Day 37 – December 31st 2008

Dear friends and family,

The end of one year and the beginning of the next marks the time to reflect back upon that which occurred and that which is to come. As we close out 2008 and welcome in 2009, the O’Briens have more blessings and exceptional moments to tally than in any other year, and those reading this are the reason. Seven months ago today, MaryCatherine had the first symptom of what would evolve into the journey that you have all embarked upon with us, and in that short time, we have truly felt a level of support that is beyond compare. Thank you. Perhaps without Catie’s battle we would not have been as cognizant and thankful of all of the people that God has placed in our lives. Perhaps the circumstances of the last seven months have made us more appreciative than ever before. Mother Theresa once remarked to a reporter “God only gives us what we can handle with His help. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much”. There is a part of me that prays fervently that when I sit to write this update 365 days from now that the thanks I will be offering is to God for Catie’s survival and complete cure. If that is God’s plan, I will remember to thank all of you as well.

Catie continues to charm and decline both in each day. She is losing her vision. She needs glasses to read now. As her last MRI was done in November we have no idea what has happened. She has zero use or feeling in her legs – temperature, pressure, pain; nothing, no response. She has to lift them and move them if she wants to rearrange herself in bed. In some ways it is very sad – heartbreaking for me as her mother. Yet I will not allow myself to feel that way. I think it is selfish of me to be feeling something that must be worse for her – they are her legs. She was interviewed yesterday. The reporter asked her if she was aware of her diagnosis and prognosis. She asked her about her legacy, and she asked her what she missed doing. I thought the last part was a stupid question. The answer was EVERYTHING. She just sat there and her answer just trailed off.

This, what Catie is going through, is nothing that anyone would ask for, as I know you know. It is hard in every sense. I turn so often and I sense that God is right there beside me. There are so many moments when what I have just seen or heard could just literally knock me off my feet and yet I feel as though Jesus is right there beside me holding me up. I feel Him. I even feel Him urging or encouraging me to go on and face what is next with the confidence or assurance that He is with me and that somehow things will be fine or even better. The words and thoughts of “Trust Me and Come to Me” are constantly on my mind. That is one of the selfish reasons that I pray – to concentrate on feeling His presence. It is more addictive than anything I have ever felt. This presence that I feel is more powerful and yet in some way similar to the sun on your face after the long winter. I just stand there and soak it into my body – I can’t feel enough of it.

Catie ended the year in much the same way as she began it, with mass at St. Joseph’s. The difference was that this year she was able to receive Communion. After mass, we went to Carrabba’s restaurant and Catie ate bread and pasta until she was ready to burst. The rest of us thoroughly enjoyed our meals, and of course our little celebrity angel met and engaged friends and strangers alike. The other highlight of the day for me was Catie coming to work with me for an hour. She helped me with some store layouts and had a chance to catch up with some wonderful people that I have the privilege of working with. She explained to them as she did to the reporter about her legacy. Whether she survives or not, Catie wants to be able to raise funds to defray the operating expenses of St. Jude’s on her birthday (April 23rd) each year. Quite a goal for a seven year old; she gets her visionary side from her mother.

On a personal note, (not like the last 101 updates since the website became active have been anything but personal), I end this year as a husband and father being more committed and in love with Christine and all of the sensational six than ever before. We have asked, suggested, and cajoled those of you that join us for these prayer updates to hug, kiss, spend time with, and relish the people in your life as we and you have witnessed the fragility of life through Catie’s journey. I have heeded my own advice and have vowed to become a better husband and father each day. Christine and I have recently been blessed by a new level of understanding about our relationship. Friends of ours who are very different from one another but similar to Christine and myself wondered aloud why God would put two very different people together. I offer this as an explanation. In many ways, Christine and I are as different as the ocean on a calm versus a windy day. I am like the ocean when there is no wind; like a sheet of glass. Christine tends to be more like the ocean with a good breeze, with a few more ups and downs. As opposite as our personalities in this regard are our choices of what we would most enjoy if we were on the water. I would choose sailing, and Christine would choose water skiing. The beauty of God’s plan for us is that we complement each other completely. Water skiing is best enjoyed on water that resembles a sheet of glass, and sailing requires wind and therefore some waves. We need each other to do that which God has asked us to do. In order to fulfill that plan of His, I need to continue to be a better version of myself.

That is my very simple New Year’s resolution. It will also be my January 2nd resolution, and every day hereafter. Catie has promised to pray for my success in keeping my resolution. She has also suggested that she will pray for your success in keeping your resolutions. She is especially interested in prayerfully supporting anyone who is choosing to quit smoking this year. If you are thinking of kicking the habit, who better to pray for you and offer their support than a little 7-year old with cancer. Not only will she pray for you if you let her know you are trying, she will guilt the heck out of you if you have a relapse! Let her know that you are trying and she will storm heaven for you.

Praying for a miracle and asking God for His blessings upon you this New Year,

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

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