A Modern Love Story: Part Two

A Modern Love Story: Part Two

The second part of a story of love, loss, and redemption.
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It has been said before that when we fall in love, we come alive in bodies not our own. That, however, is a sad, sad mistruth, as Dave Jones would have been able to tell you, as his body spitefully attacked itself while he fell in love with Cathy Fagan for the second time.

After his baptism and confirmation, Dave flew back to Minneapolis to prepare for the move to Missouri Valley; he was going to live with Cathy and her children. He met with his Minneapolis-based oncologist to move his treatment to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. There, doctors found that his cancer had spread from his lungs and migrated; a new tumor had developed on his spine. Previously, in Minneapolis he had undergone chemotherapy with somewhat encouraging results; in the third week of October, in an attempt to nip cancer in the bud, he began radiation treatment. He ensured that his newly developed treatment regimen and records would transfer without a hitch.

On November 4th, Cathy’s son’s birthday, Dave moved down to Missouri Valley. There, he found his place in the world; he found a family. Cathy has two children, her 16-year-old son, Danny, named after her beloved older brother, and a 10-year-old daughter named Piper.

“I was worried,” said Cathy, “because I knew that I was bringing a dying man into our lives knowing full well what the results would be. I really struggled with what that might do to my kids. But I thought that if I could show him what family meant if I could show my kids what family meant, that might make all the difference.”

The first radiation treatment came in a series of eight, one per week for eight weeks. While the cancer responded positively to the new form of treatment, his body was fighting a losing battle. The treatment caused him to be chilled, fatigued, and his strength markedly weakened. Dave was often bedridden and had to muster up the strength to choke down even a few bites of any substantial food. His skeletal frame thinned even more.

Though he was often weakened, he still made the most of his new-found paternal role. The family went zip lining and to the zoo; they went canoeing and ate out at his favorite restaurants. Still a lover of fast cars, they would attend car shows and, Nebraska weather permitting, drive with the top down on sunny days in Cathy’s ruby red convertible, the cool wind blowing through Dave’s now thinning hair.

“Now I won’t let just anyone around my kids,” said Cathy. “He just had such a gentle soul, and, even though it seems like the world gave up on him, he never gave up on God. That’s sort of always been a cornerstone of my relationships and I told him, if ya have that, you can enter our little bubble.”

Dave would often sit in the recliner in his Cathy’s living room that he claimed as his own, Piper would come and curl up in his lap while he read her stories. Danny was protective of his mother but saw how well Dave treated his mom and how much they loved one another. The treatment caused Dave to experience perpetual chills, so he would often be bundled up under piles of blankets on the recliner. On a few occasions, he even snagged Cathy’s robe; Danny once remarked that Dave looked like a little old lady in a woman’s robe hiding under a mountain of blankets. Thus began a running joke between Danny and Dave. They settled on Dave’s old lady name, Denise; for Christmas, Danny gave Dave a children’s license plate with the name Denise on it. Dave loved every moment of it.


"But I thought that if I could show him what family meant if I could show my kids what family meant, that might make all the difference."


“Oh my gosh, that man had a smile,” said Cathy. “He was to the core happy and I know that we gave him some semblance of peace that he got here that he didn’t get anywhere else. He just loved being a part of our little family, that feeling was something he’d always dreamt about.”

The holidays passed, but Dave was not getting any better. In mid-January, an appointment with his oncologist revealed that the cancer had spread even further. He decided that it was time to head back to Minneapolis, that the regimen of treatment he was receiving with his original doctor up at the Mayo Clinic was now a better option; it was the only option he had left, really.

“I remember he looked to me,” said Cathy, “and said ‘You know I’m fighting, right? You’re the reason I’m fighting.’ He didn’t want to die, but he knew the cancer was winning. He used to say, ‘I really do wish things had turned out differently, Cathy Gore. I would’ve married you in a heartbeat.’ But I know he didn’t want me to incur all of his medical bills. He was trying to protect me. He left on January 29th. I knew he was going to die up there, without the love and support of his family.”


And just like that, Dave Jones returned home, a sense of defeat in his back pocket. He was on about every painkiller imaginable; his oncologist did what she could for him, to make him comfortable; it was getting be the stage of comfort over further treatment. To his dismay, she informed him that, of the clinical trials available, he was not a suitable candidate for a single one. But, still, Dave did not quit fighting.

