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By Nancy McVicker Johnson
Little did I realize that Sunday morning, so long ago, that the most handsome man wearing the Air Force uniform would make such a lasting impact on my life. Just before the service began, I, a naïve sixteen-year-old girl, was sitting quietly when this handsome man came in and sat in front of me. My heart flipped. I knew who he was because his family were members of our church.
But alas! He had a girl with him. Never did I imagine he would even notice me; I still do not know if he noticed me that day. Months went by and I thought about him no more as I went on with my life as a sixteen-year-old girl does.
Later that year, early in winter, he showed up after discharge from the Air Force. Then my story really began. He started to search me out and talk with me, which totally amazed me. After a little while of talking at church, he asked me out. Of course, I had to have permission from my parents, who consented.
Our first date was a normal small-town date, and we got to know each other a little more. As I learned more about him, I realized that he was a very deep thinker who searchingly analyzed everything.
Before long, he discovered I was only sixteen. He was twenty-three. It was a while before I heard back from him, and I was beginning to think all was lost. Then, one day he called me. As it turns out, he thought I was older when he asked me out, and he had thought to himself, "What am I doing robbing the cradle?"
Apparently, I had made a deep impression on him, and he couldn't forget about me. He even had gone to my dad's place of work to ask permission to continue to date me. Though I had thought all was lost, we dated regularly. As months progressed, I turned seventeen.
As time moved on, I realized that he had a deep-seated anger and hurt from his childhood. I also learned that he had a strong perception of how he thought life should be and how he wanted it to be. Even though it disturbed me, I continued to date him and began to love him more and more. It was apparent he felt the same about me.
In late summer I had the misfortune of a visit from the mumps. He had already had the mumps, so he visited me while I was sick. One afternoon, he began to speak about marriage. I couldn't believe it. I still had my senior year of high school to finish, and at that time you had to have parental consent to marry before eighteen. I also knew that my dad would not consent if I didn't finish high school. It was also required to turn in a notice to the school that you would be married in order to continue classes at school.
As it turned out, my Dad would not sign the consent, but my mom did it for us; she had to answer to my dad for that. We decided to marry at his classmate's home. This classmate was a pastor of a church. This was February 1, 1963. I finished school, graduating in June of 1963. Our first year of marriage was really a tough one. No way were we in the "honeymoon" stage.
We were from totally different backgrounds. I was family oriented, and he was family "alienated." I was just a backward, young, inexperienced girl, so he became my teacher and leader. His ideas were so different, and the ongoing inner problem was always evident.
In fact, before our wedding, I was afraid I couldn't handle the differences in thinking and the way he thought about things, so I called off the wedding. However, I couldn't let him go, so I sought him out, and the wedding was back on.
We were blessed with two beautiful daughters and a son that God wanted to bless us with; we had planned to stop at two children. During the years of child-rearing, there were many times of turmoil between Dewey and me, though we did love each other deeply. There were times I didn't know if we would make our marriage last.
As he struggled with unforgiveness and hurt festering inside, he developed a perceived "breathing" problem. He underwent all kinds of testing all through the years, even as recently as 2015 and 2016, but nothing could be found physically. Doctors at times suggested a mental problem, but Dewey would never acknowledge the possibility. I knew that he definitely had a mental issue, and the children now agree with me.
As the years progressed, he gradually got worse. The perceived breathing problem became an excuse, a crutch to withdraw from us. He became eccentric, and at times, he tried to force his thinking and beliefs on others. At the same time, he turned more and more to God's word, becoming almost obsessed with Heaven.
Because of the years I had spent with him, neither I nor the children thought a lot about what he was doing and saying. He established rules and boundaries due to his breathing problem, and I had to live by them. I thought by doing so, I was helping him and honoring his request to be able to breathe. I wanted to do whatever was needed to help him get well.
After retirement, he progressed toward almost total isolation. The children and I were obviously concerned but didn't know anything else to do. We continued to pray and honor his requests.
On November 2, 2016, I left the house at 7:30 a.m. He knew I would be gone all day and what time I should be back. I got home about thirty minutes later than I had thought, and I found him lying on the floor with a gunshot wound.
As is common to those who experience the suicide of a loved one, I was in complete shock, and I could not fathom what he had done. Never in a million years would I have guessed he would do such a thing. He left notes, and as we look back, we can see a pattern of probable planning. As I write this in June 2018, the unbelief is still so strong.
What would convince a Godly man who loved his children more than life itself to go this route? What would cause him to be so miserable that he would be convinced this was the thing to do?
Of course, there is no way for us to know. One thing I do know, however, because of his ability to deeply think things through; he thought this was the best thing to do. Some suggest he may have done it because he loved us and wanted to spare us more heartache. There are many possible reasons, but to heal, we must let go of those questions.
Dewey had a loving heart and concern for all he met. If someone needed help, he would do all he could to meet that need. Never was there any reluctance to provide for his family, even when it meant doing something he absolutely hated to even think about doing, such as selling sewing machines.
He was not a person with an outgoing personality; this was extremely hard, and he probably lost sales because he wouldn't force anything on anyone.
Dewey worked hard and always went the extra mile to do a good job. The same principles he applied at work he applied with any project at home.
There was never a question about whether Dewey Johnson would do a great job. He was extremely creative. In his mind, there was always a way to get something done. We still come across some of his "inventions" unexpectedly, and this always brings a smile.
Will I ever completely accept the reality that he is no longer here with me? Will I get past how he left me? I don't know. I do know that with my Lord's help, I am moving forward, but always with my "forever love" in my heart. I am and will be eternally grateful God brought Dewey Johnson into my life for fifty-four years.
My heart knew a love that I don't expect to ever know again. There was never any doubt in my mind that God placed us together. A love that deep only comes once in a lifetime. My one comfort is knowing that the "love of my life" is no longer in that deep, dark place he was in, but in Heaven; he is healthy and whole and knows a love that cannot be described with words.
About the Author
Nancy McVicker Johnson lives in Tennessee; she was Dewey's wife. She helps care for her one-hundred-year-old dad. She is active in several organizations and stays busy with household chores. She attends church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Her oldest daughter lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Her youngest daughter, grandson and granddaughter live in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Her oldest grandson lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her son, daughter-in-law and grandson live in Athens, Alabama.
The GRief After Suicide Support (GRASS) group first met on Dec. 1, 2005 and has met continuously since then.
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