When Catherine, 65, married Larry 15 years ago, she moved into his Littleton, Colorado, home. While she describes Larry as “wonderful,” his 3,700 square foot house was, well, not so wonderful. Built in the 1970s, it had yellow countertops, yellow linoleum and popcorn ceilings.

The path forward seemed clear: remodel the home and live happily ever after. Life had other plans.

First, there always seemed to be something more urgent than renovation. “I was always ‘put this off, put that off, put this off, put everything off’ so I always put everything off for a long time,” she said.

They finally started about three years ago, and managed to redo the kitchen, family room and living room.

With the renovation still uncompleted, disaster struck: Larry was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer. They shifted all of their time and effort to his health for the next two years until, about a year and a half ago, Larry passed away.

For a while she even considered moving out of the house and into a smaller place, but because property values in the Denver area keep increasing, she decided to stay.  

That’s when the next twist of fate hit. About a year ago, her friend Patrick had to leave his own house after his wife told him to leave following an argument. Patrick unexpectedly headed to Catherine’s house and knocked on her door for some temporary refuge. Catherine explains that he didn’t have any other friends to turn to.

“He came to my house and asked if he could sleep for a few hours,” Catherine said.

Turns out, Patrick never left. At first the home was a place he could be based out of while he worked on his marital problems, but he and his wife decided to divorce. Since then, he and Catherine have become a couple, and they now share Catherine’s home.  

Catherine says losing him so unexpectedly helped her resolve to start taking action on the plans they had made together. “My husband’s death, and all the stuff we were gonna do that we can’t do now, it’s given me a different perspective on time,” Catherine said. “I’m a lot more willing to do things now.”

She recently retired from a job as a paralegal, so she looked into ways to help her pay for the changes. Refinancing the house again wasn’t an option, though, because she’d just done that last year.

Because she’s no longer working and is widowed, Catherine thought another bank wouldn’t give her a loan. That’s when she started receiving advertisements in her mailbox from Figure and decided to apply for a HELOC — a process she says involved friendly Figure representatives and an easy online application process.

Figure approved Catherine for a $50,000 loan, and she’s using part of that money for things she needed and others she really wanted,

She’s renovating what’s called the mother-in-law suite — essentially a large bedroom and bathroom that haven’t been updated since the 1970s.

Patrick plans to use that guest space for future massage clients, a part-time gig he is planning to complement the income from his full-time job at Frito-Lay training new employees.

She also used part of the loan to pay for a waterfall in her backyard. “It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”

If there is money left over, she and Patrick also plan to redo the basement.

All of these changes have helped her overcome the sadness she feels from losing Larry. “It’s just hard when somebody like that dies,” she said. “My brain is still not back to normal.”

But, she added, “I'm a lot less sad than I think I would be otherwise.”

She also keeps busy with her children and grandchildren. Catherine has two sons, Alan, 38, and Ian, 28, and a daughter, Jerilyn, 25, plus two grandchildren — Andrew and Jonathan.

“I almost feel like my husband sent [Patrick] to me,” Catherine continued. “[Patrick’s] dad died a couple of months before his wife kicked him out. He has this theory that his dad and my husband are up there, playing bridge together,” she said, laughing. “They kind of pulled us together.”

Catherine also has company from her other housemate — Dodger, her part-Australian Shepherd mutt with a freckled face from the Humane Society. “He likes the waterfall,” she said. “I thought he was gonna be terrified of the waterfall but he goes and lies down by it.”

The waterfall makes a soothing sound, she said — one she especially likes hearing when falling asleep at night. She predicts that Patrick’s massage clients will enjoy it too.

“I could be dead in a year so if I could enjoy my waterfall for a year, I’m going to do that,” Catherine said. “And if I can help my friend opened his own massage place part-time here, then that’s all good.”