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‘God got me to the other side’

April 8, 2020

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing writer

COLTON – After her husband died suddenly in an accident in December 2016, Liz Tarbox said it was her faith and the people around her that got her through the tough time.

And it is her faith – and the thought of eventually rejoining the people around her – that is sustaining her once again, this time through the global coronavirus pandemic.

“God just led me down the road,” Tarbox said, noting her husband died 23 days before Christmas and then a chimney fire damaged her Colton home three days after the funeral. “God has put little miracles in my life along the way, and I couldn’t imagine my life without Him.”

Now a widow with her children grown up, on their own, and scattered across the country, “it’s me and the cat” for Tarbox, as she – like much of the rest of the country – navigates the global crisis in isolation.

Though she had to cancel an upcoming confirmation retreat because of the health risks involved, Tarbox said her motivation to keep going is the children and parishioners she serves as the Faith Formation director for St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam and St. Patrick’s Church in Colton, which share a pastor.

Her main focus right now, she said, is keeping herself safe and healthy so she can in turn care for her students and ensure they are safe as well.

Another motivation for Tarbox is knowing God got her through a difficult season in the past and He can do so again.

“God got me to the other side, and He gets me through every single day. My prayer life is very important to me,” she said. “If I weren’t for my faith, I really don’t know how I would have dealt with this sudden loss of my husband. My faith got me through, a lot of prayer and an incredible pastor who was there for me and helped me get through.”

Being active in her parish has helped Tarbox get through as well, and being active in the church is something she has done since becoming Catholic in 1983. She was brought up as a Methodist but had a friend as a teenager who was Catholic and with whom she would attend Mass from time to time.

“There was a mystery and a beauty in it that I did not find in the Protestant church, so I made the decision to become Catholic,” Tarbox said, adding she wanted to become active in the church and became a catechist at first.

Then, in 2011, she became the Faith Formation director for St. Patrick’s in Colton and took on the same role for St. Mary’s in Potsdam three years ago. She also serves as a lector and a member of the parish’s Living Stones Committee, and she is a commissioned lay minister.

“I enjoy being active,” Tarbox said. “I enjoy working with people, and I am very much an active part of my parish.”

Tarbox was about a year and a half into the Formation for Ministry program to become a lay minister when her husband died. That was tough, she said, because the program was something that was important to both her and her husband.

It was “kind of our night out,” she said, as her husband drove them from Colton to Clayton for classes. They would stop in Ogdensburg for dinner on the way to class, and on the way home they would talk about everything she learned that evening.

“He was looking forward to being there at my commissioning,” Tarbox said, adding that Bishop Terry R. LaValley attended the funeral and then told her upon her commissioning, “You know he’s here.”

Since becoming a widow, Tarbox said she believes God is calling her to start a bereavement group to support those in a similar situation, more than just helping plan the funeral. After the funeral, she said, everyone has to return to their normal lives and the grieving person is often left trying to figure out life on their own.

“We can do home visits. We can pray together,” Tarbox said of the potential of a bereavement group. “We can help each other get through a lot of the milestones that happen in the grieving process.”

For now, she enjoys her work with the Faith Formation program. Though she isn’t as involved as a director as she was as a catechist, Tarbox said she makes sure to visit every classroom every Sunday, encouraging the children in their learning, doing special service projects with them, and using her personal life as an example.

“I’m always there for the kids. I’m always there listening to them,” she said. “I help them see how much God is part of their lives and how much He loves them.”

That’s because Tarbox has seen how much God is a part of her life and how much He loves her.

“I don’t know that I do anything special,” she said. “I’m an ordinary woman who loves God and loves her faith and her fellow parishioners and tries to be a good example. That’s just who I am.”

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