Sara Baluch put on a wedding dress and white veil on what would have been her wedding weekend — but instead of saying her vows, she was visiting her fiancé's grave. Less than one month before she was set to marry Mohammad Sharifi, he was shot and killed while attempting to sell gaming equipment, police said.
"He was an absolute perfect person," Baluch said of her fiancé. "Everything he did was perfect and it was not just for himself, it was for everyone. Everything he did, he kept others in mind."
The pair, who were both students at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, were dating for about over a year when Sharifi proposed in December. "The moment I said, 'I will take your hand,' that is the day we became husband and wife. That's the moment in my heart."
Baluch, 22, told CBS News that while their wedding was set for March 9 in the U.S., they were already legally married in Iran, where Sharifi was born, and seen as married under their religion.
On Feb. 19, Sharifi, 24, was shot in an apartment complex parking lot, the Associated Press reports. Baluch told CBS News her fiancé's mother called her to say he was found unconscious in a parking lot. He was able to call 911 himself after he was shot, according to Baluch.
"From the moment I hung up and I got in my car — I could just feel like something was wrong," said Baluch through tears. "I kept telling myself, 'no.' Everything like that is the last thing you think."
When she arrived at the hospital, Baluch said she was told he wasn't in the system and she had to wait. "When I was sitting there, I was just thinking, 'What if he was gone?' 'What if he died?' And I got this terrible feeling," she said.
Eventually, detectives arrived and began asking her questions, until she insisted to know what was going on. She says a nurse let her know that her fiancé didn't make it. "It didn't feel real. Then, finally, they took me to his room and he was just laying there. But, even in that moment, it felt like it wasn't," said Baluch.
She realized, instead of her wedding next month, she would be attending his memorial service. "Everyone was like, 'this was the day we were all so excited for.' Everyone had bought plane tickets for the wedding and instead they had to change it for the funeral."
Since his death, Baluch explained that all she had wanted to do was stay in her room, but knows that isn't what Sharifi would have wanted. "Every day he would remind me, 'You don't need to stress about this. The day goes on. Whatever happens in your life you need to continue.' He stood by that there's no reason to give up in life. Ever since this happened, those are the only words that keep me going," said Baluch.
Last week, she went back to her classes, where she is studying secondary education and hopes to be a teacher upon her graduation next year. She told CBS News she isn't planning to take any time off from school: "I just know that's not what he wants. It was really hard, but I did it."
Baluch is braving on for her fiancé, and that means being with him, even in death, on what would have been the weekend she walked down the aisle. On Sunday, Baluch, her and Sharifi's family and close friends visited his grave.
"It was so painful for all of us, but at the same time it was peace. We did this for Mohammad," Baluch said of the experience. She wore her wedding dress, because she said she knew that "he wanted to see me in it."
During the visit, the family held a traditional Iranian wedding ceremony and lay out a cloth with items to symbolize their marriage, including the Quran, rosewater and images of Sharifi.
"I was sitting there, right next to him and I could feel him around me," said Baluch. "It felt like he was sitting beside me crying."
In addition to their wedding, Sharifi was going to graduate next month with a degree in business — something his parents were very proud of him for achieving. "His parents brought him to this country when he was 8 years old for a better life," He's graduating, he was supposed to get married. And to have all of that taken away with one bullet. It just doesn't make sense."
D'Marcus White, 20, has been charged in the shooting, according to the Associated Press. Baluch said she doesn't understand why he would allegedly kill her fiancé, but since the shooting has heard stories from many others who lost those they loved due to gun violence.
"I have had so many people message me and tell me that they've lost a loved one too. How can you look at somebody and take their life in your hands? It's so sickening," said Baluch."For what? That $200 Xbox was worth nothing. I would have bought that guy a hundred Xboxes if they'd just left him alone."
While it has been a few weeks since the shooting, Baluch said she misses him more every day. "We buried him. We know he's gone," she said. "But, it's like every day we're just waiting for him to walk in the door."