Breaking through disability and grief: Cathy’s story

cathy loading food into her car

For most of her adult life, Cathy lived in Texas. The empty-nester lived a life similar to most women her age. Her three sons had moved to other states to start families of their own, but they still kept in touch. She anticipated their calls like all mothers do. Cathy woke up each morning and went to work at an airport in Houston. Her days were spent lifting travelers’ luggage and she loved the job’s simplicity.

An injury changes everything

One day, her life changed forever, in a way she never could have anticipated. She injured herself and was forced into early retirement.

“I was just trying to do my job well and I overdid it,” she said. “I miss it so much.”

Two protruding discs in her back was not what she had in mind when she went to work that day.

Upon retirement, Cathy moved to West Michigan to stay with one her of sons. Even though she had a place to live, she found it difficult to make ends meet on a fixed income.

“It took a lot of my paycheck just to pay for food,” Cathy said.

She also struggled to find her place within her new community. Life in Michigan was drastically different from Texas and the transition was a challenge.

An unexpected tragedy

On top of these hardships, Cathy was faced with another source of pain that sent her into a whirlwind of sorrow. One of her sons died unexpectedly. Cathy was so grief-stricken that she could barely leave the house. This didn’t help her existing challenges of not having enough food and struggling to connect with others in her community.

Finding support

Her family began encouraging her to attend Mobile Food Pantries to help make ends meet. At first she felt too ashamed to go. When her situation became severe, she realized she didn’t need to feel shame, and attended a Mobile Pantry at the United Church of Wayland.

Thanks to generous support from Perrigo, the church offers fresh produce and other food to neighbors like Cathy, free of charge.

Now, she is able to receive the fresh food she needs from this resource, and receives other food items from a local charity.

Not only did the Mobile Pantry fill her fridge and pantry, it also filled her heart. Cathy can meet local peers at the food distributions.

Things are looking up

Today, Cathy rents her own home and is grateful that she no longer has to worry about how she’ll afford food or how she’ll connect with local peers as she settles into her new life here in West Michigan.

“It’s a real blessing,” she said.

Story written by Communication Manager Molly Kooi, and Communication Assistant Juliana Ludema.