When she walked down the aisle at 19, Bernadette Scully didn’t anticipate the turns her life would take, including living as a single woman once again.
Years after that walk down the aisle, Bernadette is an active, single woman with a strong faith in the Lord, fulfilling career, an abundance of friends, and a whimsical outlook on life. “I can’t tell you that everything is just the way I wanted my life to be. But like the Bible verse says, I live life 'to the full' and I am blessed.”
When she was 19, Bernadette had chosen marriage over college because she was in love and wanted to have a family. But things didn’t work out. “Both of us were immature and made mistakes,” she explains. The marriage had its ups and downs and eventually ended in divorce.
Despite that unfortunate outcome, a beautiful result of that relationship was their daughter Sari, whom they shared in parenting. There was a period of awkward and challenging adjustments for all, full of conflicting emotions, changes and new routines.
Through several years of living single, Bernadette experienced struggles, including dating and relationship disappointments.
She recalls a significant moment in her early thirties while listening to a vibrant, single woman who spoke at her church. “It’s easy to fantasize that when you’ll meet that special someone, you will pursue certain things in your life.” However, the speaker’s challenge was, pursue things now that you can do to improve yourself and make a difference in the world. Don’t put them on hold.
“Don’t wait around for someone special. Engage in life now.”
That message was pivotal for Bernadette. She started to focus more time on her personal and spiritual growth. She became active in her church. She enjoyed supporting her daughter’s school and extracurricular activities. She went back to college to earn her associate degree in social services. And, later she took classes from Geneva College, graduating with her bachelor’s degree at the same time that Sari graduated from high school.
Significantly, during her difficult struggles she sought support and guidance through Christian counseling services. “I went through some really tough times of loneliness and depression.” Her therapist helped her to understand that she didn’t have to stay in that place of confusion and didn’t have to walk through things alone.
Because of the support she received, Bernadette pursued careers in social services and behavioral health so that she could help others. She worked in schools and non-profits in the areas of prevention and intervention. She is now a health coach for Cigna, making a difference in people’s lives daily. And she strives to make the most of her own, too.
“Bernadette has more adventures than anyone I know,” laughs her friend Karen Edwards. “There is always something interesting happening with her. She’s taking off, meeting new people, doing something different. She’s a delight.”
You don’t have to embrace singleness in order to embrace life as a single person.
Bernadette remains open to the potential for a healthy, committed relationship if that’s God’s plan for her, but is also at peace with living on her own. And she doesn’t shy away from experiencing life.
During two visits to Ireland, she discovered the joy of solo road trips – setting out in her rental car and discovering new places and new people. “Why don’t I do that in my own country?” she thought. “There’s so much to experience.”
So Bernadette started taking road trips from her Pittsburgh home, always being alert and cautious since she’s on her own. She considers these trips to be retreats where she invites God to speak to her and guide her. The beautiful scenery of West Virginia is a favorite. She also enjoys discovering parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and, for longer trips, Tennessee and New England. She enjoys quiet communion with God’s creation and the making new friends.
Those who know Bernadette say they never know what she may be up to next. A classic country music lover, she follows a network of musician friends near and far. She enjoys local breweries, coffee shops and other community gathering spots, particularly for the friendships she makes. She joins groups passing out sandwiches or clothing to the homeless and volunteers with Orchard Hill Church, Light of Life Ministry, Women’s Choice Network, the Irish Festival and more. Looking for a new challenge, she even learned how to ride a motorcycle, got her license and then bought one.
Not so long ago, Bernadette decided to take a solo trip to Cook’s Forest on her birthday. She rented a kayak and floated down the river, enjoying the current and the sun. The highlight of her day was meeting a couple at the ice cream stand and finding out that it was also the man’s birthday. They smiled together for a picture and toasted cones. It was a typical Bernadette madcap moment.
One fear she carried deep inside was that if she was sick, she would be alone. There was no one with her, after all, who had promised to love her in sickness and in health.
This fear became a reality when she recently faced a serious health challenge. But the forced rest provided treasured reflection and time with God. And her network of friends extended an abundance of gifts including prayer, gifts, meals, cards, gifts, phone calls and texts, all given with tremendous love and concern.
“I was the recipient of what the Hebrews called Hesed, which is not just a feeling or emotion of lovingkindness, but also an action. It describes a sense of love and loyalty that results in deeply compassionate behavior toward a person. And I was so humbled – that person was me.”
“I’m so thankful I’ve come to realize that being single doesn’t mean being alone,” Bernadette said.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10