There I sat, my 3-day-old infant in my arms, trembling in fear as chaos and horror played out in my living room. Muffled by my bedroom door were sirens, chattering voices, and screams that will forever haunt my dreams. Frozen and in a state of shock, all I could see in my mind was the lifeless face of the only man I ever intended to love, his lips white and his body lying on the floor in an unnatural state. “I couldn’t feel a pulse, but he has to be alive,” I told myself. A police officer slowly opened my door and disturbingly made his way to my bed. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the willing arms of family members reaching out for my infant son. As the words “He’s deceased” came out of the officer’s mouth, all went black.
A stray bullet is how the news reported the story, but we will never know the whole truth. The bullet that killed Justin went against pure logic and had a statistical probability of one in infinity. In a drunken stupor, my backyard neighbor fired his 9mm semi-automatic handgun. The bullet managed to travel through his screen door (dodging dozens of trees) over 200 feet to our home. It crashed through our glass door and blinds, continued across our living room, and finally stopped when it hit Justin in the head at the very second he jumped up from our sofa.
We tend to refer to the next day as “the day the music died.” I had a 3-day old-baby and now a dead husband.
It’s been two years since that tragic day, and at 33 years old, I see myself a much sadder but wiser girl. Going through something so horrific and life-altering not only changes the way you see the world, it transforms it. Grief is a very personal thing, and while I would never claim to be an expert on coping, I do know firsthand how to live with it. I like to compare it to a scar. More specifically, an internal scar on your heart and in your mind that follows you everywhere. A dark cloud that hovers over everything good and beautiful for the rest of your life. For one to truly understand the full gravity of the situation, you have to know the story as a whole, not just the ending. Therefore, I must jump back 19 years.
I was barely a teen, a 14-year-old girl in the eighth grade, when I first met and fell in love with Justin Ayers. He could play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix and crack a joke like Jerry Seinfeld. He was a smart, talented, adorable, funny, passionate boy, and I took notice. As I think back on our love story, a specific song lyric comes to mind: “Each night I ask the stars up above, why must I be a teenager in love?” I would sob, “Why can’t we just get married today?” My friends and family (with the exception of my mom) would chuckle at the idea, dismissing us as kids who would grow up and realize it’s just the hormones. But I never once doubted. In 2003 (one year after I graduated high school), we finally tied the knot.
Over the next 10 years, Justin and I made our own rules in life. We had several goals we wanted to pursue, so we decided to wait to start a family, knowing we needed time to grow up. We formed multiple bands, traveled for leisure and work, and wrote and recorded an album together. It was definitely outside the norm, but it was our norm, and we savored it. Then one morning, I woke up and suddenly felt different. I wanted a baby! And Justin agreed. We’d been married for 10 years, and we both knew we were ready to become parents. We got busy between the sheets and in September 2013, I became pregnant with our son, Jax.
On June 14, 2014, I remember looking at my infant son and realizing, “I finally understand!” His hair was…