The Whirlwind

Christine, Catie, and Elvis the i-dog have begun their journey back to St. Jude’s Childrens Research Hospital after 31 days of family, friends, fun, frolicking, festivities, and future planning. We thank you all for your participation, support, prayers, and visits during their time home and all that you did to make it so very special for Catie. We asked each of the kids what their favorite part of the last month had been for them, and they each gave very deep, reflective answers. Maggie for example said that she was most excited to watch Catie interact with classmates, friends and family and to see the joy that those encounters brought to her. When I asked her if riding “Fahrenheit” at Hershey Park was a favorite, she replied, “oh yeah! That was great too!” Catie’s responded that her favorite part had been spending time with her brother and sisters, and all of you that she saw in the month they were home. As I was tucking her in bed last night, we went back over the past month, the welcome home on the cul-de-sac, the trip to Hershey, the trip to the shore and Aunt Suzanne and Uncle Jim’s house, the Catie’s Cure event in Valley Forge, the event at St. James in Basking Ridge, and the Anointing and reception at St. Joseph’s. No wonder she was so tired!

The tiredness seems to have abated to some degree. Christine woke on Sunday morning with a revelation, maybe Catie was battling low blood pressure again. We increased her intake of water, added some salt and stress, and low and behold, her pressure rose 10 points over the course of Sunday, and some of the grogginess left her. I pray that it is that simple and not an indicator of a more serious issue. We will know on Wednesday as we receive the results of the Spinal Tap and MRI that Catie will receive tomorrow. Please keep Christine in your prayers as she was informed Friday that there is no room for them in Target House and they will have to move into Grizzlies House when they arrive today and be on a waiting list for Target House. With Catie’s appetite still in flux, and the lack of cooking facilities in Grizzlies House, it is not a great combination. We are hopeful that some kids currently at Target House will be well enough to move home and make room very soon. We will keep you posted.

Christine did an amazing job during the time home to work with many people who have generously offered their time to assist in the managing of the home so that Megan can continue to be the blessing she is to us. There are now calendars for meals, cleaning, ironing etc. with many people pitching in and it is truly heart warming and appreciated. Christine’s attention to detail, while already legendary, has soared. Those of us on the home front have pledged to keep Christine present by taking care of things as she would. A difficult task for any team when they lose their best player, but we will all do our part to honor all of her work by stepping up.

The two events this weekend were nothing short of spectacular. The event at St. James in Basking Ridge not only raised a substantial amount of money to aid with the expenses related to Catie’s treatment and our desire to support her and Christine with as many visits as we can, but also, it was a special event in a place where I have been blessed to experience many special events. Christine’s mom, brother Sean, and long time friend Maureen put together quite a team to pull together such a wonderful evening, thank you. These are the remarks that I made Saturday evening:

As I look around at this auditorium where I have spent many wonderful moments, I reflect back on some of the more poignant ones.

An assembly at the beginning of the school year, September 1975 when I first laid eyes on a tall confident redhead and like Charlie Brown, fell in love from a distance.

A crisp, clear November morning in 1981 as I let go of my mom so that she could join our Blessed Mother as my motherly advocate in heaven.

Another crisp autumn day in October 1996 with a sky as deep blue and cloudless as any I have ever seen when that little red haired girl allowed me to join her on this wonderful journey called marriage.

Scattered days throughout the last 10 years as we welcomed first Maggie, then Max, then Catie, and then Mia into the family of God. (Molly and M.E. were baptized elsewhere).

A cold February day when we celebrated the life of the only grandfather I had ever known, GP Flanagan.

This building has in a very real sense been a part of the most important days of my life. It has been a home where lives, whether just begun, or just ended have been celebrated, shared, and marked in time.

Again today, it holds the magic of all of those memories and it holds all of you, people who have supported me and our family in one way or another from the time I first walked into this building in 1970 until now. We gather here today to thank you for allowing us to continue to celebrate life and for making it possible for us to give to Catie that which means so much to her as she battles, the presence of her family. We will continue to storm heaven with our prayers and St. Judes with our visits until we can bring her home, safe, sound, and cured.

The Anointing and reception at St. Joseph’s on Sunday was everything Catie had dreamed it could be. There were 150-200 classmates, friends, family members and parishoners in the school cafeteria witnessing Catie receiving a Sacramental blessing through Father Fred and those gathered. We then shared some wonderful baked goods from Kim and Helping Hands, a cake donated by Giant, soda and water while Catie sat and a receiving line formed. She smiled, hugged and talked to each of the people who had chosen to spend the time with her. C.J. Beeghley chose to come and support Catie instead of going to his football game, and those little choices and sacrifices are the real miracle of the last few months on this journey and what will help us to overcome what is to come. Thank you all!

I dropped Catie and Christine off at the airport this morning after watching them hug the kids at the bus stop. (Mia, hugging Christine and telling her not to cry and Catie holding Molly are pictures now burned in my memory). We loaded their suitcases on a skycap’s cart and just held each other. Thankfully I had to get back to work or the tears welling up in my eyes would have burst forth and I would never have let them go. The last month, despite some challenges and scavenger hunts to find a missing this or that, has truly been a blessing and a wonderful escape. Were it not for Catie’s somnolence and the apprehension that accompanies it, it would have been easy to forget at certain points in the last 31 days that this was just the beginning of a long road. Well this morning, the road jumped up and smacked me right in the face. My little girl is gone again, and she’s not on vacation or away at college, she is gone (to admittedly the finest institution of its kind in the world) to try to get rid of something that will kill her if we don’t stop it. The fact that I choose to send her away and bring the love of my life with her must be a choice of the heart because my brain is having a tough time with the decision. We started something with the kids a long time ago when I would have to leave on a business trip. I would take a piece of my heart from my chest and hold it in my hand and then place my hand against their chest and ask them to take care of this little piece of my heart until I came back. Catie and Christine took such a huge piece from me today, I just hope that God will make sure that I still have some left for the other 5 kids.

Thank you all who continue to make this journey with us as we follow this little angel to wherever God leads her. Your love and support has made all of the difference, not just in Catie’s battle with cancer, but in Christine and my marriage. 80% of marriages faced with this situation do not survive. Your prayers, as individuals, and more importantly as married couples praying together will keep us in the 20%; thank you.

May God shine His Countenance upon you today and may you rest in His loving embrace.

Christine, Kevin, Maggie, Max, Catie, Mia, Molly, and M.E.

PS – hug the ones you love!

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