real life

'My husband's death was sudden and tragic. It occurred three days after our baby was born.'

It’s a tragedy few of us could even begin to imagine.

But for now 33-year-old Jessica Ayers, losing her beloved husband just three days after the birth of their first child was a reality she had to face.

Opening up about the experience in an impassioned blog post, the mum-of-one writes, “My husband Justin’s death was both sudden and tragic. It occurred three days after our first baby Jax was born. I never thought at only 31 years old the title widow would find me, and certainly not on one of the happiest days of my life.”

Killed by a neighbour, Jessica was then faced with the harrowing experience of burying her husband with her one-week-old baby in her arms.

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Justin and Jax. Source: The Singing Widow

Having met at high school, for then 14-year-old Jessica and 16-year-old Justin, it was love at first sight.

And while most thought their relationship was nothing more than a high-school romance, their love endured, with the pair marrying in the year after Jess finished high-school.

Spending the next decade travelling the world, playing in various bands and writing and recording an album together, the pair savoured married life. Then, Jess writes, "one morning, I woke up and suddenly felt different. I wanted a baby! And Justin agreed. We’d been married for 10 years, and we both knew we were ready to become parents."

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Justin and Jess together in high school. Source: The Singing Widow. 

Almost nine months later to the day, their son Jax was born and the couple even more in love than they had been before.

Minor birthing complications meant the family had to spend some time in the hospital, but the trio was given the all-clear to go home by day three, or as Jess calls it, "the day the music died."

Rising from the couch, Justin was struck by a stray bullet that had been fired by a nearby neighbour, seemingly by accident.

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Jess and Jax. Source: The Singing Widow.

"The bullet that killed Justin went against pure logic and had a statistical probability of one in infinity," Jess writes. "In a drunken stupor, my backyard neighbour fired his 9mm semi-automatic handgun. The bullet managed to travel through his screen door (dodging dozens of trees) over 200 feet to our home. It crashed through our glass door and blinds, continued across our living room, and finally stopped when it hit Justin in the head at the very second he jumped up from our sofa."

The neighbour, 64-year-old Charles Shisler, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May 2015 and was eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison for the murder.

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Jess and Justin. Source: The Singing Widow. 

"There I sat, my 3-day-old infant in my arms, trembling in fear as chaos and horror played out in my living room. Muffled by my bedroom door were sirens, chattering voices, and screams that will forever haunt my dreams. Frozen and in a state of shock, all I could see in my mind was the lifeless face of the only man I ever intended to love, his lips white and his body lying on the floor in an unnatural state," Jess writes.

In the weeks following his death, Jess says navigating the grief was overwhelming and at one point she almost gave up. But with the help of her mother and friends, and her love for Jax, she eventually found her way out of the grief and made her way back into music and playing with her now band, Fortag.


"By sheer circumstance, I reconnected with a former bandmate and was presented with the opportunity to fill in on a few gigs," Jess writes. "With much hesitation, I accepted. Declining the opportunity and turning my back on what I used to love would have been the much safer bet. But, I knew it would mean I would end up spending the rest of my life running away from the pain and the joy it would bring."

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Jess and Jax today. Source: The Singing Widow

"The rollercoaster of emotions I go through during a Fortag show are endless. However, I choose to face them every night because in the end, the good outweighs the bad. I maintain the idea though that the happiness I experience day to day is by my own choosing," she writes.

"Every single day I wake up like everyone else and I’m faced with a choice. Some days I hate life and choose to be sad, angry, hurt, scared, resentful, and lonely. Other days I feel blessed and choose to be happy, optimistic, thankful, forgiving, and compassionate. Each day is a new decision, and with each decision brings a new outcome. I can only hope I’m making the right choices for my future, especially for Jax’s."

Read Jess' full blog post here