In July, Michelle Stewart faced an unbelievable loss. Her husband Jumaane Stewart died unexpectedly, leaving her to raise their two small children alone and imagine a world without the love of her life by her side.
Michelle met Jumaane in 2007, when she participated in ESSENCE’s 30 Dates in 30 Days challenge. Five single women were chosen to give 30 bachelors a chance at a first date, and when they went on theirs, the connection was instant. “It didn't take long to figure out that we had something special going on,” Stewart recalls. “His great personality, happy and positive, made everything very natural and easy. I knew he was really into me when he climbed up to my 4th floor walk-up apartment on crutches after a basketball injury. We were always up in each other’s face, spending every spare moment together – trying to impress each other and discovering what real love was supposed to be like.” They became a couple, tied the knot in 2010 and became parents to N’Kosi, age 2, and baby Nandi, 7 months, a short time later.
At age 39, Jumaane passed away suddenly after suffering a massive heart attack. Michelle is heartbroken, but as she begins to navigate through a future without her husband in it, she has many fond memories of him to cherish. “Jumaane and I always had a great time together,” she shares. “One of the funniest times was a Halloween party we attended. I was Janelle Monae and he was Dave Chappelle as Lil' Jon. Jumaane mimicked the comedy sketch so well that everyone who witnessed literally cried with laughter. The poor girl taking our tickets was clueless which made it even more hilarious.”
When her children get older, Michelle will be able to share with them how proud their father truly was to be their dad and how present he was even at their births. “Both of our children were born at home with a midwife,” says Michelle. “Jumaane was my coach and my strength. He literally held me up. In the midst of labor, during agonizing (drug free) pain, I questioned the home birth decision, and he reminded me that it had been our decision and that we could do it together. Jumaane was excited to help deliver our son and then our daughter and there wasn't a more proud baba in the world.”
As Michelle moves forward, she holds tight to the thought that her husband has left behind a wonderful legacy forher and their kids to cherish. “Ultimately, his greatest legacy is his children,” she says. “Jumaane loved being a father, he was a natural and they adored him. He gave any and every one he came into contact with the uplifting inspiration to become self-empowered. That's why we, his family, are establishing the Jumaane Omar Stewart Foundation in his honor.”
Michelle is certain that she’s blessed to have shared so much with Jumaane in such a short time. “I'm so happy that I got to experience how good it felt to be truly and completely loved,” she adds. “Jumaane told me that he would fight any fight for his family; we were always first and he would do anything to protect us. His love was so pure and real, an experience almost too good to be true—but it was. Although we won't grow old together like we planned, I feel lucky that we did share so much.”
If you’d like to give a donation or words of support to Michelle and her children, please visit their foundation page.