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Harris Blackwood: Young couples hope heals in time of struggle
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It was Nov. 6, 2004, and a beautiful sunny day in Athens. The Georgia Bulldogs were away at Kentucky and my wife’s cousin was getting married.

It was a storybook affair with a bride and groom who looked like they had just stepped from a magazine cover. They had a very traditional ceremony and a great party afterward. They had an incredible band and I danced until my feet hurt.

I remember thinking they had it all. I wasn’t envious. I was just in awe of these two young people with the right stuff for life.

Eight years ago this week, our family learned the beautiful bride, Katherine Wolf, was clinging to life after 16 hours of surgery that included removing part of her brain. An aneurism had been there since birth.

Katherine spent the next two months on life support before beginning a two-year inpatient rehabilitation program where she relearned life’s basic functions again.

At the time of her collapse, she was mother to a 6-month-old son named James, who is now 8. Last year, she astonished friends and family when she gave birth to their second son, John Nestor Wolf. He is named for the biblical gospel writer John and for Nestor Gonzalez, the surgeon who saved Katherine’s life.

Katherine has had 11 surgeries in the past eight years and recovered from a badly broken leg. She can walk with assistance, but relies on a wheelchair most of the time.

Their story has been chronicled in a new book, “Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and Overcoming Love,” published by Zondervan.

They are now devoting themselves to a ministry that shares their story of hope with people who are facing life’s struggles.

During their recent presentation at an Athens church, they were straightforward and honest about their lives in the past eight years. Katherine said at one time, she thought life would have been better if she had not lived.

“Jay could remarry and James would have a healthy mommy,” she said.

But later, she felt a message from God. She said God doesn’t make mistakes and there was a purpose for her survival.

Their book, while primarily a chronicle of their journey, features before and after photos of their lives. There are photos of the beautiful bride and groom, the beauty queen who would represent Samford University in the Miss Alabama pageant and the young mother with her newborn.

There are also pictures of her days on a ventilator, the long hours of physical therapy and the face that shows the permanent signs of partial paralysis.

Listening to Jay and Katherine’s story, you realize their love is something special. It is clear they understood both ends of the proposition of “for better and for worse.”

You also realize the aneurism did not affect her desire to persevere. She has walked again and gave birth to a second child. She is willing to share her story in the hope it will touch others.

The book will be released nationally this week and includes an introduction by Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who was injured in an accident nearly a half-century ago and has inspired thousands with her story and her artwork.

Information on their ministry and the book is available at


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on