My ultimate and all-time favorite love story is “The Notebook” hands down. It is a supreme tail of a man’s unbreakable commitment and undying adoration for the love of his life. His devotion to her begins when they were healthy care free youths until every single hair turned grey, fell out and his body turned weak and fragile. The only thing that remained ageless, strong and everlasting was his devote spirit towards his sweetheart. The film I can watch a thousand times over and probably have. With every single view, tears flood my eyes even when I tell myself during the beginning credits, that “This time I won’t cry, this time I won’t cry!” There is not a woman on earth who does not desire or deserve to be loved to this extent by one faithful and dedicated man who would die for her; or rather in this case, with her……
As I consider true life stories of love in comparison, besides my own, there is one I can’t help but to reflect on; it’s none other than “Team Ross”. Unlike “The Notebook” when the story ends with undeniable tragic beauty, Team Ross’s finale has left many with the daunting question, “Why Did God Taketh Away?”……
January 1, 2014 was a New Year’s Day that was nothing short of incredible! While many were home recovering from their Eve’s celebrations, I was on my way to a Wedding in quaint Somerset, New Jersey. Garbed in my requested attire of black and red, I was filled with anticipation of seeing how breath taking my cousin, the bride would be. As I arrived at the hotel where the festivities were being held, I crossed the parking lot and headed towards the glass door entrance. As I stepped up onto the sidewalk, I looked to my left and there stood the Groom with a few of his men straightening up the last-minute details on his suite. He looked anxious but ready. “Lookin Sharp Cuz!”, I shouted with a big proud grin on my face. He simply looked my way and offered a wave and half-smile in return. He never said a word. His focus was clearly on the importance of the moment and I did not blame him. Excitement was in the air. Before I walked into the hotel I looked around and found it odd that I was the only one outside. Maybe I was late. I better hurry and get a seat.
The ceremony was exquisite; no detail left un-thought of. Well over 200 guests of family, friends and beyond. There was not a person in attendance opposed to these two uniting. When the service began as I expected, the bride was simply beautiful. There were few dry eyes in the room as she was escorted down the aisle. The Groom who can typically be found with a serious expression had the biggest grin on his face that I had ever seen. They were just the cutest. We enjoyed the reception with dinner, music and danced the night away. I did not want to leave and really wished I had made arrangements to stay at the hotel but I had to go. This wedding ultimately sparked a love feast throughout our entire family. Everyone flocked to social media to share pictures and sentiments towards one another because of the phenomenal time we had celebrating the union of “Team Ross”. It was truly a reunion for us.
The next 9 months really showed how in love this couple was. Valentine’s Day was EVERY DAY for these two! The Bride documented their life on Facebook and they were what I have repeatedly called “Disgustingly Cute”. If not at work they were literally glued at the hip. Always doing things together and sharing their every single moment with the world. The Groom showed his Bride endless affection and thoughts of extreme adoration and she would not hesitate to share every bit of it. If one did not consider her story and their history, envy could easily be an experienced emotion. But she deserved this kind of love; finally he had come.
On Friday September 19, 2014, this dreamy love affair came to a sudden halt. The Groom, Emory F. Ross suffered a blood clot that traveled to his lungs, cutting off his option for life immediately. His new Bride, Helena Ross was by his side as he took his last breath. He was just 49 years old and they had only been married for 9 months.
It has been close to 5 months since his loss. Helena has agreed to open up and talk about how she is coping after the sudden death of the love of her life.
CWB: How did you and Emory Meet?
HR: We met New Year’s Day on January 1, 1997 at a social club called Brokers in East Orange, NJ it was a beautiful cold evening and we just talked for at least 30 minutes before hitting the dance floor. We exchanged numbers to keep in contact with each other.
CWB: What was your first impression of him?
HR: He was a kind gentle giant. He was about 6’ 4” very handsome but I immediately realized he enjoyed hanging out at social clubs; which was a turn off for me but I still enjoyed our conversation and thought if anything we would be great friends.
CWB: What was the main reason why you think you two did not come together in a relationship until 17 years later?
