When Tim and Lynda Foley married in 1989, they knew they would face many challenges. Both had developmental and physical disabilities, yet both were independent.
“It was love at first sight,” Tim Foley, 64, remembered. “We dated for a year. I asked her father for his blessing to marry her. He said yes.”
After they married, the couple lived happily in their own home in Greece. Since 1997 they have been clients of Catholic Charities Community Services, which helps people with disabilities gain independence, and also assists clients with traumatic brain injuries or HIV/AIDS.
The Foleys are among the many clients who benefit from Catholic Charities Community Services. Last year, the agency served more than 400 clients with developmental disabilities.
Dawn Murray, the agency’s community support assistant manager, has worked with the couple, assisting them with grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, budgeting and general living. The agency’s help has been very important to the Foleys, but never so critical as the emotional support they received in 2005.
In January, Lynda was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and knowing her wedding anniversary was approaching, she wanted to renew her wedding vows.
“She knew she didn’t have a lot of time, and it meant a lot to both of them to share the love they had for each other,” Murray said. “They wanted to share in that day again.”
Catholic Charities Community Services staff used funding from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal to organize a renewal of vows celebration, complete with a limousine to drive the couple around the shore of Lake Ontario after the ceremony. On a sunny February afternoon, the Foleys renewed their wedding vows in the intimacy of their own home. Lynda wore blue — her favorite color — and their home was decorated with balloons and flowers.
“For Lynda, it was one of the last times she was able to do something with Tim,” Murray said. “And it was important for them to say again how much they meant to each other.”
Sadly, Lynda died six weeks after the ceremony.
“We had a lot of fun together,” Foley said of his wife. “She looked like an angel. She had a beautiful smile. I still love her very much. She was a great wife. I miss her.”
Without the discretionary funds provided by the Christmas Appeal, this lasting memory for Foley would not have been possible, Murray explained.
“We were able to provide them with one of their dreams,” she said. “Toward the end, Lynda had a hard time talking, but she spoke volumes with her eyes. She would tear up when we talked about renewing their vows. You know it meant a lot to her, and it was very emotional for both of them. They wouldn’t have been able to afford this on their own. They are on a fixed income. (The ceremony is) something that Tim can cherish forever.”
Lynda’s mother, Judy Fuhry, also appreciates the memories and knowing that her independent daughter lived life to the fullest.
“She was determined not to let her disability get in the way of her life,” Fuhry said. “She was happy and had a mind of her own. We were in favor of her marriage to Tim, and I’m happy she found someone.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without (Catholic Charities Community Services),” she added. “They were really there for Lynda. And Tim.”
Since Lynda’s death, Murray has continued to visit Foley weekly to assist him with his household responsibilities and has become his confidant. He is working through his grief and still enjoys the small things in life, such as chocolate milkshakes and biweekly visits from family.
“This job really means we can make a difference to a lot of people,” Murray said. “We give them hope; an ear to listen; a friend to lean on; and an advocate for them. I don’t think the public always knows about people like Tim. It’s sad, but we try to give them a light in their lives. It is equally rewarding to us. Tim and Lynda were great friends to me. Lynda was always smiling and she had a great sense of humor. She touched my life, and we’ve all lost a great person.”