The darkest time in my life began when I was 25 years old. I was happily married, with a five-year-old daughter. It was 1975 when I learned that my husband was stricken with cancer and had only a year to live. The year I spent in the hospital on the cancer floor showed me a completely different world than what I knew before taking care of anyone seriously ill. Daily, in the large waiting room, I saw many patients young and old: children and young adolescents, weak, pale faces, some with no hair, some with head scarves, sitting in wheelchairs beside me and my husband. I first learned what a ventilator was when, in my husband’s last days, the doctor asked me for permission to put him on a ventilator should he stop breathing on his own. I answered, “What is a ventilator?”

The doctor brought me to another floor with patients that were sustained by ventilators. This was in 1976, and at 26 years old, I cried and ran out of the room, saying, “No, no,” to myself. But I never had to sign a thing; he passed away in the following weeks.

After his death and losing my home, I survived with the loving support and protection of my dear mother, who died suddenly in her sleep just one month after my husband. 

I had again lost my home and my foundation. 

Over time, all these and even more tragedies have continued. Now, after 45 years, here is the true story that affected me, the kind of crisis that affects each of us at one time or another:

I remarried a wonderful man five years after my terrible losses, and had another child at the late age of 46, with no medical intervention. I now have a home and even a vacation home. My little girl is now a beautiful and wonderful grown woman with a family of her own. I have a terrific son-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren who just graduated from college. My remarkable late in life son, my miracle child, is now the same age that I was when I suffered the greatest losses of my life. He now works as an engineer handling highly classified projects.

I often tell my children stories of how my greatest losses blossomed into the most beautiful flowers that I could have ever imagined. They’re not meant to replace our departed loved ones, but to strengthen us with the hope that life and love go on. We experience this when we help the unfortunate people around us, instead of focusing on ourselves. These stories of loss are meant to bring hope in our despair and teach us that others suffer, too, and often much more. These stories of our loved ones help us to go on in the hope of better tomorrows.

My parents told me of the tragic first war and the 1918 flu epidemic that shaped them into the most loving human beings that I’ve ever known. And I never forgot their stories. Their stories are meant to be handed down to the next generation. They are not negative, or morbid; they are about the kind of life crises that affect all of us. They sow the seeds from sorrow and suffering of endurance to the great patience that provides us with the resilience to believe and instills hope in the darkest times.

The coronavirus pandemic is another such crisis of great and worldwide magnitude. But this pandemic is very different. It’s not a personal or isolated crisis. This affects the whole world. I choose to believe we’re about to witness a miraculous shift because we’re all in this together.

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  • Catherine Nagle

    Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Writer, and Author

    Catherine Nagle grew up in Philadelphia with sixteen brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old-school Italian parents. Her artist father’s works graced churches and public buildings; her mother was a full-time homemaker. A professional hairdresser, Catherine worked in various salons while studying the Bible and pursuing spiritual growth through courses, seminars, lectures, works of Marianne Williamson, C.S. Lewis, and various Christian conferences including the National Theology of the Body Congress. She is an ambassador of the Society of Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Hank Clemons is its Founder and CEO, and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global. The mother of two children, and a grandmother, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband. She is the author of “Imprinted Wisdom” and “Absence and Presence”  and “Amelia” and her latest novel, "One of Seventeen." Her work also appeared in  Anne Born’s, “These Winter Months.”