The iconic couple Johnny Cash and June Carter’s love story is one for the ages. The world witnessed their devotion to each other for almost four decades until they passed away in 2003. The world lost both of them that year, a few months apart, and their story continues to inspire, even two decades after they are gone.
“You’re the object of my desire, the #1 earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much,” Cash had written to his beloved June on her 65th birthday. “We got old and got used to each other. We think alike. We read each others [sic] minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes we take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met,” he told his devoted wife. This letter stirred so many hearts that it topped the list of greatest love letters of all time, according to DailyMail.
Eight years later, Carter, 73, had to undergo heart surgery and there were complications. She was in a coma, and there was nothing her family could do anymore but Cash, 71, who was frail and unwell, couldn’t stop loving her. Even though he was in a wheelchair he went to her every 30 minutes to talk to her, sing songs, and read her Psalms, as if his voice would invoke life.
“He begged her not to leave him,” Steve Turner, who wrote the book, The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend, said in the book.
Finally, when the doctors said that there was no coming back for Carter, his family looked to him for an answer. He asked the family to join hands and pray. “If anyone has anything to say to June, you should say it now,” he told them, preparing himself and others to lay her to rest.
Outwardly, he was strong and making difficult decisions about ending her life support, but he was emotionally distraught and his family and friends witnessed that. His love for her ran deep and when she finally departed the world, the Ring of Fire singer was crushed. Her death on May 15, 2003 was a shock to him because he had been the one ailing for many years.
Her passing became the beginning of his departure as well. Those who were close to him were concerned over his condition when she passed away.
“I spoke to Johnny maybe a half-hour or an hour after [June] passed away and he sounded, by far, the worst I’d ever heard him. He sounded terrible. He said that he’d experienced so much pain in his life and that nothing came anywhere near to how he was feeling at that moment,” Rick Rubin, the music producer, was quoted as saying by Arkansas Times.
His daughter, Cindy Panetta told Turner, that he missed her so badly he “sobbed for her daily,” according to Fox News. “He would pick up the phone to talk to her as if she was on the other end,” said she.
He threw himself back into the album he was working on at the time of her death. Despite being close to blind, he made sure that there was a large portrait of Carter painted in his house. And “back in his office, the pictures of June’s warm face around him, he would grieve,” said Michael Streissguth, who made a documentary on Cash’s life, according to Arkansas Times.
Eventually, the singer could no longer sleep in his own bedroom because her memory haunted him. He moved to a small hospital bed in his office where his daughters could hear him crying alone. “I would think I heard him calling me or something and I would go in there and he would be, ‘I miss her.’ Just like a child. He would talk to her. It was devastating,” said Panetta.
His children’s heart broke looking at their Man in Black in a terrible state. His sister, Joanne Yates, spoke about those last months and told Turner in his book, “He would look at me, a couple of times with tears in his eyes, and he would say, ‘I can hardly wait to see heaven, to see the Lord and to see our family’.”
On September 12, 2003, he passed away due to a respiratory failure caused by complications of diabetes and was laid to rest beside his wife in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He had passed away within four months of his beloved’s passing.
Something his daughter, Rosanne Cash, said made it obvious how much his family had loved him. “I can almost live in a world without Johnny Cash because he will always be with us,” she said, according to Fox News. “I cannot begin to imagine a world without Daddy.”