Cheryl and John Dorman COURTESY PHOTO

Encountering Jesus

Couple recognizes the “hand of God” in the midst of trials

In the fall of 2020, Cheryl Dorman’s mother, who had dementia, was put in a care center for her safety. It was an especially tough transition since visitors weren’t allowed because of COVID-19. When the family was finally allowed to visit, they had to wear gloves, gowns and masks, which was difficult for a person with dementia to process.

“There were times when Cheryl would get down, and she’d say, ‘You just need to tell me that it’ll be okay and that it’s part of God’s plan,’” John Dorman, Cheryl’s husband, said.

Cheryl’s mother, Dolores Foxhoven, died in the spring of 2021 at the Josie Harper Hospice House in Omaha. John said the family was blessed to be at her bedside in her final weeks.

Cheryl Dorman and her mother, Dolores Foxhoven. COURTESY PHOTO

Cheryl’s concern over her mother being scared and alone during COVID wasn’t her first experience with grief and feelings of helplessness. When Cheryl was young, her beloved older brother, Roger, was killed in a car accident on July 4. At the time of the accident, Roger was driving Cheryl to a friend’s house. Their car collided with another vehicle on the crest of a hill on a gravel road.

Through the many trials and challenges John and Cheryl faced – including Cheryl’s death in 2021 at 63 – John now sees that God was there every step of the way, even if they were often blind to it.

The early years

The Dormans met while they both worked at a hospital in Sioux City, Iowa. John managed the hospital’s lab and Cheryl was a nurse. They married in May of 1981. Four months into their marriage, Cheryl learned she was pregnant but later miscarried. The couple were devastated but blessed to have five more children: a girl and four boys.

Cheryl was a cradle Catholic, and John joined the Catholic Church before they married. They went to Mass on Sundays, but their faith didn’t flourish until they attended a Christians Encounter Christ weekend. Later they became active in the Apostolate for Family Consecration and Totus Tuus.

Life was going well until 2000 when the lab John managed closed and he was out of a job. Cheryl, a nursing instructor at a community college, lost her job a few months later. It would take John a year and a half to find another job. While it was discouraging, there were blessings as well.

“When you look at things like that, you can look at it one or two ways,” John said. “You can feel sorry for yourself and say ‘woe is me,’ or you can look at things and see the good in them.”

In 2002 the couple took a group of kids to World Youth Day in Toronto. Had he been working, John said, he would not have been able to make the trip. He also volunteered for two summers at Catholic Family Land in Bloomingdale, Ohio, run by the Apostolate for Family Consecration.

Although looking back it is easier to see how God was working in their lives, even amid their trials, John said, there were “a few instances where I could see the hand of God trying to help us.”

The couple attended daily Mass in Sioux City – something they could not do when they both worked. One day, one of their car tires blew out. They brought it to a tire shop and were told it would take about an hour to replace the tire; they went to Mass while they waited.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for it because money was pretty tight at that time,” John said. “And after Mass, we were kneeling and praying, and a gentleman that we knew walked by and stuck something in my pocket, and I pulled it out of my pocket and it was $40. Which was exactly what it cost to fix the tire.”

Another time, the couple attended an evening prayer meeting at the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City. Everyone entered through the basement door. When John was walking in, he noticed an older woman who looked to him to be homeless. The woman told John she had just gotten off the bus and had no money. She asked him if he could spare some.

While John was skeptical and thought he might be getting scammed, he gave the woman $5, which was all he had on him. Later that evening, a friend who knew John was out of a job tucked $100 in John’s pocket.

Following the prayer meeting, John told people about the lady he had met at the door. No one else remembered seeing her, even though they all would have had to walk past her on their way in that night.

John believes the woman was a guardian angel telling him, “If you’ll give something to someone you don’t feel should be getting it, I’m going to bless you.”

Moving to Omaha

John eventually found a job in Omaha. He jokes that his wife – who grew up on a farm – came along kicking and screaming.

The couple joined St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha in 2003. When they met the pastor, Father Don Shane, Cheryl reminded him that he knew her grandparents from when he was at St. Mary in Helena years earlier.

John and Cheryl Dorman with their grandchildren. COURTESY PHOTO

In his homily at Cheryl’s funeral, Father Shane spoke of the kind of woman she was – and because he knew her family – why she was that way.

“This is a woman of faith,” he said. “She learned it early in beautiful northeast Nebraska from people who lived it heart and soul. Like everyone else, they had their mistakes, but God was absolutely essential. Family is essential. Helping family is essential. And caring for others is essential. She comes from that and then lived it throughout her life.”

Father Shane said her upbringing informed the way Cheryl lived her life. She used her gifts as a nurse to help patients at the Pope Paul VI Institute, Sancta Familia Medical Apostle and Heartland Family First Medical Clinic, all in Omaha.

Teresa Kenney, who worked with Cheryl for years at the Pope Paul VI Institute, said: “Cheryl was an amazing nurse. She had so much empathy and compassion for her patients.”

More trials

Following the death of Cheryl’s mother, more sorrow awaited the family. The Dormans’ daughter suffered a miscarriage, and John was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has since recovered.

Shortly after, Cheryl was diagnosed with COVID and was experiencing severe stomach pain due to pancreatitis. She was admitted to the hospital, but John would have to spend hours in a waiting room until the medical staff cleared him to be with her.

That night, John said, he had a feeling Cheryl would never leave the hospital. He was right.

Even while Cheryl was in the hospital, blessings occurred. John found Eucharistic ministers in the hospital distributing Holy Communion. They gave him Holy Communion to bring to Cheryl.

With COVID restrictions in effect, getting a priest into the hospital to administer last rites and the apostolic pardon was difficult. At one point, Cheryl’s heart stopped, and she was revived. The medical team asked John what to do if her heart stopped again. Determined that Cheryl would not die without the last rites and apostolic pardon, he told them they should revive her again. Thankfully, a priest arrived before that was necessary.

John believes that the greatest blessing of Cheryl’s life occurred when she was dying. One of the couple’s sons, who had stopped going to Mass after high school, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and went to Mass for the first time in years. John compared Cheryl to St. Monica, constantly praying for their son to come home to the Catholic Church.

John said that he believes that the longer you are away from the Church and the longer you are away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the harder it is to return. He thinks Cheryl being in the hospital helped give their son the courage to return. He also believes that if Cheryl thought her death would bring her son back to the Church, she would have gladly agreed.

“The soul of one of her children was more important than her earthly life,” John said.

Their son did not want to be interviewed, but John said he continues to attend Mass.

John Dorman visits his wife’s grave.

John and Cheryl prayed the rosary every day, and John continues to do so. He also tries to attend daily Mass at 12:10 at Christ the King Parish in Omaha. After Mass, John visits Cheryl’s grave at Resurrection Cemetery. He finds peace there, under the birch tree at the head of her grave. He is also comforted knowing that Cheryl never lost faith in God, no matter what difficulties life brought. A few months before her death, on the anniversary of Roger’s death, Cheryl wrote on her Facebook page, “I don’t understand why our Loving Father called Roger home early, but I firmly believe and trust that God brings good from all things and uses them for His honor and glory.”


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