Life was lonely for Kathy Nepodal. Ever since she could remember, there has been a deep, almost bottomless chasm in her heart that seemed to grow deeper and wider with each year passing. On the other hand, Kathy has never been alone. She grew up in a home full of people, married at 25 and lived with her husband until the day he died. She’s always been surrounded by people. So, how was it that she felt so utterly lost and forgotten? After an invite to church by her son and a series of losses, Kathy learned why.
It was 2014 when Kathy’s oldest son, Shawn, started coming to Citylight. However, shortly afterward, he moved to Arizona for work. Kathy described Shawn as “he loved the Bible and learned about it. He loved Jesus. He had no fear, and I never worried about his love for Jesus. In fact he was always on his dad and told him often that he was praying for him and for Jesus to get in his heart.”
When Shawn moved away, Kathy’s youngest son, Joey, started going to Citylight. After that first Sunday, Joey went home and invited Kathy and Joe Sr.
“Joey asked Joe if he wanted to go to church and he said ‘no,’” Kathy shared. “I got home, and Joe Sr. told me about it. I told him that we would go next week. It was Joe, Joey, and me that next Sunday. Before church started, Chris came over to Joe Sr. There was this instant connection. They got to talking and I was like ‘omg.’ Chris would come up to him every week. He always paid attention to Joe. It was awesome to Joe. I think he had time to think about his life and somebody that wouldn’t feel sorry for him but knew where he had to go. Joe was diagnosed with cancer about a year and a half before meeting Chris. When Joe was in hospice, Chris came to see him and at the last visit, Joe gave assurance to Chris that he accepted Jesus as his Savior.”
That was 2017 and Kathy was hurting. She and Joe were married for over 40 years. She was relieved that he was not suffering but sad and afraid. She had never lived by herself.
“Losing my husband was tough,” Kathy described. “I was there in life with my body but nothing else. Pastor Chris would keep in touch with me and tell me that I needed to get in a City Group and I would said “no.” I didn’t know the Bible. For two years he said this to me over and over. I would still come to church and listen but didn’t know anyone. I’ve always had a lot of problems with talking with people and being around them until I get to know them. I was easily intimidated by people.”
Fourteen months after Joe Sr. passed away from cancer, Kathy got the news that her oldest son, Shawn, was in a motorcycle accident and died.
“Shawn would always call me to find out how I was doing at the end of most days,” Kathy described with grief in her voice. “Shawn was really good about checking in on me. The day before he passed, he called me and said, ‘mom I thinking of you and wanted to tell you I love you.’”
Kathy struggled that first week after Shawn’s passing. So much she found herself in the hospital because of chest pain. She then quickly found out that she had a heart attack. After church that Sunday after her heart attack, Chris went up to Joey and asked where his mom was and after finding out, went to the hospital to see Kathy. That day was the beginning of Kathy’s journey towards God and His people.
“It all started my journey wanting to get to know people,” Kathy acknowledged with sincerity. “I felt alone. I didn’t know anyone at church. I had depression after the loss of Joe Sr and now Shawn. I was struggling. When Chris would talk to me about getting into community, it was like God used that point to show me I needed people and started me on a new journey.”
After recuperating, Kathy joined the nearby Y and went to GriefShare, a group of people who met weekly. She slowly started to feel better physically but also emotionally and spiritually.
“GriefShare was awesome because it took you through everything you went through with grief...happy, sad, lonely and it helped me to accept that it was okay to move on,” Kathy explained. “GriefShare gave me a little bit more confidence as I started to put myself out there. GriefShare is meaningful. Our conversations in class made me realize that I’ve got to do some things on my part and that God is in control. I wanted to learn the Bible, but retaining information is challenging. GriefShare was also one way for me to meet people and I met a few.”
One Sunday, when Kathy got coffee before church, she met Gina who was serving coffee. Gina then asked if Kathy wanted to be on a serving team. Kathy said this about Gina,
“after a couple of months asking me to serve coffee on a Sunday morning and I finally said ‘yes.’ After that, she asked me to her City Group. I told her ‘I don’t do City Groups.’”
Gina put Kathy’s fears to the side and that her group would love to have her. Kathy immediately thought to herself ‘Really? You would love to have ME?’
“I thought about it and told her I would get back to her,” Kathy said with a smile. “I don’t know anything about the Bible except how to open and close it. It’s intimidating. But, I got back to her and told her that I would give it a try but I won’t continue if I have to talk to people in front of them. Gina reassured me that they wouldn’t.”
Kathy went and the group was wonderful. Everyone welcomed her and was so sincere. Even though she was called on by one of the leaders, it was all fine. Looking back, she knew it was God. He’s been there all this time. Today, it’s been one year since that first visit to her City Group.
“I don’t know when God was with me,” Kathy explained with tenderness. “I just know He was. Looking back, I think through the struggles and in my marriage, with the kids, just everything, God has given me the wisdom and strength to go through what I’ve done in my life. My childhood was not a good childhood at all. My parents divorced when I was a baby, my aunt and uncle took us in. I thank God now. Knowing how dysfunctional my whole family was being alcoholics, things could have been so different with our upbringing if we stayed with my parents. God has been with me this whole time and I did not know that until years later in life. I didn’t accept it but now I do. He used all the changes in my life to grow me and bring me to Him.”
Kathy is now learning about the Bible even though it doesn’t come easy to her. She’s in a women’s Bible study and surrounded by people. She serves on Sunday morning and with a beautiful smile and light. She prays for her younger son Joey and loves him and thanks God for him and hopes Joey knows that God loves him and to leave it with God.
The chasm in Kathy’s heart has been filled by God’s love for her in the community of His people. It’s the love of Christ, through his people, encouraging Kathy to step out and into the light each and every day. The only regret she now has is that she wishes she had that all her life and not just the past few years. The best part accepting Jesus as her Savior...she will see her husband Joe and her son Shawn again.