I was born Feb. 22; however, this birthday was bittersweet. On Feb. 22, 1999, I married Sgt. Aaron A. Figueroa at 2:20 p.m. We had a private reception with 22 of our closest family and friends. My birthday would have been our 7,300th day (20 years) as Mr. and Mrs. Figueroa.

Church and officiants in place, reception venue reserved, decorations bought, caterer finalized the menu, DJ Coley had his playlist, and guests have been invited, however, the God I love had His plans. On Jan. 26, one week after my husband’s Born Day, at 6:54 p.m., Aaron took his last breath and went home to glory. From a spiritual point of view, another angel gathered its wings. From an earthly point of view, my man, my confidant, my Poppie had just died. My world forever changed. I could not understand that after I told him I would see him after Bible study and he said, “OK” and “love you,” that that would be the very last time I would ever hear him speak.

It’s those conversations that keep playing over in my head. Exact times and dates forever etched in my mind. Once the calls and texts were made of my husband’s expiration, I knew I needed God to get me through this life-altering event.

I want to publicly thank everyone (you know who you are) who were there for me the numerous times my husband was in the hospital, which I call the resort. I need for my burdens to lighten just a tad. This weight is very heavy. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Hezekiah Walker penned a song, “I Need You To Survive;” this is very true.

I want to say the gratitude that overflows in my heart over the outpouring of love and support from my family and friends has made this solo walk down this road of lost, a tad bit easier. The visits, calls, texts, cards, emails and donations are all appreciated. Whatever part you did from your heart was overwhelmingly needed and accepted with love. To say Thank You is not enough. My heart truly overflows with gratefulness.

I give y’all your flowers today as I celebrate. For the position you hold in my life, I love each of you unconditionally. Praying blessings upon you for generations to come and that you never experience this type of heartache.

Ryals family, Pastor Timothy Dortch Word of Truth Christian Fellowship and church family, Bishop Bobby Holmes of Deliverance Church of Christ, Archbishop Anthony W. Slater of Tehillah Church Ministries, Juanita Greene, Smith-Holloway Memorial Funeral Home, WCDP-Women, DGDC, Judge Curtis and Beth Stackhouse, Dr. James Stackhouse and Joyce Keller, Sen. Don Davis, Kim Haywood Catering, GoGo Berries, Jim Hinnant, Guardian ad Litem, Goldsboro Chapter Continental Society, Masonic CS Brown and OES, Norwayne Alumni and Friends Inc., Start-Over and The Journey Continues, Judge Will Bland, Rep. Raymond Smith, Commissioner Edward and Hilda Cromartie, and David Brantley.

Viola Ryals Figueroa