HR: As previously shared the impression I had of Em was his strong desire to party continuously which was a turn off for me. We both had so many conflicting priorities in our individual lives that preventing us from coming together. We stayed in touch always but timing was just an issue for such a long period.
CWB: Did you talk off and on over the years or did you lose touch all together?
HR: Oh yes, Em and I always kept in contact with each other over the years. He would send me a message on AOL Instant Messenger whenever I would log on. He kept the same phone number for as long as I knew him whereas my phone numbers would change often. From the moment we got to know each other he would call me his Queen. I moved to North Carolina in July of 1997 and he found me. It was amazingly crazy that this man put forth so much effort to always stay in touch with me. I remember speaking at a homeless shelter for women in 2008 in New York so I reached out to Em and he invited me over. I was single at the time and I come to find out in our conversation he was seeing someone so we just talked caught up on our kids etc, he said goodnight we gave each other a hug and I headed back to NJ. You see we always showed respect and spoke the truth never hiding anything from each other; so it was not unlikely for us to share if we were in a relationship or not.
CWB: When he came back into your life did you know right away that he was the one?
HR: I was a little uncertain if he was the one for me. We spoke for 5 hours December 26, 2012, then every day for hours until 1/1/13 when he invited me over for dinner. We caught up on each other’s lives, sharing pictures of our kids and grandkids. There was about 2 years of no contact between us either via phone or email so we have a lot of catching up to do. He thought I was married and as for him I had no clue where he was in his life.
CWB: If not, when did you know?
HR: I knew when he accepted everything that was a part of me now and in the past. I sat down with him on a late February evening in 2013 and shared with him uncomfortable aspects of my past and he looked at me gave me a hug and said “what are you trying to do? Scare me away?” I’m not going anywhere I should have fought for you 17 years ago. If you were with me then none of that would have ever happened.
CWB: How did he propose?
HR: It was the late night of Saturday, August 3, 2013 we were in Maryland for a crab feast in honor of the Deltas for a dear girlfriend of mine. I was an emotional wreck because of a current legal issue involving one of my sons and told Em my life is crazy and he do not need to be a part of this. It’s too much for me so I know it’s too much for him and I told him please know I do understand if he wants to resort back to a life of being single. He once again stated he was not going anywhere said he had to show me something went by his overnight bag, came back by the bed got on one knee and asked me to marry him. I was floored! He was so nervous he repeated himself 3 times. I was the happiest woman on earth!
CWB: How long did you have to plan your wedding?
HR: Literally 4 months.
CWB: Did you ever think you would marry again?
HR: I always believed I was marriage material and after my first marriage failed I never gave up the idea of not becoming the wife of a King in the future. Knowing what you have to offer is crucial and I knew regardless of my ups and downs in life I would meet someone strong enough to unpack my baggage with me.
CWB: Name two things you loved the most about him?
HR: The attention he gave me. OMG it was immeasurable he was and still is such a loving and caring husband always letting me know he is still here with me. He was never afraid to show he loved me verbally and non- verbally. He gave me roses 3-4 times a week. My forever gentle giant!!
He was intelligent and a go getter. A true hard worker and he just love my family. Accepted anything and anyone I considered a part of me.
CWB: Name three ways he completed you as a woman?
- He supported me in every decision I made. He allowed me to be me.
- He made me feel beautiful on my worse days and repeated let me know I was beautiful even in sweats and a t-shirt with my hair standing up
- He allowed me to have a voice
CWB: Name three ways you think you completed him as a man.
I supported him in every decision he made.
I made sure he knew I loved him with all his health issues he knew every day.
Every time he stepped out the house he knew I was his biggest cheerleader and would let him know every step of the way.
CWB: Give an example of an average day for Team Ross.
