Happy 17th Birthday Catie!

Sweet Catie,

How anticipated was your arrival! How overjoyed we all were to hold you and kiss you. How delighted to have you join our little family. From your first yawn, first stretch, first deep breath you became our hope and filled the hole left by your sister Gianna. Today, seventeen years later you are still our hope. As the calendar page turned to April, we saw the 23rd colored in purple just like you asked. April 23rd is even purple on all of our devices and that took some doing. We ask all of those that support us to color their calendars purple too!

Even though it has been nine years since your last breath, since we last held you and counted your freckles, you continue to inspire us to be more than we would have ever been without you. Looking back on the days when you were sick, the clearest memories are of your selfless concern for others. Looking back through the photos of you at St. Jude and back home in your last days, what is most noticeable is your smile. Thinking back to those days, the most poignant memories are of how you handled your dying with such acceptance and grace. How did you know what to do? You simply prayed and asked us all to join you.

Today, nine years later, the foundation that bears your vision continues to pray. The children from St. Columbkill Parish, where you attended Pre-School, are again praying for the kids at St. Jude as they color cards to let them know “they are being thought of in a special way on April 23rd.” This year’s happy packages are given to us from Crazy Aaron’s who is supplying his “Thinking Putty” in purple. For the past eight years Candee has arranged a happy package for every St. Jude patient on your birthday. You inspire others beyond our family! You inspire Mr. Jim to continue his light show for the seventh year. You inspire Becky to continue to organize a dance-a-thon at St. Joseph’s. You inspire Liza and her work out event for Catie’s Wish and St. Jude. In this her 9th year of supporting us, she arranged for CBS21 to interview us in a special Making a Difference segment of the news. You would be so proud as both Mia and M.E. were interviewed and Molly was in the video as well blocking Mia’s shot as they played basketball together on camera.

http://local21news.com/news/making-a-difference/honoring-caties-wish

Your sisters have missed you more than ever this year, and have been very vocal about it. Perhaps your absence is more evident to them with both Maggie and Max away at college. M.E. asked us to go back to St. Jude for Remembrance Weekend. We had attended in 2010 and 2011 as a family, but the girls were so young that they wanted to go again. And so, we went back and did most of your favorite things; Mud Island, the Peabody for brunch, and Huey’s. While we were there the girls even did a video spot for St. Jude.

It is hard sometimes to imagine that they are growing up without you, though you still remain present to them with all of the ladybugs we all see. Mia continues to do so well in high school. She is studying hard, binge watches shows on Netflix, and continues playing basketball, swimming and running track. She will be learning to drive this summer! Molly just received her Confirmation. She placed second in the Science Fair and has been asked to compete in the National History Bee. She continues to play basketball and run track. M.E. misses you the most and yearns to know you. While she can see the photos and videos of you loving and holding her as a 2 year old, she wants to actually remember you. Being down at St. Jude was good for her, but she has memory blanks that may never be filled in until she is with you again. In the meantime we will love and support her. She has adjusted to Middle School. She is a good student and enjoys playing basketball and running track like her sisters. She also enjoys singing in the choir and this year she added being a SPOON in the high school production of Beauty and the Beast to her activities. She was wonderful.

Max has adjusted to life at Pitt and to the rigors of NROTC. He seems very happy. He will be home at the end of April. Your example of putting others first has clearly impacted Max and Maggie. Max will serve on a US Navy ship this summer, and Maggie has begun her clinical rotations as a nursing student. Maggie loves to share with all of us all that she is learning. She decided to study nursing after thinking back on the time she spent with you at St. Jude. The impact of your nurses, like Jenn, Sarah, Franja and so many others, who made each day better for you and for us, inspired Maggie to follow in their footsteps.

We continue our work both with your Foundation and volunteering for St. Jude on the Quality of Life Steering Council. This year marks our fifth year of service. We serve as Parent Educators for nurses, teaching them from our experience with you about what really matters at the end of life. We also share our experience with the Fellows; teaching the next generation of doctors how to compassionately share difficult news. We can even add to our resumes that we have taught at Harvard Medical School as we taught a session with Fellows at Dana-Farber and then spoke at a medical conference on the impact of involving bereaved parents in hospitals.

This past June, St. Jude hosted the first Pediatric Palliative Oncology Symposium.   Drawing from the experience we had with you and the Quality of Life team, dad spoke to over 400 doctors and clinicians about your journey. We will again host the 2nd annual Symposium in September 2018. Dr. Baker continues to share your story around the world and also presented a TedTalk this past year and spoke of you and dad.

 

Remember Marit? She was in treatment with you. She is coming up on her 10th anniversary as a survivor! Her mom, two other St. Jude moms and I filmed a video this past year. The video, called the Soul Sisters, won a Telly award. This video has been shown at two St. Jude events and raised much needed awareness and funds for the hospital in your memory and honor and in the memory and honor of Keeley, Brogan and the other kids who lost their fight to cancer.

https://vimeo.com/joebrandmeier/review/218864688/8f1661fe87

We carry on with the mission you entrusted to us. How did you know that we would need something to focus on to help us heal and rise above our pain? All those prayers you offered must have given you insights. Thank you for inspiring us and leading us until we join you in our eternal home. While we miss you every day, we are ever grateful to you for all you taught us through your own life about acceptance, inspiration and prayer. We hope our actions make you proud.

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