‘Sweetie, do you have someone you can call?’ I ask, ‘Is he going to die? OMG, I have to tell my boys.’: After losing husband to sudden stroke, widow finds love again, ‘When we first hugged, he was like home to me’

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“‘How long Maria? MARIA, how long?,’ the doctor said.  It was like he was snapping me out of some kind of fog. I answered him in a snarky tone. ‘Well, till he gets better.’ But I’m actually thinking, ‘Why would this asshole ask me this kind of question?’ I looked at the doctor’s face as he is holding tubes up over my husband’s body. He looks at a nurse who walks over to me and she says, ‘Sweetie, do you have someone you can call to be with you?’ I ask her, ‘Is this life support? Are we putting him on life support?’ She nods yes to me and it was like 1,000 thoughts hit me at one time. ‘I thought we were just going to help him breathe better. What did I just do?  Will I have to turn this machine off? Is he going to die? OMG, he IS going to DIE! I have to tell my boys that prayer didn’t work? How is this God’s will? How will I live without him? What am I supposed to do now? How could God do this to us? What did I/we do to deserve this?’

Just two weeks ago Ken had a stroke at age 41 and now I found myself having to tell two little boys just 7 and 9 years old that daddy is going to die, and it is time to go and tell him goodbye. I will never forget telling my babies the most horrible news you could imagine with a room full of friends for support and both of them lunging at me sobbing. I felt the weight of both of their little bodies, but the heaviness of two little broken souls that wanted mommy to make it all better. I thought they were going to crush my chest, but it was literally my heart breaking. I did all I could to be strong for them. We walked to daddy’s room and I heard my two babies say the most heartfelt, sweet goodbyes and we took a final family photo of our hands together.

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi
Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

I spent my last night with Ken telling him everything I ever wanted to say. All the ‘remember when’ stories and singing some songs even though I know he was probably rolling his eyes at my cheesiness. In the morning, I told him in his ear, ‘Babe, me and the boys will be fine. We love you and will miss you, but we will be ok. Go to the light honey, go home with God…it’s ok. Please spend some time with your mom (She flew in from Kenya and was due to arrive any minute) and then baby… If you EVER loved me, you will not make me turn off this machine. Please don’t make me do that, please go peacefully when I am not at the hospital (I just could not watch him die) I love you, I love and I love you.’ As his final act of love, he did just as I asked him to. I felt him twirl around me, give me one last hug and his soul left this world – I knew he was gone forever. This once vibrant, funny and crazy dude from Kenya that popped into my life about 14 years ago and stole my heart, was just gone… Like that, just gone. What happened to our happily ever after? I lied when I said, ‘till death do us part.’ Death was for when we were old and grey. No one could love me like Ken, and no one could get on every nerve I had like Ken. What do I do now?

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

Ken passed on May 17th and I moved me and my boys to Arizona from Texas to live closer to family and my mother by July 1st. Our entire lives changed! We lost Ken, but we lost our friends, home, school, job and life as we knew it. We went from a 3,000 square foot home to two bedrooms in my aunt and uncle’s home. We were grateful, but it was hard to adjust to our new life.

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

I felt that if I let go, truly cried and let myself break down, that I would never be able to get back up again. So, instead of feeling all of those horrible feelings, I started to drink them, not realizing it. My one or two glasses of wine turned into two big glasses of wine that equaled a bottle or two nightly. I knew way before the one-year anniversary of Ken’s passing that my drinking was an issue, but I did not want to let go of my wine. It was my best friend and how I was able to avoid the heartache every night of being alone. Wine let me pass out versus crying myself to sleep. I hid boxes of wine under my bed and when no one was home, I would throw all of the boxes in a dumpster at a church down the street (I know…yes, the church dumpster) It would be at least a dozen of boxes at a time.

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

It was after my 43rd birthday that my older son was crying and yelling at me in one of my drunken episodes that snapped me out of myself and I decided it was time for change. Hearing him say, ‘You are all we have left, we already lost dad and we don’t want to lose you too, ‘was such a buzz kill to say the least. A friend of mine reached out a few days later who was living a sober lifestyle. She asked if I was ready to have coffee…I was ready…she helped me start my new life of sobriety. I had just started a new job, so all was new in my world, God’s perfect timing.

I am now 16 months sober and to say I am a new woman is an understatement. I do cry a whole lot now and that is a new part of me that I am trying to get used too. I have learned to just let the tears flow, but they do not always come at the most ideal times. The tears are healing…triggers, memories, Facebook posts, a song on the radio, a flashback of his kiss, his face, all make this liquid fall from my eyes. My boys are so much like him and I wish he could see the little mini me’s he created in these two Mwangi boys.  Ken would get this look on his face when he was about to be mischievous and it is hard to not laugh when I see my boys making the same face as they wonder how I know what they are about to do.