We are at the point now where Dave’s roommates, Carol and Bob, enter our little narrative. Imagine Cinderella’s stepsisters. They would drive Dave to and from treatments, he being too weak or inebriated by the painkillers to do so. Yet they were demanding and commanding. They planted seeds of ill-will in Dave’s mind, compelling him to run errands or do laborious tasks around the house despite his condition. Unbeknownst to Cathy, they forced him to sign over his medical power of attorney. Two years prior, they had compelled him to name them as beneficiaries in his will. They told him not to return to Missouri Valley, that his family wouldn’t want him there.

Every six weeks, Cathy would visit Dave for a long weekend. She would FaceTime him daily and could see him deteriorating before her eyes.

“I would go up there to see him every six weeks or every month or so, because I loved the guy. He was the last person I thought of when I closed my eyes to sleep and the first one I thought of when I woke up,” said Cathy. “I’d never felt a love like that before. So we tried to make each interaction so meaningful. But it was obvious that he wasn’t going to hold on much longer.”

The last time that Cathy saw a fully conscious and cognisant Dave Jones was Memorial Day weekend 2017. They attended mass together one last time. He held her close for one final time.

“I asked him what it was that drew him back to me, after all this time,” said Cathy. “He said that it was my kindness, he said he’d never been treated with such kindness in his life than when he was with me. I was silent for a few moments. Then I told him that I didn’t really know what God’s plan was for me to re-enter his life, but I hoped he felt it was worth it and that it brought him closer to God.”

“Cathy Gore,” said Dave, “you’re one hell of a woman.”

That was the last thing he said to her.


A week later, Dave’s roommates took him to the hospital after he had fallen and hit his head. He was too weak to support himself or to eat. The end was nearing. His roommates called Cathy to let her know.

When Cathy arrived at the hospital, she was greeted with a startling image. The man she first saw gripping the back of a moving car now lay in a hospital bed, frail, fragile, a shell lingering between this life and the next.

Carol had been waiting for Cathy, trying to tell her which times she could to be there with him. Cathy told her that she would not be leaving Dave’s side. So, for three days, Cathy stayed under the harsh fluorescent lights, not leaving the man she loved. She had a backpack with her and a change of clothes in the car. One of Dave’s greatest fears was dying alone, so she assured his fear would never be realized; even when she needed to use the restroom, she made sure a nurse was there to keep him company. Cathy brought with her a prayer book and prayed over Dave constantly. She sang him his favorite songs, their favorite being Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know.”

Through tearful sobs and whispered prayers, Cathy would sing over the man who was swiftly deteriorating before her eyes:

In case you didn't know
Baby I'm crazy 'bout ya
And I would be lyin' if I said
That I could live this life without ya
Even though I don't tell you all the time
You had my heart a long long time ago
In case you didn't know





But, as in life, the end did not come easily for Dave Jones. His first night in the hospital was especially hellish. Nurses had elevated his bed as to where he wouldn’t choke on his own spit. However, the saliva would rest in his esophagus, not asphyxiating him but horrifically uncomfortable nonetheless. Every so often, the dribble would overflow and bubble out of his mouth. The nurses were at a loss as to what to do; so, Cathy took it upon herself to take a towel and clear any excess saliva from his mouth, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.


"I really do wish things had turned out differently, Cathy Gore. I would’ve married you in a heartbeat."


The following morning, during a nurse’s shift change, Carol came back for a few moments. Cathy, furious as to the nurses’ maltreatment of Dave, headed towards the new head nurse. There’s got to be something that can be done to stop what happened last night from happening again, she told her. The head nurse meandered into Dave’s room and was appalled when she saw the condition he was in. She grabbed a vacuum-like device and, for twenty minutes straight, suctioned out the spit collecting in Dave’s throat. She apologized profusely, promised Cathy this would not happen again, and even showed Cathy how to do the suctioning process herself.

“Who did he matter to?” asked Cathy. “He mattered to me, but not even to some of those nurses. The whole time I was in the hospital, he had maybe three visitors. It just broke my heart for him all over again.”

For two more days, Cathy watched over Dave. None of Dave’s children came to visit, though they knew of his ailing condition; nor did his adoptive family. Cathy sang and prayed and talked to him, reminiscing of all the great memories and stories they shared, with Cathy’s brother, with her children. All of Dave’s family was there in that room as he lay dying and had his last rites read.

“In the end, you know, I prayed for mercy,” said Cathy. “Those final few days in the hospital were so horrible, not just for me, but I know for him, as well. I knew that he was suffering. I just prayed to God to relieve him of all that pain so he could be at peace. I knew that losing him would meant him going someplace better and, once you approach things from that perspective, I think it brings you a little more peace.”

