every one. They are like love letters to me.

To have a man bare his heart and soul to me because he loves me so…I would do it all again.

I would always say that he was cheap to the point of strangling Lincoln on the pennies in his pocket, but I grew to understand that this was his way of taking care of his family. He didn’t spend tons of money on things. He saved it up so that we could have experiences. Rent a car and take day trips. Visit aquariums and museums. See new cities. Try new beaches. Eat different kinds of foods. Meet new people.  He wanted to experience things he didn’t get to as a child, and he wanted to experience them with me and the boys.

To have more experiences with him…I’d do it all again.

When he became sick, he relied on me even more to make decisions, translate “doctor speak,” and make there was no slacking when it came to his care. He would beam with pride while he watched me rake people over the coals. His favorite thing to say was, “You better check with my wife before you do a damned thing to me!” In fact, the best part of my day was to see that huge grin on his face when I came to sit with him. His “Hey Baby! How ya doin’?” was worth everything to me.

Besides…” in sickness and in health,” does that ring a bell?

As for widowed parenting, Tony left our boys in my care, completely confident that I would bring them up best I could. I believe I have fulfilled his expectations.

I was given the honor and privilege of loving and caring for him. In doing so, I came to understand what real strength is. He had it. He taught me all about it. I absorbed some of his strength for myself and built my own up.

Yes. Without a doubt or a second’s hesitation, I would do it all again.



Cheryl Barnes was born in Atlanta, Georgia and after several moves with her family, settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended college at Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in Public and Environmental Affairs Management. While she attended college, she laid eyes on Martin “Tony” Barnes and was completely lost. They became inseparable and were married on December 24th, 1991. After five years of marriage, their first son, Malcolm, was born on New Year’s Eve, 1991. After Tony obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Work, the family moved to Orlando, Florida. Tony worked as a counselor, while Cheryl got her dream job working at Walt Disney World. Two years later, their second son, Miles, was born in July 2004. Cheryl left Disney and took a job in accounting at a property management company. Everything seemed to be going well for the family and Cheryl made plans to attend nursing school. However, in July 2011, Tony was diagnosed with end stage renal failure caused by lupus. For the next three years, Cheryl cared for her husband while taking care of the boys and working. Tony’s health deteriorated as a result of several complications until he passed away on August 29, 2014. Thus began her new journey as a widow and solo parent.
Cheryl was devastated at the loss of her beloved Tony, but continued to work and care for their sons as she had before. As a way to work through her grief, she started writing, at first, only for herself. But, being encouraged by others, she began publishing her blog, “Widowness and Light.” Along with writing and being involved with several widows groups on Facebook while raising her boys, she works as a training bookkeeper at an association management company.
She plans to go back to school and obtain a Master’s in Social Work so that she can help other widowed persons cope with their losses. She is also working on a book about her grief journey.
Her hobbies are reading, attending Orlando Magic games, yoga, going to the beach, and just chilling with her boys.
Additionally, she is also the founder of Black and Widowed: A Unique Journey, a Private Facebook group and a contributing author of the book, Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle and Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women.
You can also reach Cheryl through her public Facebook page, Widowness and Light, which is based on her widowed journey.