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Merle Haggard's widow Theresa opens up about her loss a year after the legend's passing AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

On April 6, 2016, the world lost a true icon of country music, Merle Haggard. For his widow, Theresa, the loss was much more personal and profound. A year after Merle’s passing, it’s still hard for her to even listen to his music.

“It’s very emotional,” Theresa tells Rare Country. “I kind of tiptoe in there because I’m just now picking myself up out of the dirt, and barely. I’m barely walking, cause I lost my everything. He was my world. I don’t know. I haven’t really been able to listen to it without really crying and just being too emotional.”

RELATED: Listen as Willie Nelson offers an emotional tribute to Merle Haggard

Though Merle had a reputation as being an outlaw and a bit of a bad boy, Theresa says there was a soft side to the man, too. When asked to tell us something we might not know about Merle, Theresa blushes and says with a big laugh, “Is this X-rated?”

She continues, “He was a lover. He was a wild one, and he was my man. He loved to cook beans. He was a very good cook. He was a great father. He was just a really giving man. He had a heart of gold. He would give anybody… He gave. Yeah, he was a wild one.”

RELATED: Miranda Lambert’s lifelong obsession with Merle Haggard is still going strong

Before now, Theresa has been too shaken up to preside over a celebration of Merle’s music and life. She was on hand for the big tribute to Merle at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena April 6. Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, Ronnie Dunn, Kacey Musgraves, Alison Krauss and Loretta Lynn are just a few of the big names who sang Merle’s songs at the sold-out show.

Theresa was touched by the number of superstars eager to come pay tribute to her late husband.

She says, “It just took off. We started getting artists like crazy wanting to honor Haggard.”

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Hearing Merle’s songs again isn’t easy for Theresa, but she knows this tribute would make her husband smile.

Before the tribute began, Theresa told us, “Tonight’s really hard, but it’ll be good. It’s a good hard. It’s a love fest.”

The Merle Haggard tribute was filmed for a public release. We’ll keep you posted when producers announce where you can see the concert.

Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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