For years he couldn’t find her because he’d been searching for Kathy with a “K” instead of with a “C.” Then, because of a spur of the moment decision to include the names of her and her siblings in a memorial for the twentieth anniversary of her brother’s death, when Dave searched for her, she appeared.
This is where their story began in the present day. Or, rather, where it picked up.
The romance between Cathy Gore and Dave Jones dates back to the winter of 1990.
Cathy was riding to Hummel Park, a scenic area at the northern outskirts of Omaha, with her older brother. They were going to meet some friends there. However, after the snow-covered trees, Dave was the first thing in sight; and he was a sight to behold. The first impression that she got of Dave was of him digging his cowboy boots into the densely packed snow and clinging on to the bumper of a beat-up Ford. Then, the car was off. Bumper skiing, it was called.
‘Wow. That guy’s really living his life,” Cathy thought to herself.
A mutual friend of her brother, Dave and Cathy began to date. She was 22; him, 25. The draw for her was his charismatic personality; for him, it was her kind and loving personality. For nine months, they were together. They would often double date with Cathy’s older brother and his girlfriend, going on drives and swimming or fishing at the sand flats. They would go on drives with the windows down, the wind blowing through their hair, young and full of dreams for the future.
One sultry day in August, Cathy and her brother drove to pick up her boyfriend. They were going to double date and enjoy nature like they always had. When they arrived, Dave was not home. A yellow note had been affixed to the front door with tape.
“It said he was going with a girl named Julie. It just broke my heart, broke my heart,” she said.
For years, they had not been in contact. Each went their separate ways, marrying, raising kids, getting divorced. Each moved on, but did not forget the other.
Until, over 25 years later, Dave found Cathy. He had been searching for her for years, wanting to get in contact with her, to apologize. He could never find her on Google. He tried calling her house multiple times, but no message ever reached Cathy. In June of 2016, he messaged her on Facebook.
“I don’t know if you remember me or not...” Dave’s message began.
“When Dave and I broke up, I was in a total quandary, an absolute tailspin,” said Cathy. “Dave Jones is the reason I questioned my path in life. So, when he messaged me on Facebook, I was absolutely dumbstruck.”
Dave’s message continued: “But, about a year ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Even if I never hear from you again, I’ve always hoped the best for you and I hope your life has turned out well.”
Cathy was in shock. A man from her past who was troubled deeply and struggling with a life-threatening illness had reached out to her after all this time. How could she refuse?
“Of course I remember you,” replied Cathy. “You weren’t just my brother’s friend, you broke my heart some 25 years ago. But, of course, feel free to reach out anytime.”
They exchanged contact information. Dave called Cathy that night.
“Oh, Cathy Gore,” Dave began. “I feel like every decision up to this point in my life has been a mistake.”
Dave did not have the easiest of upbringings. One day, at the age of six, while he was playing with some neighbor kids, they began to pester and tease him. They liked the girl better they said.
Kids can be so cruel.
That was how it was revealed to Dave that he was adopted. His parents had not intended on ever telling him, they wanted it to be their own little secret. When Dave confronted his parents about it, his mother told him to sit down, that she was only going to tell him this once. They had had a daughter about his age who died tragically in a sledding accident. Shortly thereafter, they adopted Dave. That secret and its realization broke Dave. Not just kids can be cruel.
“It was from that point on that Dave felt like a replacement for the child who had died,” said Cathy. “From that point on, there grew this deep-seeded desire to be loved unconditionally.”
Being viewed as a replacement child, Dave was treated as such. For years, Dave’s adoptive brother fostered a strong sense of animosity towards him. Familial niceties were rarely extended to him.
"It just broke my heart, just broke my heart."
At 18, he joined the army and left home for good. There, he felt a sense of family that his adoptive one was unable to provide.
Throughout his whole life, he searched for a sense of acceptance and unconditional love. And, for brief moments in time, he found it. For several years, he was happily married, working in the military, and helping to raise his son. He was happy.
Then, out of the blue, he arrived home from work to an empty apartment. Few possessions were left, fewer memories, and even less love. His wife had left him and taken their son. He wouldn’t see his son again for another seven years. Though only married once, the crux of the story was be repeated twice more, for a total of three abandoning lovers, three children snatched away from him, and three separate heart breaks.
