Call Her "Susie";A Life of Both Hardship and Strong Faith; Part Six;Raising a Catholic Family Part Two.
The last photo with Mom, Dad, Steve, and me.
Even More Turbulent Times Ahead.
I've decided to write mom's story, because it is her faith which inspires my faith. In fact, mom has touched countless lives through her example of faith and perseverance, even through what for many would be impossibly tough times. I hope that you will gain some inspiration, as her story unfolds.
My apologies for having waited so long to publish Part Six. It's been a very hectic Lent. God bless.
The Last Photo of Steve.
In the Midst of Troubling Times, Part Two; the 1970s.
As Told to Her Son, Stuart
On October 9th, 1970, Brian Edward Collins was born to Sandra and Andy Collins, thus giving Jack and Betty(“Susie”) Sexton their first grandchild. Seven months later, on Mothers’ Day, May 9th, 1971, Jack Sexton died, thus making Susie a widow, to raise her two sons, Steven and Stuart, alone. Well, not alone, really; she had God’s help, of course, and God had sent her good friends at that time. One friend, Lynn, a neighbor from two doors down, first became Susie’s friend whilst helping with the dinner, following Jack’s funeral. Lynn would go on to become Susie’s best friend; almost a second sister, in fact.
During this time, Susie, who never learned to drive, seldom made it to Mass. Of course, this meant that neither Steven nor Stuart were able to go either, except for Steve, when there were All School Masses at St. John’s New Haven, where he attended at this time. (Stuart was attending Meadowbrook Elementary, and went to CCD Classes on Saturdays, from Kindergarten to Third Grade. He would later start at St. John’s in the Fourth Grade, when Steven was attending Bishop Luers, as a Freshman.)
On June 6th, 1973, Susie’s second grandchild, Craig Allen Collins, was born. This news brought some joy into her life again, as now she had two grandsons. It seemed, at least for a time, that things were looking up for Susie. Her daughter and son-in-law, along with Brian and Craig, were for her sources of sunshine and joy. Little did she know, however, that her eldest son, Steven, would soon start to fall in with the wrong crowd. Even as he attended a Catholic High School (Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne), he was starting to experiment with drugs. Soon,
It was during this time that Sandra was pregnant with Susie’s third grandson, Christopher Robert Collins. In the midst of this news came the death of Grandma Sexton. Her death weighed heavily on Susie’s boys, especially Steven, who buried himself deeper into drugs. Chris was born on June 26th, 1975, but it wasn’t too long after that when Grandpa Sexton died. This news, plus the broken promise of an uncle that Steve would be notified, and be able to be at Grandpa’s side before he died, devastated Steve, causing him to go into a downward spiral of pain that only was relieved by pot and LSD.
Steve quit school in 1977, just months before his graduation from Luers, and fell in deeper with the wrong crowd in New Haven. Soon, however, he seemed to want to straighten out his life, and promised to go back to school, and finish his education. His girlfriend had moved in with the Sexton’s (she told Susie the story that she had been kicked out of the house, because her family didn’t like Steve, and Susie believed her, and gave her a place to stay).
Steve did go back to school, but not back to Bishop Luers. He started attending New Haven High School, where, of course, his stoner friends went. He got to know some of the New Haven and Fort Wayne area criminal element, through his drug “friends.” Soon, he would find that he was stuck,
He knew too much, and contacted exactly the wrong Sheriff’s Deputy (who was himself deep into the drug trade) in regards to setting up a bust of some of the New Haven pushers. But, unbeknownst to Steve, someone had set him up to die.
On the night before Steve was scheduled to testify in a drug trial (February 14th,1978), Susie, who was working at a factory in New Haven, got a call; she was told that her son, Steven, had shot himself. He died later (just past midnight, February 15th, 1978), in the hospital, from a gunshot wound to the head It was later, at the funeral home, that one of Steve’s pallbearers told Susie that Steve hadn’t shot himself. Rather, he was one of three young men in New Haven who were either shot or beaten, and left for dead.
Susie’s faith at this time, though shaken, was strong enough not only to pull her through, but it was through her faith that her other son, Stuart, whose faith had faltered, was strengthened. He would need that strength to bolster his mom’s faith, more than a year later.
For it was just before his graduation from St. John’s New Haven, and just four days after Brian Edward Collins had received his First Holy Communion, that Sandra Collins, while paying her dentist bill, passed out, hit her head, and later died ( March 23rd, 1979) of a double skull fracture. On that dark day, were it not for the strength of her faith that had seen Stuart through Steve’s death the previous year, Susie would have lost her own faith; such was the bond between mother and son.
In the Fall of 1979, Stuart would attend Bishop Luers High School as a freshman. It took a lot of hard work, plus (by the Grace of God) an anonymous donor, to pay for Stuart’s High School education. In the next part, we’ll see how Susie (and Stuart) not only made it through the 1980s, but how her (and his) faith was shaped through that time. Until then, may God continue to bless you.