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

I have learned to do things on my own, but it is hard as I have gone to reach for his hand or lean over to make a joke about the ‘other parents’ at a school function. I remember Ethan, my oldest, watch my face at a school function and he asked me what was up. I told him how dad and I would joke about other parents and he made Ken’s face and asked, ‘Oh please include me in on this mom,’ as he leaned in and asked, ‘What you got so far mom?’ A woman clapped her hands and very loudly told her 7th grader, ‘Ok, Billy THAT was such a great job…now let’s skedaddle right over to the next one buddy.’ Ethan and I looked at each other and cracked up laughing. That was when I realized that I could truly change the narrative of our relationship. I was the disciplinarian and Ken was the fun parent. Now I have to be both to both boys and this could really just be FUN! Let’s have as much fun as we can! I am stern when I need to be, but they really are good kids. Fun was my new focus and the laughter follows us. I love our inside jokes and our funny conversations. I am blessed with some great boys.

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

2019 was a good year for us. We have had a LOT of growth. My career has allowed me and my boys access to concerts and sports games that we do often. We are truly living out our best life in between the triggers and missing Ken at different times. It is like we are all three on the same roller coaster but in different cars going in different ups and downs. I had been dating off and on and was more and more frustrated with the dating process. I had just told my cousin that I was DONE dating after I found out a guy I was talking to was married. I was going to go that weekend and buy 15 cats to start the rest of my life as the crazy widowed cat lady.

My cousin told me about this lawyer she sees in court and every time she sees him, she thinks that she should introduce us. I told her no way and I would never have a long-distance relationship. I live in Phoenix and he lives in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Before I could say how crazy she was, she had introduced us on Facebook messenger, and it was as awkward as all hell. I told him to please not feel obligated to speak to me…he was very gracious.

Nate and I texted for about 3 hours on that Saturday night, Sunday all day and when we finally talked on the phone it was for hours at a time. I knew immediately that he was different and special. A few weeks after talking he drove 10 hours to Arizona to meet in person. When I saw him and we first hugged, he was like home to me. As his arms wrapped around my waist, I knew that these were the arms I would want to be in for the rest of my life. As right as he felt, the guilt and thought of loving someone else did scare me for a moment. It had been 3 years of widowhood and I know that Ken would want me happy. But, could I really love someone else? My best analogy is how I felt when I was pregnant with my 2nd child. I was so fearful of not loving this baby as much as I loved my first born. When my 2nd son was born, my heart grew, and the love was the same yet different, it was for him and him only.

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

A widow never moves on, we move forward. We lost a person we loved, not divorced a person we no longer loved. It was hard to still not feel married. I stated a few times that I felt like I was married to a ghost. It’s like seeing a train crash, it does not stop at impact. It skids for a while before it actually stops. When it does stop, it is a different version of what it was. I will always love Ken and it takes a strong man to not be threatened by a widow’s love for her late husband.

I am not the same person I was when Ken was alive. Had I met Nate any sooner in my life than I did, he would not have been attracted to the person that I was. Because of my love and loss of Ken, I have learned to love deeper, be in the moment, cut out the BS and not sweat the small stuff. I am now able to love Nate in a way I never would have been able to if I was not this different version of myself after impact. I am a better version despite the dents and scars. It is like my love feels more gown up than it was before. My heart grew and the love is familiar, yet so very different, strong and uniquely perfect in its own way. It is for Nate and him only.

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

Nate is everything I did not know that I wanted in a partner. He brings a love, joy, security and a peace to my soul that I did not know I needed or would have even looked for. I hear his voice and my heart skips a beat, he kisses me, and the world disappears for just a moment. We have work to do with trying to blend our families and it is not always an easy road. But it is a road we are willing to trek together.  Oh, I manage to get on his nerves in my Maria way, but he is so lovingly patient with me. He does say, ‘Woman, you make my butt itch,’ often though…LOL. We laugh and have fun and I love every minute of it. I look at him and wonder how I got so blessed. The India Arie song ‘Beautiful Surprise’ says it all perfectly.

Three and a half years ago, I could not see past my nose and now I see a life filled with happiness and love. I am excited to see the life we can build together. I am putting our future in God’s hands and trust that God has only the best planned for us.

I know some do not get to experience one love in life, and God blessed me with two.”

Courtesy of Maria Mwangi

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Maria Mwangi. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories of finding love after loss:

‘He took a deep breath. ‘Cady, I have feelings for you.’ My heart started beating. ‘I had to be honest.’: 24-year-old widow marries ‘dear friend’ of late husband after tragically watching him ‘suffocate to death’

‘I gave birth, my life was complete. 3 days later, a stray bullet crashed through our window, striking my husband.’ Widow finds love after loss with old friend, hopes her son knows how ‘truly loved’ he is by ‘both of his dads’

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