The strained relationship between Dave and his family was a normalcy throughout his adult life. He rarely saw his children, and, when he did, it was evident that each of their respective mothers had planted seeds that poisoned their image of him. His adoptive family was not any better.
Several years before meeting Cathy, Dave’s father passed away. He had been a Mormon preacher, beloved by his community. Although Dave was raised to be a devout Mormon, he never felt any connection to the Mormon church. When Dave entered the church for his funeral, a pin drop could be heard. It was clear that he was unwelcome.
At the back of the church, he sat in the nearest pew. Though the building was packed, he sat entirely alone. He faced forward, everyone's backs to him. That would be the last time he would see his adoptive family.
That loneliness stuck with him until June of 2016, when he reconnected with Cathy. They began to chat almost daily, via text messages and phone calls.
“Stage 4 cancer and the guy was still working a full-time, physically demanding job,” said Cathy. “When he was originally diagnosed, he had a tumor the size of a fist in his lung. But he wasn’t giving up, not by a long shot.”
In 2004, Dave moved to a suburb of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, to start anew. His adoptive family had washed their hands of him and the majority of people who entered his life, including his roommates, were toxic to him.
That is until one day some 12 years later, when Cathy took it on herself to make the drive from her home in Missouri Valley, Iowa, a town not too far from Omaha, to visit Dave.
When she arrived on his doorstep, once again, Dave was a sight to behold. His carefree youthfulness had been replaced by a body rammed by a relentless disease. Dave had always been a thin guy, but now was especially so. His skin had an unhealthy pallor, his eyes sunken and melancholy.
Their first date (this time around) was a rather unconventional one. They drove to the St. Paul Cathedral, an iconic landmark that marks the skyline of St. Paul.
The church doors, normally closed but unlocked, were wide open today. Cathy and Dave sauntered in and lit a prayer candle for Danny, Cathy’s brother, who had passed away some twenty years ago. They credited him for their original summer romance, and, because his published memorial had reintroduced them, they credited him with their newfound relationship as well. Several candles were being lit by alter boys; a mass would shortly begin. Cathy, a devout Catholic, suggested they stay. Dave was rather leery. He was usually a stranger to church, save for the Mormon churches of his past. Cathy said there was no pressure, that the choice was all his. But she thought he might find it helpful. Reluctantly, Dave agreed. This time, when Dave sat down in the nearest pew, he had someone there beside him.
"From that point on, there grew this deep-seeded desire to be loved unconditionally."
During mass, verses were read, hymns sung, but when it came to the giving of communion, Dave was unsure. Cathy quelled his anxieties, saying, once again, there was no pressure, that Dave did not have to receive communion, but could simply receive a blessing from the priest. Reserved but ambitious, Dave joined Cathy. When he reached the priest, the priest placed his hands on Dave to bless him; however, he lingered there for longer than the rest. The priest prayed and prayed and prayed for Dave, so much so that those behind him were becoming aggravated at the congestion of the prayer line. Cathy had already taken her seat when she noticed that Dave was still up front. Finally, the priest finished up and Dave sat back down to join her. She looked up at him to find he had tears in his eyes. Somberly, he took her hand and squeezed it lightly.
“Thank you,” he said tearfully.
“The experience was just so cathartic for him. I think it was the first time in his life that he started any sort of healing process,” said Cathy. “But I told him that if he were really moved by that and if he were open to the idea that he needed to come down to Missouri Valley sometime to meet Father Raphael.”
Cathy had a special connection with her local parishioner, and thought that Dave could benefit from a heartfelt connection with a man of God. A month later, Dave stayed with Cathy and her family for nine days. Dave spent much of his time with Father Raphael, simply talking. It was a form of catharsis, of therapy, of moving towards healing.
Halfway through his miniature vacation, Dave was sitting on the recliner across from Cathy in her cozy living room.
“Cathy Gore,” he began (he always referred to Cathy by her full name), “I’ve thought about this, I really have, and I want to become Catholic. I’ve gotten more out of going to church with you three times than I have in a lifetime spent at Mormon churches.”
So, on September 10, 2016, his 51st birthday, Dave Jones was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic. Throughout the whole process, tears clouded Dave’s eyes. After his confirmation, Dave hugged Father Raphael closely and tightly. Afterwards, Dave walked back to his car with Cathy’s arm in his.
“This is where I belong,” he said. “This is what family feels like.”
And, with that, it was time for the cancer treatment to begin.