Margaret and Jimmy Shaw died as they had lived – together.
Weeks before celebrating what would have been their 63rd wedding anniversary, the longtime Miami residents succumbed to complications related to COVID-19.
They passed away just hours apart, lying in separate hospital rooms alone and with no family beside them to offer comfort or prayer. It was the final cruelty of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 155,000 people in the United States and more than 690,000 people worldwide. [Numbers as of 8/3/20]
The couple’s deaths were not the homecoming anyone would have imagined for them. That they left this earth at the same time, however, was a surprise to no one.
“Those two had been married for so long and were so close,” said Connie Shaw, one of the couple’s three daughters. “We knew one would not stay without the other.”
Margaret Wallace and Jimmy Shaw met 65 years ago at a tiny corner store in a small town in Georgia, a stone’s throw away from the Alabama state line. They were 15 years old. Two years later they married and relocated to Miami, moving in with one of Jimmy’s sisters until they could afford a home of their own. Margaret cleaned houses and later got a job as a cashier at the Food Fair. Jimmy worked as a hospital orderly before discovering a passion and talent for baking, and ultimately mastered his craft at iconic local favorites like Pumpernik’s.
“Let me tell you, his apricot rugelach was to die for. It would just melt in your mouth,” said Connie.
Aside from their daughters the Shaws were blessed with nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Their marriage was a good one, but there were trials and trauma to overcome. Margaret fought cancer in the ’70s; Jimmy battled alcoholism for decades. They both found strength in God and were active members of the Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, where she worked with battered women and he, a church deacon, counseled those who were addicted to drugs and alcohol. They played vital roles in the community as well.
“My mom and dad, they was always helping people out,” said Connie. “No matter who it was they’d say, “Now listen, you just come on over here and we’ll get you whatever it is you need.”
Margaret eventually developed COPD and her health deteriorated over the last decade. Caring for her alone became difficult for Jimmy, who had to be vigilant about monitoring his diabetes. Connie and her son, Jahlani, moved in to help out. Now, the house that was so often filled with family, laughing children and home-baked treats feels hollow and far too quiet. But the legacy of the two extraordinary people who lived there is shining clear and bright.
“Be kind, help others and family comes first. These are the things my parents taught us,” said Connie. “They struggled and had their ups and downs like any other marriage, but they never took anything for granted. They were always grateful for everything they had.”