Day 58

Yesterday morning we met with Catie’s hospice nurse and also spoke with the Palliative Care Team (Kevin refers to them as the Quality of Life Team). From a medical point of view the end is drawing near and preparations need to be made. They seem completely prepared and that is good and yet when Kevin and I ask direct questions like how will this work? What signs are you looking for from Catie? What is next? The experts seem unable to answer with words. They tell us that we are doing a great job. I don’t need that and how can they tell – at this point they do not know us. They have offered a book. The book was not that helpful. Is the end of life so difficult to deal with that even answering the question is difficult? I need to prepare myself. I don’t want Catie’s last weeks, days or moments to be anything different than her extraordinary life. And so for us this is yet another phase, chapter, part of Catie’s Story.

I once read the story of Saint Maximilian Kolbe and was so profoundly moved that I named my/our only son after this man. It was not so much in how he lived that amazed me but in how he died. Many of you may not know the story so bear with me if you have heard the story before. Father Kolbe was asked to undress as he entered the place reserved for his death. His thoughts went to Christ – Christ died on the cross naked. It is fitting that I suffer as He suffered. Then others noticed that something extraordinary was happening in the place where Father Kolbe was to die. First of all he was not alone. Others were with him and Father Kolbe was shepherding them and leading them through the shadows of the valley of death, pointing them to the Great Shepherd. The noises coming from the place where he and the others were left to die were peaceful and filled with prayers and songs. Knowing Father Kolbe’s devotion to Our Lady and her son, Jesus, I imagine he led his companions in the rosary and quoted the gospels. Father Kolbe comforted all his companions and led them to the most peaceful death possible given their circumstances. He was the last of his companions to die. All of this occurred not in the safety and comfort of his home surrounded by those he loved but rather in what was called the death cell. It was a part of the Nazi Concentration Camp called Auschwitz. Father Kolbe had volunteered to go there in place of another man. Father Kolbe had willingly laid down his life for another – there is no greater love than that.

Catie is not able to lay down her life for another – considering her disease she cannot even be an organ donor. So what can Catie offer? Catie offers her example. She currently has a compressed schedule. She is awake for only 5 hours each day. In this time she eats, bathes, writes a few notes, visits with one visitor – if she has the strength, prays the rosary, receives the Eucharist and listens to the Bible. I want to continue to prepare her to answer God’s call in her life. Each day we discuss living and dying. She is no longer afraid to die. She draws great strength and comfort from the rosary which we pray together as a family each night. Regardless of what you imagine there is a great sense of peace in our home. These moments of prayer are in many ways comforting and are preparing all of us for whatever tomorrow will bring. It is my hope and prayer for Catie that if Father Kolbe (now Saint Maximilian) can prepare strangers for heaven in a death cell with only prayer and the word of God that we as a family can peacefully prepare Catie and each other for whatever God’s will is for all of us.

I have been concerned, from time to time during Catie’s journey, with those of you who still question a God that would allow innocent children to suffer. There are those that find it so senseless even though God’s own plan for your salvation included the seemingly senseless death of His son Jesus. I have thankfully never stood in your shoes. Thanks to my father, Bob “LBC” Closkey, I have been instructed from an age that I cannot remember in the Good News. My father was larger than life when I was a child – he is very tall with broad shoulders. He was loud and happy and infectious – in a good way. He would wake us up in the morning with his laughter and yell from his bedroom window each morning as I left for school, “Christine, you are a winner and God loves you!” Can you even imagine how embarrassing that was as a teenager? Regardless of how embarrassing, it was true and how important to hear from your father – what was a great example of God’s love for me in my life. My father’s love was a gift – just as Jesus’ love is a gift for each of us. We all just celebrated Christmas. How many left wrapped presents under the tree? Every gift was opened, right? Now while some may be returned and that is unfortunate – most will be treasured. Many gifts will be more treasured not for what they are but for who gave them and the meaning behind them. Some of us look at God’s love like a gift that we are not sure of its worth in our life and while that too is unfortunate I offer you this. Pray before you return it or worse yet ignore it. Open your heart and honestly pray and ask God not why He would allow an innocent child to suffer but rather how we can alleviate suffering in this world. There is much work to do and if we read the Bible it will tell us the harvest is plenty and the laborers few.

How does this fit into Catie’s Story? Well Catie’s Story is all that Kevin and I have to offer. Catie however wishes to go one step further. Catie wishes to have a legacy established. It is Catie’s desire to have all of the operating costs for St. Jude’s on her birthday paid for on her behalf. She wants to make sure that she does her part to ensure that cures are found and that children do not suffer needlessly if treatment is available. She would like to pay for of all the surgeries, research expenses, salaries, in-patient hospital stays, etc. I told her that she was talking about raising $1.5 million each year. Catie asked if that was a lot? (Ahh to be 7 years old.) I looked at Kevin and Megan and asked how we could do this for Catie. Several of you have suggested that we publish Catie’s Story. Does anyone know a publisher? We could involve more Catholic schools and do more dress down days?? Are there 15,000 Catholic schools? Sub sales brought in a bit more money than dress down days, can any of you think of a function that would need 750,000 subs? Finally it was suggested that we contact ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Affiliated Charities – the fund raising arm of St. Jude’s) and see if they could help. The other day ALSAC answered Catie with a “we are going to make this happen.” You may be asked to assist in making Catie’s legacy a reality, we will keep you posted. Regardless of whether Catie lives or dies her life has made a difference. Isn’t that what we all should want; to make a difference? That is what Jesus did. He walked this earth, ate with people, told some stories, cared for those He spent time with and made a difference, such a difference that we are all still following His example today.

So pray today that you make a difference. Pray today that Catie has another good day. Pray that peace remains in our home and yours.

Trusting in His will,

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

PS. I have been told the these recent updates are too sad. People are not finding any comfort or humor. Really people it is OK to laugh, especially at the “I’m not deaf I’m blind” comment. But if you need more here is a funny tidbit from today. I am down in the kitchen typing the update. All kids, with the exception of Molly and Catie, are asleep. Molly comes flying down the stairs and says “Mom come quick Dad needs you. Catie is in pain!” I dash up the stairs two at a time. Catie is no longer in bed. Where is she? I find she and Kevin in the bathroom. She is stuck in the toilet and Kevin, who never has asked for help with the children, asks me to hold her up as he attempts to un-wedge her paralyzed legs from within the toilet. Once Catie is free of pain and no longer stuck I could no longer resist. I ask Kevin when he plans on bringing the new toilet seat upstairs and using it? Did you think it looked better in the living room? It does match the furniture nicely. For one last funny from today, my beautiful bride made the following comment: “Kevin, there are many mothers who are much busier that I am”. I hit my head when I fell over laughing.

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