From wife to widow: her dream wedding quickly became a grim nightmare.
Mere minutes after saying “I oo,” bride Johnnie Davis found herself speeding behind an ambulance as the emergency vehicle raced her new husband, Toraze, to a nearby hospital.
Her 48-year-old groom collapsed as they were snapping pictures outside of the church in which they had just vowed to love, honor and cherish one another until death did them part on June 19, 2023.
Davis was stunned that their sacred pledges of lifelong love only lasted for one hour.
“Toraze turned to me and kept repeating, ‘I can’t breathe I’m so hot, I need some water,’” Davis, 44, a mother of two from Omaha, Nebraska, told The Sun of the harrowing tragedy.
“He was wearing a suit and it was a hot day, and I thought that maybe he was having a panic attack,” she added. “He kept apologizing to me and telling me how much he loved me. I never imagined what would happen next.”
Seconds after Toraze fell prostrate, paramedics sprang to his aid. A thunderstruck Davis was nearly, frozen in disbelief.
“It was so surreal,” she said. “Only 10 minutes before, we’d finished saying our wedding vows.”
“Now my husband was being loaded into an ambulance to go straight to hospital,” added the heartbroken belle, who works at a compassionate care facility for senior citizens and the disabled.
Once in the emergency room, physicians spent nearly an hour fighting to resuscitate Toraze, who they’d discovered had suffered a cardiac arrest prompted by a blood clot that had traveled to his heart.
Doctors were ultimately unable to revive the newlywed.
“There was nothing that they could do to save him,” groaned Davis. “The doctors let me into the room, and I saw him lying there on the hospital bed.
“I begged them to save him. I’d only just lost my dad a few months before. I couldn’t lose my husband too,” she told The Sun. “But Toraze was gone.
“My husband whom I’d married just an hour before had passed away — I just couldn’t take any of it in.”
No stranger to crushing loss, at the time of Toraze’s passing, Davis had already endured a seemingly endless season of mourning after a string of consecutive deaths in her immediate family.
“I’d lost my dad, too, from leukemia in February, my [oldest] daughter Rich had also lost her dad a few months [prior], and my cousin had died in February,” she recalled. “And now we had lost Toraze, too. We all felt broken.”
A crestfallen Davis, however, finds solace in the promises of her holy matrimony.
“I just had to try and get some comfort from the fact that Toraze and I had actually had the chance to say our wedding vows, and pledge our love to each other,” she said.
“I’d thought I was the luckiest woman alive to have married Toraze. He was such a gentle giant.”
It was love at first sight for Davis and her dearly departed darling during their initial encounter 17 years ago.
“I’d seen him driving down the street,” she remembered. “We had a chat and there was a spark there. But we were both married at the time, so we knew that nothing could come of it.”
However, the stars eventually came into alignment for the would-be sweeties.
“Years later, I applied to do some fostering, and the boy I was asked to foster just happened to be Toraze’s son,” said Davis. “He had been unable to look after him at the time, so when I saw him again outside a local shop a few years later, I called out to him.”
The twosome’s torches for one another were still burning hot.
“This time, we were both divorced, so we started dating and became a couple,” said Davis. “It was as though we were always meant to be together.”
Toraze popped the question in 2017. The fiancés then welcomed daughter O’Ceann 18 months after becoming engaged. Davis says their little girl was the true apple of her father’s eye.
“When she arrived into the world, he was the most amazing dad to her,” the widowed mom gushed. “She was his absolute world, and she meant everything to him. They were inseparable.”
The couple agreed to get hitched on Juneteenth 2023 — a national day of recognition to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved black people in the U.S. — in celebration of the holiday.
“We would have the ceremony in our local church, then have everyone for a big reception celebration nearby,” said Davis, who ditched the traditional white garb to don a crimson gown for her big day.
“It just seemed like a lovely thing to look forward to, after we had lost family members,” she explained. “We wanted something happy to celebrate and our wedding day was certainly going to do that.”
But now the bereaved bride is left without her happily ever after.
“[Toraze] was my soulmate and as the minister had pronounced us married, it felt like the happiest day of our lives, and a life together that was just beginning,” Davis said. “Now we have the rest of our lives without him there.”
To keep his memory alive, Davis and 4-year-old O’Ceann regularly visit Toraze’s grave.
Following his wedding day death, colleagues of Davis launched a $100,000 GoFundMe campaign in her late love’s honor.
The staggering sum was to be allocated towards Toraze’s burial expense, as well as the immediate financial needs of Davis and her children. However, to date, the crowdsourcing profile has raised less than one-quarter of its overall goal, taking in a paltry, albeit charitable $24,361 in seven months.
The dearth of donations notwithstanding, Davis vows to maintain a wealth of everlasting devotion for her gone-to-soon groom.
“I may have only had him as a husband for an hour of my life,” she said. “But I’ll make sure his memory lasts a lifetime.”