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'I'm no longer the same person': Grappling with life after Catonsville shooting widowed Baltimore woman

Every day, when Shebbi “Sheb” Eversley picks up her daughter, Amaris Pope, 11, from school, she asks the same three questions.

“What was the best part of your day?”

“What was the worst part of your day?

“And what are you grateful for today?”

The ritual started about three years ago, when Amaris was in third grade. Eversley said she started asking those three questions because she read once that if you only ask a child if they had a good day, “You’re going to get ‘yes,’ and that’s it.”

“I always ask her [those three questions], every time I pick her up,” she said. “[And] I get the good and the bad out of that.”

Now that Amaris is a fifth-grade student at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Baltimore, the tradition has evolved a bit. Amaris will ask her mother about her day, too.

“But now she asks about me. ‘What was the best part of your day, mom?’” Eversley, 39, said. “And now it’s an exchange.”

The routine conversations have taken on added significance since July 25, 2018. That day, a bit more than six months ago, Eversley lost her husband and Amaris lost the man who acted as her father — though he never legally or biologically was — to gun violence on South Beechfield Avenue in Catonsville on the city-county line.

“We’ve had tons of conversations. I’m trying to get her to process it,” Eversley said. “It’s a way for us to remember that even in what seems to be a bad situation, or a devastating situation, there’s something to be grateful for every day.”

The shooting

Baltimore County police received a call for a shooting at 1:18 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. When they arrived to the 800 block of Beechfield Avenue, about two miles from where the Eversleys lived, they found John Ivan Eversley, 38, inside a vehicle and suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

He was on his way to work, she said. John Eversley drove a bus in Montgomery County for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Photos from the scene posted on social media showed the driver side of the car he was driving peppered with bullet holes and a small pool of blood on the asphalt. Three weeks after the shooting, Eversley said she received her husband’s wedding ring and his watch from detectives. They were bloody, she wrote on social media at the time.

His death came just one day before what would have been their fourth wedding anniversary. The couple were married on the beach at Ocean City in July 2014. Eversley said she is in regular communication with the county police department, but there was not much she could say “officially” about the investigation because police have said it’s ongoing.

The last update posted by police officials said detectives were trying to determine a motive and continuing to investigate. John Eversley did not have a criminal record. His widow said his only vice had been smoking cigarettes, and that he had been trying to quit. He “wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Sheb Eversley said.

There are no other updates from the homicide unit, county police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said in a late January email.

‘We need each other’

Since the shooting, Eversley has rearranged her furniture, flipped over her mattress, adopted a kitten and made other changes around the house.

“It was little, proactive things. I didn’t want it to feel like it was before, like, ‘Oh, he’s going to walk in any day.’ Around me had to look and feel different, because I’m no longer the same person, in a sense,” Eversley said.

She also wrote and self-published a book, titled “FLAWED: Fearless, Lovable, Authentic, Worthy, Evolving, Determined.” It’s a collection of her memories and experiences surrounding the death of her husband interspersed with advice for others experiencing grief or loss.

The idea to write a book came after feedback she received on her Facebook posts that chronicled her experiences immediately after John Eversley’s death. Friends and strangers would comment on the posts, suggesting that she ought to pen a book.

Eventually, a friend who works in publishing approached her and offered to help. The book was released on Amazon on Jan. 25, exactly six months to the day after John Eversley’s death. Shebbi Eversely said the writing process was “therapeutic” and “freeing.”

“In the process of writing, I really felt like I left some of the stress on the page. I let some of that emotion there. I can say, ‘It’s there, and I'm moving away from it,’” Eversley said.

Still, the grief comes in waves, she said. During an interview at her home, Eversley choked up as she told Amaris, her only child, how proud John Eversley would have been of her recent performance in a school track meet. She had cried about it earlier in the day, too.

“Today, I was just bawling my eyes out in the office,” Eversley said. “I was feeling some kind of way that [Amaris] had a track meet on Sunday. And she was doing really well, you know. And she just started doing track in the summer months. And [John] never had the chance to attend one of those to see her in person.”

Not every day is the same. Eversley said she’ll sometimes go a few days without crying, then get hit with grief again. She still struggles to go down to the basement, which she affectionately referred to as her husband’s “man cave.”

But there are bright moments. Eversley said her co-workers at the Family League of Baltimore, an organization that funds local community groups, have been supportive, as have her neighbors. She said she’ll still occasionally get messages from people who saw her emotional plea on Facebook from six months ago, asking people with information about the incident to come forward.

As she looks to move on, Eversley said she has been doing her best to focus on the things she has control over and projects she can work on, like finishing her book and getting her daughter ready for middle school. She has also joined online groups for widows, where she’s able to ask questions and seek advice about how others have coped with life as a widow..

And Eversley still hopes someone will surface to give police some information that leads to the closing of the investigation, rather than it simply going cold.

“I want his tragedy to remind us that as a community we need each other,” Eversley said, “that we should stand up for each other, that we should speak up for each other.”

cboteler@baltsun.com

twitter.com/codyboteler

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