However, the constant trips to see Dave had exhausted much of her vacation time, and she knew she had to get back to see her children. The car ride was a six hour trek, but she wanted to squeeze in every last moment with Dave that she could. She knew this would be her last time seeing him. She left late on Sunday afternoon, June 4th and kissed Dave goodbye.

The drive home was a rather melancholy one for Cathy. She laughed and cried thinking of their times together. When she arrived home, she gave Carol a call.

“Doctors always say to keep talking to your loved ones, that hearing is the last sense to go. So, his roommate put the phone up to his ear and I talked to him for a good ten minutes,” said Cathy. “I told him that it was okay to go and be with my brother, to let go of all the pain. That it was okay not to suffer anymore and to just let it all go. And I told him that I loved him, of course, one last time. And then I hung up the phone.”

Within an hour, Dave Jones passed away, both peacefully and at peace.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1535641776467528&set=pb.100000651605784.-2207520000.1514323247.&type=3&theater

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15 Things You Realize As Your Baby Brother Grows Up

No matter how old he gets, he will always be your baby brother.
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Despite the fistfights and days of locking each other out of the house, a little brother is one of the biggest blessings you can receive. Most sisters can agree that they probably bossed their brothers around a lot when they were younger (and probably still do). Most sisters have also most likely forced their brothers to participate in many games that were only enjoyable for one party (baby dolls, house, dress up, etc.)

As a little brother grows up, you start to realize a lot of things as they become your lifelong best friend. Here are 15 of them:

1. He will outgrow you

Even though you were once able to beat him in a wrestling match, and have a fair game of tag, as you get older, he begins to pass you up in size and you realize it probably isn't in your best interest to pick a fight.

2. Teenage boy sass is a real thing

So many times, girls get a bad rep for the teenage phase, but let me tell you, teenage boys have just as much sass if not more than the average hormonal girl. But you also realize that you will get through it, and he is still your sweet brother somewhere deep, deep down.

3. He will go through a phase when he is too cool for you

Your whole life you have been used to your little brother looking up to you and wanting to be just like you and do all the things you do. This probably really annoyed you at some point too and I know I found the words "stop copying me" coming out of my mouth a lot. Don't wish it away, enjoy these times because there hits a point where he will want to do their own thing for a while.

4. He will begin to form his own opinions, and he is actually really smart

He still looks up to you, but there comes a time when he actually starts to contradict and challenge your opinions, and his arguments are surprisingly really good. You learn a lot from your little brother, so start listening to what they have to say sometimes.

5. No girl will ever be good enough for him

When he brings a girl home, you can't help but judge everything about her (no pressure) because to you, no girl will match up to his awesomeness. You know you are annoying, over-controlling, and overly judgmental, but you can't help it, he is your baby brother after all.

6. Regardless of how old or big he gets, if anyone messes with him, you will "beat them up"

I am not a fighter, but somehow anytime someone messes with my little brother, I get the ego of Muhammed Ali and believe that I can beat anyone up. Even now that he has outgrown me by about six inches and 50 pounds and is definitely a lot stronger than me, I still threaten to protect him because for some reason I feel like I can defend him better than he can himself. If anyone shoves him on the soccer field or says something mean to him at school, all of the sudden the big sister is the most intimidating and feisty little 5'4" girl there is out there.

7. He has your back

The once quiet and shy boy you outspoke as a child is not afraid to stand up for you. Even if he knows you're wrong, he is just as protective of you as you are of him and he will always be there for you whether you need a shoulder to cry on, you've had a fight with your friends and need someone to talk to, or a guy blows you off and you just need dairy queen and a movie night.

8. People will think he is your boyfriend and vice versa

As little kids, you were obviously the big sister, but now that he has outgrown you, hit puberty and matured, people mistake him as your boyfriend all the time. When you go to dinner and get the "you are such a cute couple" comment, you can't help but laugh.

9. All of his academic success is obviously all thanks to you

All the days you forced him to play "school" with you and tried to teach him everything you knew paid off because he actually knows what he is doing now. You're welcome.

10. Every year he turns another year older, you freak out because you remember how old you felt when you were his age, and it is not possible for him to be that old

No, no, no. He is little. He cannot drive just because he is 16. That is scary. [Only you were mature enough and ready to drive at 16.] There is no way that he is already 18 and can vote. You will never get used to the fact that he is growing up at the same pace as you are.

