When you spend over a half-century with someone, it can be a tough transition once that person is gone.
Especially, if they were the love of your life.
“We were married for 54 years,” said Justino Jimenez. “The one and only.”
Jimenez stared down at a marble tombstone with a pair of faces on each side. The smile of his wife, Ana Mercedes, matched his own. Under one photo read her birth and death dates.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.”
Jimenez’s bright red Jeep is a giveaway. Passersby can’t miss it. He parks it along the street just a few paces away from Mercedes’ grave marker six days per week, rain or shine.
His devotion to his wife has started to draw attention.
“That’s obviously a love story that we all hope to accomplish,” said Julie Connolly, who met Jimenez one day while visiting a family member’s grave. “He doesn’t miss a day. I’ve never seen him miss a day.”
Nearly every day since Mercedes passed away on January 17, 2015, Jimenez shows up at 2 p.m. sharp at the Serenity Meadows cemetery in Riverview. He faithfully drags his lawn chair from the trunk of his Jeep, with Yorkie “Buttons” in tow, and sits down to begin his two-hour process of reading Bible verses and reciting the Catholic rosary in Spanish.
He isn’t another place he’d rather be for the afternoon.
“He loved her, unconditionally,” said Connolly. “They must have had a wonderful love and he’s lonely and he misses her. We’ve talked about it.”
Talking about his lost love does help. Grave diggers passing by this afternoon mentioned that Jimenez presence has calmed many other cemetery visitors.
“Why?” Jimenez repeated when asked why he visits the same plot of grass each day. “I miss my wife a lot. I still do. It’s been now over two years and eight months and I still miss her a lot like it was yesterday.”
The visits will continue like clockwork. Jimenez, who turned 77 last week, says he’s not afraid to die. He’ll be reunited with his “one and only” love.
“There is a lot of hate and animosity in the world these days,” said Connolly. “This is the way it should be.”