Day 41-43

To all who continue to join us on God’s journey,

God has given us the grace to handle and carry the cross that we carry. People try to imagine what it would be like to carry the cross of losing a child. That would bring tears to any ones eyes – mine too. That was our cross, your cross is different, but still a challenge to live and carry. We had the opportunity, and grasped it, to prepare Catie for heaven. We spent so much time talking to Catie and the other kids about the Saints, the prophets, the cast of characters in the Bible and about the devotions of the Catholic church that these stories and the idea of heaven has become a goal for all of us. My problem is I see heaven as clearly as I explained it to Catie and she is there and I am still here. I can’t figure out how to live here and keep my focus on heaven – I think that is difficult for most people and that is why they don’t think about or focus on heaven. To do so, to think about heaven, causes a greater focus on what we are doing and how we are living and what we actually believe in and believe will happen. It is so much easier to live a less examined life.

Once Catie knew and understood that she was going to die she began praying the rosary without ceasing. She read the Bible cover to cover until she was blind and then asked people to read the Bible to her. When she was blind, because she had already read all of the stories, I imagine that the Bible became a family album for her – it contained the stories of the people that she was going to meet. She always loved the stories of Esther, Ruth and Naomi – these strong woman empowered her. (Not that she didn’t have a strong woman/role model in Christine). Knowing all this about her makes me very happy. Catie’s death brought her home to the greatest family reunion. All of this makes me very proud of Catie and that is part of the reason that I think she would be a great Saint in the Catholic church – but that is up to Catie and God. I will let them work out the details.

Please don’t be sad for us/me but be’sad for all the people that have not heard Catie’s Story and are still living a good life but a life without God in the center. We realized that if we wrote Catie’s Story, the Holy Spirit would be the real author and the results would/could be so positively unique and wonderful just like the Holy Spirit. Now I think of the effect of Catie’s Story on many of the children that I know, even those outside our house, and it is amazing and beautiful and the children are helping me and teaching me how to live this life here on Earth while focusing on heaven.

The gospel reading last night reminded us to “Knock, seek, and ask, for God will always answer and it will be given unto us.” Really? I sat in the pew and thought, “No He doesn’t.” We can allow ourselves to find examples all over the place of God’s apparent inattention to our struggles and difficulties. The economy has left people we all know without a means of support. More and more children die and are diagnosed daily. Cancer continues to be a part of the lives of people we love every where we turn. Where does it end? Is He really listening, and if He is, why does the answer keep coming back as “NO”? Are we just more attuned to the crosses that people have to carry because of Catie’s journey that we have a difficult time seeing the resurrection moments?

The amazing thing about God is that even when He says “no” He stays with us. When Jesus asked Him to allow the cross to be taken away, the answer was “no”, but God the Father stayed with His Son through the entire ordeal. The lesson is that regardless of the answer, He stays with us. The answer is not always the most important thing, the fellowship with God and His being right there for us should be the focus and should give us peace. Sunday’s reading was the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and just as Abraham shows his devotion and faith in God by raising the knife to strike down his only son, God commands Abraham to stop. Two thoughts came to mind as I listened to this story for the thousandth time. I wonder what family reunions were like in the Abraham family. Did Isaac always regale the family with the story of the time “dad was going to sacrifice me.” The other thought was that Abraham really understood that children are blessings from God, on loan to us, until we can get them back to their heavenly Father.

Christine and I spent a wonderful evening and early morning last night with Catie’s godfather Jim, his amazing wife Suzanne, their 4 wonderful sons, and about 40 friends and family who had come together for a surprise celebration for Jim’s 50th birthday. The surprise was pulled off to perfection, the party was a tremendous success, and Christine and I had a great time and had the opportunity to be out as a couple and really enjoy ourselves. The fab-5 were all in the capable hands of Katie Fontaine, and we are grateful to her for giving us the gift of a night together. We had many opportunities throughout the night to share Catie’s legacy with those who were not yet aware, and had the chance to not talk about Catie with others, also a blessing. The only downer of the evening came as I switched on the radio as we began the 3&1/2 hour journey home at 1am and the overly bubbly radio announcer reminded us to ‘spring ahead!. So at 5am, we rolled into bed for a few hours of sleep before Girl Scout Sunday.

A dear friend asked me today if I was mad at God for taking Catie away from us, and as I read back over this update, I realize that there are times when I am at least confused by His apparent lack of attention to the thousands of prayer requests for her healing, but God, and Gene, in asking the question allowed me to be guided by the Holy Spirit to the following answer. We talked a few updates ago about the purpose of miraculous healings, namely to identify Jesus and give Him credibility. The purpose was always to bolster the faith of those that witnessed the miracle. As I reflected on Gene’s question, I thought of Lazarus. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it certainly wasn’t for Lazarus’ benefit, he had already run his race and was awaiting only Jesus’ opening of the gates of heaven. What a shock and cross it must have been for Lazarus to be brought back to this world where within a few short weeks, he would watch his best friend be crucified by the same followers that only a week before had wanted to hail Him as king in part because of the raising of Lazarus. Lazarus had to endure a great deal and carry a singularly difficult cross after being yanked back from heaven’s doorstep. But eventually he died as did everyone that Jesus healed. So no, I am not mad at God, I am hopeful that He will allow me to continue to see the blessings, conversions, and miracles that have and will come out of Catie’s life and death.

The Catie Legacy letters go out tomorrow morning. Please pray that they are received with a spirit of openness and generosity. I think of Catie’s legacy in three ways. One is the financial part, and I am confident that we will make that a reality for as long as St. Jude is needed. The second part is Catie’s desire to be the patron Saint of pediatric illnesses, so please continue to bring your prayers for healing to her. The third part is the one that we all need to keep as a daily reminder if we are to honor her life and death and have it make a difference in how we live our lives. We need to keep all of the little promises that we made, all of the little changes, the extra hug for our kids, the extra “I love you” text message for our spouse, the extra visit to a family member who may be having a difficult time, the extra 5 minutes of a phone conversation with that person who always calls at the wrong time. Matthew Kelly would say that honoring Catie and her sacrifice would compel us to continue to strive to be the very best version of ourselves each day; what a legacy. Catie, my darling little 7-year old, I pledge to do my best each day to be my best and to pick myself up at least as many times as I fall. I promise to be a better husband, father, son, co-worker, relative and friend, and I ask for your help.

May God continue to bless you and may you continue to sharpen your eyes of faith to recognize each blessing for what it is and who sent it,

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

PS – Don’t forget to ask Catie to help !

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