11. He is the one person who defies your theory that you are never wrong

He always has your best interests in mind, so if he disapproves of a guy, or questions a choice you are making, he is most likely right, just listen to him. Seriously, it will save you time in the future.

12. You will always worry about him

Yes, you are annoying and you know he can handle himself, but the thought of him ever getting hurt kills you. Every time he goes out or takes a risk, you worry about him. However, you also know and trust that he is smart and makes good choices, and if he ever doesn't, you will always be here to save the day, duh!

13. You are his biggest fan

And you are absolutely obnoxious at sporting games and other events. You are the first person to yell at the referee when he gets fouled and the loudest person screaming when he scores a goal. You also find yourself bragging about him to your friends because you are just so proud, and you taught him everything he knows (duh again).

14. He is your best friend

You can tell him anything and he can tell you anything. You guys have a pact and he won't tell your secrets. He's your person, and you have come to find out that he actually gives great advice when you give him the chance to talk.

15. No matter how old he gets, he will always be your baby brother

No matter how old my brother gets, we still say "I love you" every night and he will always be my little baby brother who I watch over and protect, always. I know I have a lifelong best friend who I can lean on during hard times, and celebrate with when the times are good. Bless up.

Special shoutout to my baby brother, Luke, for teaching me so much about myself and always being there for me.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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Poetry On Odyssey: Big Project

There are some things that nobody thinks of until they notice it's too late.

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My Story - 2000/End

Let me take you to where it all began,

Where I stood my ground,

Where I turned and ran.

Let me walk you through my life,

Where my fears began to manifest,

Where I learned about the strife.

K - 2005/2006

Let kids be kids -

Boys will be boys,

Girls will be girls -

Children learning slowly

How the real world works

Slowly

Playing outside on the playground -

"You can't play here,

You're too round!"

Screaming, crying, reaching out for help

Slowly.

1 - 2006/2007

Hearing the bells' rings

A pain that forever stings -

First day back and I'm already remorseful,

Wanting to escape with no luck.

Sitting in my seat,

Here, here, present -

Bringing me back to the past,

Running, screaming, playing with friends,

Always being chosen last.

Tears began to overflow,

Heart's first crushes come and go,

Evil hearts showing true colors,

Ice beginning to grow over.

2 - 2007/2008

Everybody has that one person they hate,

Almost as if it were fate -

Nobody can help until it's too late..

Going home from school,

Face wet

Eyes full of tears,

People asking you what's wrong

No words come out

Nobody tells you how to deal with your stress

Not at this age, anyway

"You just need a good night's rest!"

To prepare you for another day..

3 - 2008/2009

Maybe this year will improve -

Maybe people will finally notice

All of the effort you put into your appearance

Until growth spurts hit

Awkwardly growing taller

Wider

Slowly curling into a ball

Mentally putting up wall after wall

Until your lungs are just surrounded

Drowning in your own tears

Every night as you can't hold it in any longer

Building and building

Piling up stress

Screaming, crying, reaching out for help

Slowly

4 - 2009/2010

The bullying doesn't seem to cease

Whether it's in the winter or 200 degrees

Your weight is too heavy

Your height is too short

No wonder you don't play any sports

Your hair is too greasy

Your skin is all oil

Your stress is winding like a pent-up coil

Your eyes grow heavy

You start to drift off

Only to be awoken once more

"You look pregnant," one says

"Go on a diet," says another

The voices are screaming from inside and out

Louder, louder, LOUDER

They grow

5 - 2010/2011

One more year follows the last,

Bringing you back into the memories of your past

You claw at your eyes

You claw at your throat

But you can't stop drowning

In your tears

You cough, you choke

You try to breathe air

But nonetheless -

There's nothing there.

Just one more year

Just one more year of suffering

Just one more year of not understanding

Asking yourself

"Why can I not be enough?"

One more year.

Just

One

More

Year.

6 - 2011/2012

A new year,

A new school,

A new you to behold

New classes,

New friendships,

New feelings to unfold.

Your first love's a bust,

And so is the second,

But when you're ready to give up..

He pulls you back in.

His embrace is warm,

His scent is inviting,

You can't get enough.

He leaves you for the girl in your class.

You don't understand why,

You look at yourself in the mirror,

You compare yourself to her.

A few days later,

You chop off your hair.

The stress is building,

Slowly

Slowly

7 - 2012/2013

Four months in and you have a new lover,

You don't understand your feelings or why,

You hold onto him tight as you dance together,

Your eyes closing as you slowly rock

Back and forth and side to side,

Trying to let your stress hide -

Yet it doesn't.

