The Boy Next Door
“If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that.”
--1 Corinthians 7, 28
I grew up in a small neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia, one where everyone knew each another. I went to school with my first boyfriend, Johnny, who lived around the corner. I was fifteen and he was eighteen when we went on our first date. Johnny was the boy that all the girls in the neighborhood wanted. But he was in love with me, and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for me. We dated on and off for the next six years before we finally got married. He had some trouble holding onto a job, and always seemed to find something wrong wherever he worked. He often told me he thought he had bad luck and couldn’t get a break.
Yet despite this, I always was drawn back to him and he always had time for me, so we resumed our relationship. Growing up in an Italian family, my father was very outspoken about the power of love, something he demonstrated every day, which was a blessing for us kids, to learn early on how wonderful love can be. We saw how very much in love Dad was with our mother, and whenever I was confused about a difficult situation with my boyfriend, my father would always say, “Love is the most important thing in a relationship. Never marry for anything other than love or you will never be happy. There is no greater wealth in the world than when two people love each other. They can conquer the world!”
My father’s message hit home and I began to understand that love was at the heart of Johnny’s actions.. He focused on expressing that love and showed it by finding adventures that would make me happy. He also loved being involved with everything connected to me and my family, and was the same with his own family, always putting others’ welfare first, even ahead of his own well-being, and tried to solve everyone’s problems. I began to see that this was how he expressed love and I remain grateful that his approach taught me how to love others more deeply than I had before. I knew by his actions that I was important to him and it felt good, and right. And it was the same way of expressing love that my family had demonstrated.
We had so much fun together and did as much as we could together, from shopping to movies and theater, and visiting the New Jersey shore. We enjoyed our carefree life and he’d often talk about never wanting to grow old. Then I’d ask him why, and he would tell me he didn’t want to get wrinkled or turn gray. Amused, I tell him we all had to get old, but he’d tell me that when the time came, he’d figure something out.
But I began to see that Johnny was very serious, and he’d spoken about it as early as his teens. Looking back now, I wonder if he was trying to prepare me? Is it possible that by repeating his point so often and with such strong emotion that he created a self-fulfilling prophecy? . Did he live his short life so focused on adventure and wonder because somehow he knew his time here would be brief? Were his statements gifts to guide me on the path I’d need to follow later, after he’d gone? I believe such loving messages continue to console and guide us when we listen with our hearts, and feel that there is a divine purpose that eventually helps us find Truth.
After having been apart and reunited, we married when I was twenty-one and he was twenty-four. We had begun our careers by that point: I was a hairstylist; he was a carpenter. We had a happy marriage and were even happier when our daughter was born a year later. Naturally, she was the apple of both our eyes and when she was five, we decided to build our own house. We enjoyed picking out everything from cabinets to carpets and our families were excited to be sharing our plans for our dream house. We were richly blessed with everything a young married couple could ask for and felt that our dreams had come true. But it turned out that we were in the dark in so many ways about what was coming.
The Dark on the Other Side of the Door
One cold winter day in December 1975, while my husband was at work, he suddenly became ill. He’d passed out during a coughing spell and was taken to the hospital; he could not catch his breath. He was given a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia, but the x-ray showed something unusual so he was admitted and an emergency biopsy was ordered. The results showed that he had Stage 4 Hodgkin’s disease, or advanced cancer of the lymph glands, and that he probably had only one year to live.
The doctors said his chances were less than 50%, even with chemotherapy and radiation, but we hoped for a miracle.
Excerpt from Imprinted Wisdom ~ Catherine Nagle
Causes Catherine Nagle Supports
Church, Single Parents, Orphans, The Homeless, The emotional and physical health care and rights of children.