HR: An average day for Team Ross was waking up at the loud sounds for our alarm around 5:30am every morning with a gentle kiss while reaching for the remote to turn on Channel 12 news. Who ever got in the shower first the other would iron our clothes for the day. Sometimes My Honeybear would check his grades and if he received an “A” there was the loud sound of the song “Turn Down For What” no matter the time of day and he would just graciously dance around the room with his beyond handsome self and the kids and I would yell “Congrats” we would head out to work after he took his meds. Every single day my husband would open the car door for his wife and close it. As we drove to work we sometimes stopped by DD for a coffee or just headed on in to work as we listened to the “Steve Harvey” show and discuss the topics. We would share what we both expected our day to be like. He would drop me off at work, come around to open my door and stand there so handsomely as I would reach up to give him a kiss good-bye and to have a great day. Em would watch me as I walked into my building sometimes taking pictures of me J then he would head off to work himself. During the day we would text each other with things such as “Hi my sexy wife” or “Hi my handsome husband” My husband would text me to make sure I ate lunch because he know I will work through it nonstop. At the end of the day my husband would pick me up once again opening the door and we would drive home sharing how each other day went and any new things to come. Once home we would get comfortable with the news playing in the background and head downstairs for dinner. Most evenings resulted in us both doing homework side by side and ended with his daily rubbing of my feet. Our life was a busy one so not every evening was the same at all due to what was on our schedule or social calendar as my hubby would say. We had a calendar separate from our work calendar that listed any and everything we had planned on a day-to-day basis.
CWB: Name three things you two had plans to do together and got done.
- We never went to bed angry
- We dedicated Monday nights as our date nights and no matter what came in our way we made sure Monday nights was our certified date night that we spent together talking, watching a movie, having dinner or just cheese and crackers or going to bed a little earlier holding each other tightly
- Finishing our semesters with flying colors. We supported each other as he ran to fulfill his requirements for his Master’s and my PhD. We have theme songs for each other whenever we would get an “A” We pushed each other. I made sure my husband was awarded his Master’s degree due to him completing 80% of his coursework before he passed and look forward to attending his graduation June 27, 2015 on his behalf.
CWB: Name three plans that you two had planned together that unfortunately were not fulfilled?
- Our plans for our first child together as one. We started the process with resulted in my blessing of having the choice to go through the pregnancy because we froze his sperm but the idea of being the most spoiled pregnant woman on earth is out the window. He was so excited about our plans and did not care about the cost. This is what he wanted and he made it very clear.
- Our first family vacation. Although I went through with our plans he was not physically there.
- Purchasing our first home together. I was so excited about his Man Cave.
CWB: How has his death changed your life?
HR: The loss of my Honeybear has changed my life in so many ways. I am numb beyond any words can describe. It is as if I am just existing. I do not want to be bothered with anyone of the opposite sex. This is my first Valentine’s day without each other whereas New Years and Valentine’s Day were the only two holidays we got to celebrate twice (how weird is that). I get up every day go to work and come home to my daughter’s house because I am not strong enough emotionally or mentally to be on my own in regards to living conditions. I feel displaced, empty and lost. I continue to reach out for help but then that is even limited. My desire to want to finish my PhD to make him happy is at the top of my list. I’m at a stage I want to follow through with all of our plans.
CWB: Are you mad at God for taking him so soon if so how are you dealing with this anger?
HR: I honestly do not think this was God’s doing I think it is just a part of the process of living not knowing when our day will come we take our last breathe.
CWB: As a new widow, how do you cope from day-to-day?
HR: I do not consider myself a widow. Why? Because the definition of widow is a woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried. I do not consider my husband dead because I still feel his presence, although it is not in the physical flesh but spiritual, my husband is still here with me!!
CWB: Do you feel you have a good support system around you?
HR: Yes, I feel and know I have an AMAZING support system!! When I think of my support system it WOWS me!! I am truly blessed in that sense. I will add some people I thought would be there for me were not and it really hurts me and still does but I know I must let it go.
CWB: If you could go back to the day he died name one thing you would have done differently even if the outcome were the same?
HR: I would have just stayed home with him although he insisted I go to work; I would have stood beside him at his bed side in the emergency room kissing him uncontrollably oppose to pacing back and forth crying and being beyond nervous which at me at times sitting down next to him. I did rub him holding his hand while trying to be strong for the both of us time to time but I feel that was not nearly enough
CWB: If you could see him in the flesh for a moment right now, what would you say to him?
