There is nothing in the world that is more important to me other than being here for others, and for them to know it! By filling this position for others, I actually thrive, and am doing what I love most. I do my very best to be present for everyone in my family, and even for those outside of my family, regardless of whatever else is going on around me. That’s because of my own experience of abandonment, which ultimately was a gift and the brightest light that led me to become a better version of myself.
It all began almost 40 years ago, when the two most important people in my life died just one month apart: my first husband and my mother. Before that deep crisis, I had been worldlier. I was busy all the time, looking for adventure and new places to go, and new things to do, learn, and see. I didn’t want to miss out on anything! I was always trying to better myself and those around me. None of this was wrong, but after my losses, with both my main foundations gone, I learned how much I’d taken for granted. I soon found out how hard living really was; just going to work and raising one child alone were the hardest things I ever had to do! What bothered me the most was the thought of having to leave my 5 year-year-old daughter with someone else. It was such a strain if they weren’t a family member. I just couldn’t do it and be at peace. I was always filled with sorrow or guilt and felt as though I were abandoning her. I was working long hours and between running back and forth to work and my daughter’s school and after-school programs, I was completely drained, having lost the support of my husband and my mother’s help. I know that I could have taken her to an extended day care, or some other after school program, but didn’t have the confidence to try it. I was so shattered from my losses that my former adventurous spirit was gone. My losses struck me to my core.
The reality of being left on my own with my daughter has never completely left me to this day. But once I found my footing again, I actually thrived because of the strength I found in myself. I even wrote a book, Imprinted Wisdom, describing how I got though my crisis. Yet I had not really understood that my deepest feelings of abandonment turned into a gift that eventually helped me thrive. And so did those around me because it gave me an important role to play, a more valuable one than I might have chosen otherwise.
I always made sure that I was there for my daughter so she’d feel my support; hoping she’d never feel the brokenness of abandonment I once did. I continued this practice even after I remarried, until my daughter married at age 24. I also made sure to always be there for my second husband, as well as for my 21-year-old son. This might sound like I’ve been an over-protective mother and wife, or that I might have been insecure, or that I’d given up on my own dreams, but that is the furthest from the truth! Both my children and husband have never been tied down or affected because of what I had experienced. They’ve been free to come and go, and to choose their own paths. And they all thrived doing what they like to do, just as I did watching them. As they did, I learned a new way of living as a full-time wife and parent. This wasn’t always easy, but far easier than working outside the home while raising a family and being a wife.
I seriously doubt that the old me, the worldly one, would have been content with being ‘just’ a full-time mother and wife had I not gone through all the losses I did. That feeling being abandoned by my first husband and my mother never left me. But on some level, it made me a better version of myself. After having to work while raising my daughter alone and all those struggles to make ends meet, I later learned to appreciate my role as a homemaker; washing clothes, cooking, running errands, and going grocery shopping to help all of them shine out in the world. And I’m thankful I can do these things without feeling that something is missing. This is more than enough for me to do and I’m fulfilled enough! Whenever I’ve felt left behind, or that there’s a prestigious job out there waiting for me, I remember that the only thing missing here is me and my presence to light a path for those I love. I’ll be here for as long as they need me.
All of this might sound strange or silly to people who’ve never felt or been abandoned, or who were never without someone looking over them or taking care of them. And 40 Christmases ago, between December 29, 1976, and February 4th, 1977, I would have agreed. But once you’ve come through this kind of trial and know what abandonment feels like, then you’ve met Christ and know the miracle of hope. And that will make you thrive!
About Catherine Nagle: Catherine grew up in Philadelphia with 16 brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old-school Italian parents. Catherine’s 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, and the works of Marianne William. She is also a contributor to the Huffington Post. The mother of two children and a grandmother, Catherine lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. She is the Author of Imprinted Wisdom and a contributor to These Winter Months: The Late orphan Project Anthology.