Day 11

Peace be with you all,

Thanks to each and every one of you who have offered our family so much love and support over the past 11 days. The cards, flowers, fruit and meals have been enjoyed by all of us. The Fab 5 are beginning to think that dinner comes with an Edible Arrangement each evening. The phone calls continue offering best wishes and a supportive listening ear. We know that we are not alone. We are grateful for all of you and yet we long for Catie’s presence. We are aware that a loneliness exists and we don’t quite now what to do with it each day.

Some days the loneliness is simply an emptiness that we feel. One night lying in bed, I was asked if I wanted to adopt a baby. I responded that no baby would bring back Catie. Though a baby might take up the countless hours that are left with nothing to do now that we are not caring for someone who is dying – somehow sitting by Catie’s bedside never seemed like a waste of time – even while she was sleeping. I could always clean the house and put away the Christmas decorations that remain up all over the house. The kids have asked if we could get a dog now that Catie is in heaven. Catie never liked dogs. She never wanted to read with a dog, visit with a dog or pet one (there were many pet therapies available at both Hershey and St. Jude). While many of Catie’s cousins think that Heaven sounds great because Catie is there with GP (Catie’s great grandfather, who died in 2007). These same children are even more excited because Cocoa (Catie’s grandmother’s dog) is there with them. So the emptiness we feel will have to remain because we will not be adding to the Fab 5 nor will we be getting a dog.

On Monday I was asked how many children I have. Seems like a simple question. I have been asked this same question dozens of times over the past 12 years. Now I pause and hesitate. I don’t want to shock a stranger with my new reality. If the children are with me the answer seems obvious if you can count, but I need to remember that most people don’t have even 5 children – so the answer isn’t obvious. If I hesitate long enough one of the children will answer. (The Fab 5 never understood that children should be seen and not heard.) I remember the first time Maggie mentioned Gianna to a stranger. I was in the bank to sign loan papers. Maggie was 5, Max 4, Catie 2 and Mia 1. A woman looked at us and said something about the number of children that she saw before her and Maggie said our sister who is three died and is heaven. I almost fell over. The woman probably keeps all comments about peoples children to herself these days. Should I answer like the children would? I have five children here with me and two live with their Father in Heaven. Maybe shocking people into thinking about Heaven is a good thing.

Mia has not returned to school. She has complained about her foot, this complaint began in Lourdes. She has been taken to the doctors and sent for x-rays. So far nothing seems to be wrong. She also has a fever and that is the main reason that she is home. It is a strange tug-of-war. Knowing what is best and not fully knowing. Is Mia’s “foot” her way of coping with Catie? It could be. Her coping seems to be a desire to stay at home. My way of coping seems to be going to church or sitting “talking/praying” with Catie and God. I could sit for hours and just like when Catie was sleeping never feel like I am wasting time. The crazy thing is that there is no rhyme or known reason for what brings on the tears or the sadness. Some moments nothing is happening – I am not thinking about Catie, I am not looking at a photo, I am not listening to a favorite song – I just am going about my day and then all of a sudden I am crying or wishing there would be a blizzard so that we could all stay together and not go out in the world for a few days. By the time I get everyone dressed in their PJs the feeling has passed. What to do now? Pray. Be with one another without something to do or somewhere to go. Just be still and know that we are all together and that Catie is with us always.

At night before bed we still are praying the family rosary. I remember watching Gone with the Wind and in one scene Scarlett’s family is in the living room all praying the family rosary. Scarlett, of course, arrives a bit late and joins in with the rest of her family. What a moment! A family rosary with each member devoutly praying; I could envision this in my future. I always wanted to have all of our children quietly praying the rosary each evening together. Well, the rosary is more physical at our home. M.E. roams from person to person to see who is willing to stop praying and start playing with her. Mia sits in either of our laps and moves if Molly comes over for a little comfort as she tires from the length of each decade – some she seems to like more than others. Max and Maggie are older and have been praying the rosary with us since we all drove together to work over 11 years ago. Each child leads a decade and the order depends on the night and who needs to settle down. When M.E., at 2, leads it is so sweet and innocent and even comical. I am sure that the angels in Heaven are enjoying her prayers.

That is another lesson that I have learned these past few days – to enjoy not just my prayers but everything. The other day I came across a picture I had never seen of Catie. Photos of Catie are more treasured than ever – there is no saying “I’ll have a chance to take it tomorrow”. I looked at Catie’s Christmas present to us and realized that her class picture was on the back. We ordered photo CDs this year instead of pictures as I didn’t want to misplace the photos and CDs tend to get more attention than envelopes do in our house, so I had never seen the picture. Now that I had I wanted one. So I found the CD and asked Megan to print a copy for me. Megan informed me that the CD didn’t have that photo I wanted on the disk. I called school and they directed me to LifeTouch. I spoke with Connie at LifeTouch who was very helpful and told me she would do her best but without the number of the photo there might be some difficulty. I was satisfied and let it go. When the mail came the next day it included an envelope from LifeTouch. Enclosed were many printed photos of smiling Catie and a new photo CD. This all occurred in less than 24 hours, to me Catie’s Story is continuing and it is still filled with wonderful people making a difference like Connie. She made a difference in my day and gave me the gift of Catie’s smile to enjoy and share.

The main thing that I think I have noticed about Catie’s Story is that while many of you tell us it provides something for you it does that for us too. It is all about sharing. Funny in this instance, sharing, we as adults often have to teach and explain this to children rather than learn from them. Or do we? Countless children have offered their birthday presents to give the money to the Catie Fund. In fact Catie’s own desire is to share with others in the form of her legacy. The day after Catie died I was on the phone with ALSAC doing an interview to help them write a letter to be sent to their donors to raise money for Catie’s legacy this year. The timing seemed inappropriate to the folks from ALSAC and they wanted to re-schedule, but I insisted that Catie would want me to continue. Tonight ALSAC sent us the letter they had written and asked that we proof it. ALSAC/St. Jude has never before heard of a child asking for what Catie is asking. The only part of Catie’s legacy that is for Catie is that the calendar square on April 23rd be colored purple. Can you do that for Catie on your home calendars? The rest of what Catie wants is for other kids. If everything had gone according to the plans that we made when we arrived at St. Jude on July 8th Catie would have been home having completed treatment on the day of her funeral. Her other friends Hunter and Marit – also on her protocol – have just finished and are headed home. Catie is thrilled for you. Now many of you have written to us about plans that you have for raising funds for Catie’s legacy we will get to all of your ideas. ALSAC’s letter states it is for this year – one clarification that we need to make is that Catie wanted April 23rd to be Catie’s Day at St. Jude for as long as St. Jude was necessary. Catie prayed for the day when they could close their doors and pediatric cancer was a thing of the past. I pray for that day too!

We are going to ask ALSAC if we can post their letter on Catie’s website. If any of you wish to pass it on and make or collect donations toward Catie’s legacy – thank you. At this point funds are no longer for anything other than Catie’s legacy. All monies should be directed to St. Jude not the Catie Fund and we are making that change on the home page of the website soon. Many of us feel very strongly about being involved and seeing Catie legacy established and to that end keep sending your ideas and we will let you know what can be done. We would love to see the event button remain active as long as there is interest.

Please know that you all remain in our prayers. Do not let Catie’s death be the end, but the beginning. The beginning of her legacy, the beginning of a new life for all of us as we strive to honor her short life with the changes we make in ours.

Peace and still praying for miracles,

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

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