COLUMBIA — Only four stockings hung in Bonnie Cassida’s household this Christmas. Last year, there were five.
Cassida's 47-year-old husband, David Casto, lost his battle with cancer on Aug. 10 after five difficult years, leaving her and three children behind.
“The outside world continues as though nothing has changed, but everything is different,” Cassida said about his death.
The couple shared not only a family but were co-pastors at Bethel Church on Old Plank Road.
“I can think of only a few times in the past 14 to 15 years when we did not go to worship together,” she said.
Because her husband's illness lasted so long, the transition to single ministering came with more ease. For the last two years, Casto listened and advised his wife. Now that he is gone, she and the rest of the congregation miss his presence.
“He didn’t just belong to me and the kids,” she said.
She has one child — Alex Beal, 19 — and they had two together — Judson, 12, and Sophia, 9.
As a widow, mother and pastor who is honest about her grieving, Cassida is trying to move forward.
To move on, Cassida finds it easier to do things in a slightly different way. When things are done as they were when her husband was alive, she becomes aware of his absence.
A slight change, such as changing into a robe when she is fulfilling duties as a pastor, has helped to keep the widow separate from the minister.
“When I’m wearing this, I’m ‘Pastor Bonnie,’ but when it comes off, I can be your friend and just be me.”
She shares her mourning in a blog, myservantsong.com, created initially to share news about her husband's condition with family on the East Coast. She continued to blog after his death.
Reading it is like thumbing through the pages of a personal diary as she shares details that almost seem too personal. In one post she talks about sobbing into the suits that hang in her late husband’s closet. They reminded her of the happy, healthy man he was.
Though it is often hard to accept, Cassida knows she needs comfort, too, and realizes that it would be impossible and unhealthy to try to fill all the gaps her husband left behind.
She said she is finally at a point where she can let others reach out to her. For help with the ministry, she looks to other pastors. For parenting issues, she consults friends.
Her politically astute husband is no longer around to keep her updated on worldly happenings, but her son’s interest in politics will suffice.
“As I see an opening, I try to find a positive way to fill it,” she said.
She still has bad days, although there was relief at the end of her husband’s suffering.
“It is a treat to sit and talk, enjoy music and food and not worry about how David was doing,” she wrote on a blog. “While we are all very sad that David is gone, it is also good not to live under that cloud anymore.”
Although 2008 will always be the year that her husband died, Cassida looks toward a hopeful future.
“There is laughter, jokes, playing and chasing that doesn't happen in a home when someone is sick,” she wrote. “We do not regret, nor resent the years that we had with David. Yet we can also be glad that life is easier now.”