I knew my husband pretty well, I think. When someone is your soulmate…and he was…I believe I know what he’d say to me about me. He used to say some of these things directly to me, so I’m pretty confident that the following is pretty accurate: 


You know, I didn’t want to leave my family. I definitely didn’t want to leave my wife. She took such good care of me since the day she met me. I couldn’t believe that a woman would do that for a man. My mother certainly didn’t take care of her men or her sons. But my wife did. She cooked, cleaned, worked, cared for our boys and made sure we all had what made us happy. I think seeing us happy made her even happier.


I belonged to her the moment we met even though I denied it to myself. I didn’t find out until I got here that she felt exactly the same way. She even prayed I would fall for her. Of course I did. She has a kind and loving heart…how could I resist that? We belonged together and we knew it. But… we fought like cats and dogs. I yelled. She threw things and broke things. We both packed up our stuff and tried to leave each other at one point or another. But we could never ever leave each other.  Being separately was physically painful for us. So we rarely were apart. During the day I called her to ask her things or to tell her things just to hear her voice. I know she’d get so irritated sometimes when I did that but I think she realized at some point why I called her so much. 


She isn’t much of a talker but I made up for it. I knew that when she had something to say, she’d say it. She was a very thoughtful person that way. So I always shut up and listened when she talked. When she  finished talking, I was very rarely disappointed.  She almost always made sense. I could never deny that, as much as I wanted to sometimes. She knew me better than I wanted to admit.

When I got sick, I frankly didn’t know what to do. I was frozen with the beginnings of fear. She did what she always did in a crisis and I faltered…she took charge and demanded that I get in the car so she could drive me to straight to the ER. When the doctor gave us the diagnosis, I saw the fear and pain in her eyes. But I only saw it for a second.  Strength and determination replaced the fear and pain almost immediately. I think she held on for me more than she did for herself. I was afraid and she knew it. But she wasn’t going to show me her fear. My baby is a tough lady.

As my illness progressed and took more out of me, my wife grew stronger. She managed me and my health, a full-time job, raising our boys and taking care of the responsibilities that used to be mine. I sincerely hated that she did so much. I was her husband…working hard was my job. It hurt my soul to see how tired she was. She tried to hide her pain and exhaustion from me but I knew her better than she knew herself. She was far more concerned for me than herself. I felt so bad about that.

When I was dying, she told me that she’d be okay and that she’d take care of our boys. She kept reassuring me that she would be alright. To be honest, I know her well enough to understand that she thought she was saying that for me.  But she was saying it for herself. I already knew she’d be alright. She’s a strong woman. I had no doubt in my mind that our boys were going to be alright in her loving and capable hands. I knew that once she was ready, she would pull herself up and keep it moving. I know my lady.

Malcolm, my oldest son…I am so proud of him, yet so disappointed. He’s smart like his mother. He’s handsome. He’s kind and loving too. I have always had such hopes for him…I still do. He’s my oldest son. I expect a lot from him. I know that my death shook his world up. I wish I could have prevented that. The fact that he blames my death and his mother for how his life is going upsets me so much. I see her struggling so much to keep things going for the boys and the way Malcolm treats her…if I were there I’d have jacked him up like I had to when he was younger. I keep trying to reach him but his anger is blocking me.  Still, I love my boy like crazy and I miss him. I hope he starts hearing me soon. I want to help him like I would if I were there.

Miles…my buddy Mr. Miles. He is very different from Malcolm. I didn’t realize how different until I got to Heaven. When Miles was struggling in school, that was the first time she truly looked to me for advice and I was so happy to give it to her. Then I did my best to guide my wife to get him the help he needs. I think that she also figured out that Miles is very close to me …sometimes I’ll whisper things for him to say to her that she’s only heard from me. She looked shocked the first time I did it but now she smiles knowingly. She knows it’s me and often thanks me for doing that. 

I hate that she has all of the burdens we planned to share. I hate that she feels so alone and scared. I really hate that she feels that she’s failing with everything. When I try to let her know that I’m here and that she’s never alone, she’s so pained she can’t hear me. That is the worst feeling. At the times she needs me the most, that’s when she has the hardest time hearing me. So I have to work a little harder to get through to her. That’s probably not allowed but I love her so much I’ll try anything…songs, talking through Miles, lines in a book, even words on posts on Facebook! So she knows I’m there all the time when I do that. I hope she doesn’t forget that.

I am so sorry I made my wife a widow. I’ve seen how difficult that life is. I never expected that we would be separated so soon. We had plans, things to do. But I would never trade any of our time together…the good as well as the bad.   Since she’s become a widow I have seen some changes in her that make me so proud of how she is living her life without me.  She is going to accomplish all of those things we talked about doing together and some things she doesn’t even realize she wants to do yet. She’s seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and I am so happy about that. I never had a doubt that she would either.

Though it goes without saying, I still love her as much as she loves me, even if we are apart for now.

She is my heart and I am hers. There will be no forgetting that.

Anyway, I’ve probably said enough. I just wanted to let her know that I’m always with her, even when she doesn’t think so. I am so proud of her and the things she has accomplished in the past five years.  She has so much to give and I can’t wait for her to see that too. Her heart is so beautiful it shines all the way to where I am and I can’t wait to share the rest of eternity with her.


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.