Day 22

God Bless all who read these words – following the life and legacy of Catie,

Friday we handed over the Fab 5 to the Brady family where they will celebrate life and exhaust each other fully in a great way. We then headed to center city Philadelphia and checked in to the downtown Marriott where Emily Brady and William Walsh had arranged for a suite for us…THANK YOU and WOW. We checked in and headed down to the restaurant. The meal was good and we went back to the room and just relaxed in front of a movie, Nights in Rodanthe, and held each other and cried when Richard Gere’s character died. Side note – stay away from Nicholas Sparks movies just after someone close to you dies. After a great night sleep, we awoke, enjoyed a breakfast buffet and were at St. John the Evangelist Church, (a block from the hotel) for noon mass. After lighting a few candles for Catie, we thoroughly enjoyed mass on the feast day of Sts. Cyril and Melodius, who were responsible for bringing Christianity to the Slavic lands. Fr. Matthew, of Polish descent became very animated when discussing the lives of these saints without whom his ancestors would never have heard of Jesus Christ. He was very thankful, as am I because without Sts. Cyril and Melodius, Christine, also of Polish descent, might never have heard of Him either.

We also had the opportunity after mass of meeting a Brother of the Capucian Friars who welcomed us into the church (mass had been in the basement chapel) and gave us the nickel tour. He was the middle child of eleven, and had what the Irish call the gift of gab. With a lilting brogue, he regaled us with many stories of his life, and when we had the temerity to talk about ourselves, he patiently listened for all of about 30 seconds and then announced, “now let me get back to me self!” He was a trip, and well worth the visit. There was a sign in the church that we thought was just great. It read, “Welcome to St. John the Evangelist Church” and then went on to talk about the history of the church and its mission. The sign ended with a terrific line, “We’ll leave a light on for you”. What a beautiful message and one that sums up God’s willingness to be ready to accept us at whatever point we decide to turn to Him.

We walked around center city for the rest of the afternoon, went back to the hotel and worked out together in the health club, and then grabbed a cab to La Buca Ristorante where we had a very nice Valentine dinner. A friend of mine from work had suggested a place for dessert, and we planned to go back out at 11pm to have dessert but when we woke up at 3am, we figured they were closed and went back to sleep. Sunday morning began with mass, and it touched me in many ways. The readings were from Leviticus and the gospel of Luke and focused on Leprosy. In Leviticus, the law establishes what a person with leprosy must do. He or she must isolate themselves from the community and reside in a place of solitude away from the rest of the people. In the gospel, Jesus cures a leper and becomes so popular that He cannot find any rest as the crowds seek Him out wherever He goes. His solution is to remove Himself from the towns and seek solitary places. Jesus, in curing the leper accepts the social outcast status that the lepers must endure. He does the same for us as He accepts not only our failings and sins, but also the punishment and consequences of our sins as well. As I sat and listened to this story, one of hundreds where Jesus heals someone, I couldn’t help but think of Catie. Why didn’t You heal her? Do You have any idea how many people would have come to believe in You if she had been cured and restored? Why did all who had the faith and the courage to ask You for healing in the gospels receive that gift from You and not my daughter? As I began to be swallowed up by these thoughts, I walked to communion and received Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and with the grace that surpasses all understanding I found not answers to my questions, but rather peace with the outcome. The question is not “why wasn’t Catie healed?”, but “God, what awesome plans will be realized through this small portion of Your will?” Just as I settled in the peace of this grace-filled thought, the communion meditation hymn began. The cantor sang a beautiful rendition of Josh Groban’s “You raise Me Up”, and as I remembered the countless times that Catie and I had listened to that song together, the tears welled and I sobbed with that memory. Christine held me and we departed church, grabbed a cab and headed out to a restaurant for what we hoped would be a terrific brunch.

Let’s talk about brunch for a minute. Brunch has a very specific connotation for Christine and me. It has some very specific guidelines. There must be a buffet. There must be a good Sunday newspaper with comics. There must be very comfortable chairs, (not 15 minute chairs, 2 hour chairs… what is a 2 hour chair you may ask. It is a chair that you can sit in for 2 hours straight and your bottom isn’t numb.) There must be fresh squeezed orange juice. There must be both lunch and breakfast foods. There must be a good atmosphere, and you must be prepared to sit and luxuriate in the meal for a good long while. The Peabody Hotel in Memphis fit the bill perfectly, and Catie had become a brunch aficionado like her mom. The restaurant we went to this morning was not a “proper” brunch establishment. So we walked the 12 blocks back to the hotel and went back to the restaurant where we had eaten on Saturday. It fulfilled some of the requirements. We left the hotel and headed back to rejoin with the kids. Before we did that however, Christine and I noticed that the Conshohocken exit off the turnpike was approaching and we decided to return to Catie’s grave for the first time since the burial. We found the spot, noticed the few remaining purple flowers on the fresh dirt, and held each other and cried. We both realized that Catie was not there, but it still hurt. We asked her to comfort us, and the three of us shared a hug and we went on our way.

When we arrived at the Brady’s, we walked in the door to 9 sleeping people, 5 O’Briens and 4 Bradys. Apparently they had worn each other out. They had a great time together and the consensus was that the “Bounce Zone” was the highlight of the weekend. The kids did their part to fill the Brady house with joy and laughter, and we are so grateful that all 12 of us got so much out of this Valentine weekend. We are all home now, and about to turn in for the night. The Fab 5 are all sleeping soundly, and I know what a blessing that is. They are all healthy and happy, and I am thankful. As for my earlier questions about Catie; I am at peace with all that has happened. That doesn’t mean that from time to time I will not still wonder why or want answers, or even cry that she is not one of the kids sleeping in the house. I will have those thoughts sporadically for a while I am sure. At those moments, I pray that I will always have the faith and the grace to turn to a God who always has the Light on for me and just ask Him to hold me for a while and love me.

Praying for peace in your life,

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

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