HR: I would say baby I LOVE YOU MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF, PLEASE TAKE ME BACK WITH YOU!!!! Life is not the same without you physically here although you let me know in so many ways you are here with me and I truly love you for doing so I need your muscular arms around me, your gentle hands touching my feet; your gentle kiss every moment we get and your support during trying times in my life. I so appreciate the weekly pimples you place on my forehead reminding me you are still kissing me on my forehead. I so look forward to them. I would ask him if he approves of the life I am living and is there anything else I can do to make him happy.
CWB: What advice if any could you offer someone else in a similar situation?
HR: Grief is a process and everyone’s process is different. Please do not allow anyone to tell you there is a time frame and you will eventually get closure because there will never be closure. Time will just help you work through the pain bit that is all you’re doing is working through it. It is important to know sometimes your good days will outnumber your bad days and vice versa. It is a seesaw and it’s not in your control. It is important to know you will not always be in control of your emotions. There are times you will want to stop crying but something is not allowing you too. Just let it happen! It is a part of the process. People will try to take advantage of your vulnerability, do not let them. Take advantage of any support groups available to you in your area. It is helpful to meet other people your age that experienced the same. Keep a journal; write down your feelings etc. It is important to know grief is a part of life and will happen, changing your self-talk thoughts to positive self talk thought are truly important in the process. Know that life does not end here as much as you may like it to you must find the strength to keep going even if it is not at the same pace as before. It is important to regain some form of normalcy.
CWB: What are your plans to keep his legacy alive?
HR: My plans to keep my husband’s legacy alive, is to go through with the pregnancy. I was actually supposed to be a month pregnant when I physically lost my husband, but due to finances we put it off to August 2015. The reason for an August pregnancy is because the baby would be due in May which is our birth month so we would share our birthday month together. As much as I would give anything to have my husband by my side every step of the way during my pregnancy I realized he will be just not physically and I need to go through making sure his legacy stays very much alive. I am delighted to have an option most women who lose their husband do not have and the thought of disposing of my husband’s sperm is a pill I cannot swallow. I have the support of my 5 children and family in my decision which is all I need.
CWB: Any Final Words?
HR: Valentine’s Day was every day for us. Although I am depressed and my emotions on high because there were only two holidays we got to share together as one and they were New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day so I’m a bit emotional. To this day I write my husband every night before going to bed; I sleep with the t-shirt he was rushed to the hospital in every single night. If I travel overnight three things for sure will be glued at my hip and that is his 5×7 picture in a frame, his
t- shirt and my journal. Even when flying these are the 3 things I will never check in; they will always be a part of my carry on.
Just like everyone else, I was devastated by Emory’s death. I felt robbed of the opportunity to get to know the man who captured my cousin’s heart like no other and was angry in general that she did not get the chance to have the longevity that the woman in The Notebook experienced. It all seemed so unfair. No body deserved this more than her. Helena has been through so much that many can’t even fathom surviving.
My theory and sense of closure when consulting God is this:
- Emory was sick when he came back into Helena’s life; neither knew to what extent.
- God knew that Helena was the only person on earth that Emory needed to be with during his last few months of life. This was predestined. She was the only one that could take care of him as God wanted.
- God wanted to assure Emory experienced pure happiness before he called him home; and he was never happier than he was while with Helena. No one can argue or deny this. It’s a fact!
- This end was not about Helena, but all about Emory.
Helena was the angle that God chose to help usher Emory into his arms. When considered from this spiritual perspective, for nothing else makes sense, like The NoteBook, there is glory in the end. It’s just authored differently. Had he died by himself, there would be no beauty in this story but tragedy alone.
Without holding back, with this love story I embrace my tears. They are full of sweet memories of what was and the possibilities of what can be.
Rest in Peace Emory Fitzgerald Ross, for the Queen you left behind will never allow the impression you have made as the lover of her soul to perish.