At the time of her second husband's death, Amy Otto had a small cleaning business but no insurance. She needed a plan for more secure long-term employment, so within a year, she registered for college.
“My career assessment test said either: ‘Preacher’ or ‘Medical’” she laughed.
Perhaps a logical choice would have been to become a hospital chaplain (wink!), but Amy worked for the next four years to earn her degree in radiation therapy.
Amy’s “angels” (her family, her friends, her church, and many others) helped her in that season of time, but it was in her littlest angel, Chais, who was not yet 2, that she found reason to be strong.
Now, Chais is fourteen years old, and she and her mom are close. The two of them also have a lot of "extended family," including friends, that they love, appreciate, and have been close to through the years as a result of their situation.
What would Amy to say to those who have experienced loss and are trying to form their own “plan”?
“Cling to God, first of all. He will see you through. Truly. He can work through family and friends. My church family was terrific to me, but God is your first line of defense. And time…It sounds cliché, but the bad stuff eventually fades away and the good stuff is all there.”
Amy was the primary influence in her daugher’s life, but out of necessity, she also leaned on others to help raise her daughter. She willingly accepted help.
When Amy considers the phrase “Fathering the Fatherless,” what does it mean?
“My first reaction is: it’s sad, but it’s true. I didn’t want to be a single mother; I waited a long time for Chais and [not having her father in her life] is not the way it was meant to be. Children are supposed to have both parents. How could I do this on my own?”
Amy pauses, holds her breath, then stumbles over her words. It is one of the only times during our interview that the composed, nearly-stoic-Amy Otto's composure is rattled. Choking over words, holding back tears, she manages: “But God was her father…He filled that spot.”
Then, after a pause, she considers: “So was my daughter fatherless? I guess in a physical sense, sometimes, but she doesn’t ever feel that way. Ever.”
Recovering, she tells that her own father and Chais’ uncle Todd were Chais’ first memories of father-figures. She also mentions Darrin
Noble, who gave Chais the pet-name “Chaisy-Maisy,” later shortened to "Maisy”-- "a name she still loves."
A few years later, another father figure would come into Chais’ life.
Troy Yoder has been a part of Chais Otto’s life since Chais was four years old. He is the man she came to know and love as “Dad.”
Chais looks forward to standing as an attendant at her parents’ wedding this September.
When Amy started dating Troy, ten years ago, it may have seemed her life was coming “full circle.” (The two had gone out a few times before Amy met her first husband.)
If all goes as planned, the long-awaited wedding will take place at a Jamaican resort, with only a few family members present (sorry Dear Patch readers, we’re not invited!)
Why has the couple waited so long to officially "tie the knot"?
“I have no idea,” Amy said. “I don’t think we can be sure. But as far as I knew, it’s the man’s job to ask—I’m pretty conservative that way-- and, well…he finally asked! But honestly, I just tell people: it’s between the two of us.”
I can only imagine what factors played into the wait-- practically, psychologically, and emotionally. I have not walked in Amy’s shoes (ok, she’s my best friend, and I'm sure I've borrowed her literal shoes from time to time, but metaphorically speaking, she has walked the harder road). I have merely traveled alongside her, but I believe the timing of her upcoming wedding is perfect. She seems ready.
“I have loved every life I’ve lived. And it really has been like three lives. I wouldn’t trade any of them. I had a blast with Jeff. There is no one like him. I loved my life with Jason. It was up and down and torrential, but I had no doubt we would get back together. But you can’t see the future,” she said.
Even amidst unknowns, Amy is clearly in love with her fiance and looking forward to her future with him.
“With Troy…this is so much a part of who I am. I’ve always been such a water-person. We spend a lot of time together boating. We have a lakefront home. Would I trade one life for another? Of course I would have wanted my daughter to know her biological father, but we don’t get to choose. Do I dwell on it? I do not. I have moved on from there; you can’t stay in that spot. You have to move, you have to grow, and I love where I am now.”