Kathy Rokosz of Berwyn, IL

I was born and raised an Italian kid on the west side of Chicago.  I was, in every way imaginable, a “city kid” (charm #4168).  I loved the city and everything it had to offer – including my future husband.  We met and married young, while we were still students at Loyola University.  He was my Prince Charming and our wedding was a dream come true (charm #8165)

We moved just outside the city, to a suburb called Berwyn. The symbol of Berwyn is a mushroom, or a “houby” as early Czech residents called it (charm #2327). We’ve lived here for almost 44 years, and although Berwyn has lost its early Czech charm, we still celebrate the mushroom with a Houby Week, Houby Parade, and Houby Queen every October.  Nine months to the day after our wedding, we had our first baby – a girl, Mary.  She was followed by three other daughters: Annie, Hope and Sarah (charm #3209).  Our family grew to embrace sons-in-law and, eventually, ten beloved grandchildren (charm #8222).  All this sounds pretty standard, and, so far, it was.

That is . . . until December 9, 2002.  On December 8th, we hosted our traditional tree-trimming party (charm #1610).  Year after year, we gather the same friends to lovingly decorate our 10 foot Christmas tree with hundreds of ornaments.  On the morning of December 9th, I left for work, still flushed with the warmth and fellowship of the previous night’s gathering.  As I walked into the office, I received a phone call from my husband that changed our life forever: “Kath, come home; our house is on fire.” (charm #8105).  We lost pretty much everything in that fire.  The first floor was completely gutted, the upstairs was destroyed by smoke damage and the basement succumbed to water damage.  We were out of the house for six months while our contractor, a man who, in my eyes should be canonized, worked his magic.  What sustained us during this awful time? Faith, Family, and Friends; the 3 Fs as I like to call them.  People live their entire lives and never experience the outpouring of love and support that we did.

Our faith was strengthened by the support of the people of St. Leonard Parish. (charm #0242).  Our extended family showed up as the fire was still burning and never left our side. Our daughters rallied around us – one even flew in from France – and created what I like to think of as a “wall of sisters.”  And friends fed us, clothed us, and helped in any way they could.  A casual comment I made that morning was captured by my friend, Ruth, on a needlepoint wall-hanging that now has a place of honor in our front hall: “Memories don’t die, and love doesn’t burn!” Looking back now, that “fire time” was a time of great blessing.  We moved back into the house in May 2003. We had an outdoor Mass to thank all those who helped us through this time, and we renewed our commitment that our home would always be one of welcome and warmth (charm #8168)

We’ve had ups;  we’ve had downs;  but we’ve never forgotten WHO we are and WHOSE we are.  We’ve come to lovingly embrace all of it – the good and the bad – as part of the circle of life. (charm #2422).

Kathy Rokosz
Berwyn, IL

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