How short life really is. And how unpredictable is the time we will have with the person we marry.
But even a brief time with someone you share love with in marriage is better than nothing, and can certainly provide a lifetime of fulfillment. You never know how long you have, so it’s best to enjoy it while you have it.
No one knows this more right now than Daniel Schoo, one of the original members of Ave Maria Singles back in 1998, who married a fellow member. Daniel met Donna on a Catholic dating website at a time when it seemed absurd for a Catholic to use the Internet to find true love. But Daniel found true love, and is now living life as a widower.
Daniel shared with me the highlights of his short but beautiful life together with Donna. I think you will find inspiration from his story, and food for thought regarding your own approach to dating and discernment of a person for marriage. Obviously, their particulars are meant just for the two of them, and everyone else’s stories are different. But the heart of the story is what we all long for, I believe.
So permit me to share with you Daniel’s story of his love for Donna and their journey from meeting online to death parting them.
Donna opened her Single Catholics Online (as it was known then) account on October 2nd 2000. I saw her profile show up and I sent my first message to her on October 5th. I was her first contact. I had been in the site for over a year contacting more than 20 women with nothing coming of it. Right from the start I sensed something very special about her. She was articulate, spiritual, open and sincere. We began to write every day with the letters were getting longer and longer. We had so much in common as far as our religious beliefs and attitudes towards life we could not help but be attracted. It was a long distance relationship, but we overcame the challenges of having in-person time together. After almost a year of courtship, we were engaged on September 8th 2001. We had written extensively which helped us know each other well, despite not seeing each in person as often as we wanted to. I believe that our extensive in depth correspondence and the lack of distraction from sexual temptation (we were very much physically attracted to each other) allowed us to get to know each other without feelings dominating our decisions. We wanted a strong friendship before we considered a romantic involvement.
Donna moved to DeKalb on February 11th 2002. I got her an apartment and she lived there until our wedding on June 8th 2002. I was 50 and she was 49, the first marriage for both of us. A lot of people asked us why she didn’t just move in with me in the interim. I flatly told them that was immoral and we don’t do things like that. On our wedding day I kissed her for the first time. There were no second thoughts, no regrets and no surprises. We never had a fight or argument or even a strong disagreement. The most serious argument we ever had was whether to get chocolate or vanilla and we settled the question by getting both.
We prayed 15 decades of the Rosary together every day. Jesus was the senior partner in our marriage. We had 9 perfect years together until July of 2011 when Donna was diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer, a form of ovarian cancer. We were devastated. We knew the chances for long term survival were extremely small. Donna had surgery, went through chemotherapy and was in remission by November. The cancer returned in October of 2012. She had to have heart surgery in November of 2012 to relieve a fluid buildup as a result of the cancer.
I went to every treatment and appointment to support her and assured her that I would share in her suffering and I was not going to let her down. That was my vowed responsibility as her husband and like it or not I was going to be there for her in every way. There were times when we thought that we could not go on. Many times Donna just wanted it to be over but she knew that God would call her when the time was right and not before. Only much prayer and faith in God kept us going. When you love someone you do whatever you have to but you cannot do anything unless you draw your strength from God.
An extended course of chemo slowed down the cancer and in February of 2013 it was undetectable again. By May it was back even as the chemo continued. In July of 2013 after so much chemotherapy Donna did not have the strength to continue. The cancer progressed finally causing her death on September 7th of 2013. Donna passed away at home in her own bed surrounded by her family. We were praying the Rosary at the time. She was not in any pain and passed away peacefully.
Our pastor made sure she had the sacraments for the dying. She got everything that the church has to offer. Donna prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day and believed in the mercy of Jesus. Donna was not afraid and never lost her faith. She was more concerned about me than herself right to the end. I am certain that the Blessed Mother was with Donna and fulfilled her promises to those who say the Rosary.
When people ask me how I can accept her loss at a relatively young age I have to explain that first of all I did not have a choice. God always brings good from suffering and evil. I don’t know what good came from her suffering and death. She knows but I won’t until I join her some day. I do know that it will be something far more wonderful than I could ever imagine. Maybe it got her into heaven, maybe it will get me into heaven. Maybe if we did not suffer this trial we would have had to suffer something far worse later on Earth or in Purgatory and God spared us from that. I do know that God in His infinite mercy and goodness is doing what is best for us. How can I argue with that? I don’t have to like it but I do have to have faith that God knows what is best for us and gave us a precious gift. When you love someone you want what is highest and best for them. As God loves us, I love Donna, and what could be higher or better than eternal life in heaven? I am certain that Donna is there with Jesus and she will get me there too.
In loving memory of Donna M. Schoo (May 2, 1953 – September 7, 2013).
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.