You burst out in tears, running away -

Hiding in the hallway where nobody can see

As tear after tear runs down your face

Causing it to get all splotchy

For the night before your first lover's embrace

You were told you were worthless

That nobody would miss you if you just up and died

That you should kill yourself before it gets worse

You go home that night and think it all through

Wondering if her words were true

Tears overflow onto your pillow

Your best friends left you

You were controlling

A worthless waste of space

Their words echo through you

As you pick up the shard of glass.

The stress that began building years ago,

It finally makes its way out,

Slowly

Slowly

Bleeding out

You wrap up your arm and continue on

Her words become stronger

Her hatred only grows

You gain more scars as she makes him leave you

Once again you're alone.

8 - 2013/2014

Your first kiss,

Awkward, wet, forced

"It's now

Or it's never."

Peer pressure is the world's strongest weapon

Feasting upon your heart and soul

Slowly

Slowly

As you struggle to continue on

He tells you he loves you

You believe him

Your stupid innocence causes you to believe him

Your pain

Your agony

You believe him

You grab his shirt

You try to keep him close to you

You love him

You hate him

All at once

It's over too soon

Or was it too long?

As you begin to panic, he laughs

You go home that night and cry

"I love you."

I love you too, bro

"Cut out with the bro already. I love you."

You let him in

You love him

You love him

Freshman - 2014/2015

You let him in

You love him

You love him

You remind yourself

You love him

As he does things to you

You remind yourself

You love him

As he hurts you

You remind yourself

You love him

As you want to throw up

You remind yourself

You love him

As you want to push him off

You're broken

You realize

As you sit alone and cry

You're broken

You have to be

You didn't like it

You have to be broken

You can't be okay

You had to like it

He liked it

You love him

He pins you against his wall

He pushes himself against you

He pushes forcefully

Into your comfort zone

He pushes

He presses

"I love you"

He says

As you

Break

Slowly

Slowly

Sophomore - 2015/2016

You're alone

He left you

You loved him

You hate him

You want to escape

Fresh wounds bleeding through

You want to leave

You can't escape

You smile through the pain

Struggling to continue on

You find a girl who seems alone

You make your way over and sit down

You let her spill her heart out

You begin to fall in love

Every inch of her

Every single inch

She makes you feel safe

She understands you

You nod as she speaks

Anything to please her

As you throw away your lunch

Too busy to eat

Too busy caring

For someone so special

So beautiful

So..

Perfect

Junior - 2016/2017

She helps you

Or so you thought

Things get tough again

You fall back down

You can't get up

New scars begin to form

Slowly etching across your porcelain canvas

Slowly

Slowly

You begin to push everyone away

You focus on yourself

On your own wellbeing

You find a chat client

People that can help

Slowly

Slowly

You begin to improve

Only to be pushed back down

Unable to move

You can't see

You can't breathe

You allow it to take over

Just one more year.

Just.

One.

More.

Slowly

Senior - 2017/2018

Your life begins to shatter

You feel as though you're incomplete

You left her alone in the darkness

You can't find yourself

Walking alone in the dark hallway

Trying to escape

Trying to find your way back out

Trying

Slowly

Slowly

You begin to hear voices

Telling you you're okay

When you know you're not

You never will be

You're broken down

Unable to run

Unable to function

Slowly

Slowly

You feel somebody's hand on your arm

You turn to look

But they're gone

The voices get louder

LOUDER

They grow

You're afraid to move

You're afraid to breathe

Someone grabs you and pulls you out

And just like that

You fall back in love

This time is different

For reasons unknown

Yet somewhere deep down

You know

You hope and you hope with all of your might

That this is the one decision that's right

He pulls you from darkness

Despite the inky blackness trying to keep you

Pulling and tugging you back down

You struggle to escape

To stay awake

You fall

Deep

Down

Slowly

Slowly

Never to be okay

Never fully okay

He tries

You try

You struggle to break free

Just a few more days

A few more days until you're free

Free of your monsters

Free of your stress

Free of your agony and pain

Just a few more days

A few more weeks

Slowly

Slowly

Future - 2018/Forever

Who knows where my story ends,

Nobody will truly understand,

Why my road has so many bends.

My stress is a black hole,

Pushing and pulling me back in,

Trying to forever take my soul.

I'm going to college this fall,

With the ones I love the most,

The ones who might be able to tear down the final wall.

Poetry; K47 Poetry Book

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