Following Jesus

Putting words onto paper only makes sense if you have a general idea about what you want or need to say. While thoughts have been racing through my head these past two weeks sense is not what most of the thoughts could be called. There are stages of grieving: denial or shock (cancer like Catie’s doesn’t allow for this stage to last very long – treatment must begin within thirty days after surgery for any success), anger (there is a topic that makes sense but where should the anger be directed?), bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are also just words until you look closer at them and at what you may be feeling. No one needs to die in your life in order for you to have a personal understanding for these stages. The first time I felt these stages I was six and my parents told me we were moving to another house. I remember thinking go ahead I’ll stay here where I like it.

Well given almost forty years and dozens of moves both big and small I can handle any change in geography. The big tasks or large projects that require planning, hard work and tons of organization; that is what I was created for, am I right God? This grieving process is nothing like that – there is very little actual work. Even returning home after 6 months away – everything eventually returns to its place or its new home is found to be better suited anyway. So what does it take? Like most things in my life I have found that the grieving process takes two things that are not discussed in the stages. For me navigating the grieving process takes communication and trust.

The problem for me has been with whom do I communicate and where do I place my trust? See I am one of those people that love a good adventure and for the most part I view life as an adventure. Each day I look forward to the unexpected things that will occur in my well planned day. See I love to carefully plan each day to pack in the important things. My day typically begins with: get everyone up and out the door, breakfast is optional – unless you are going to school. Then I head to Mass. Then I begin to cross things off the carefully planned list. Always wondering where the unexpected will fit and will I see it or will I be too busy crossing things off a list to notice what is right there. Will I notice M.E. crossing the aisle at Mass to shake hands with the only other child? Or will I be too busy praying – asking God for something that someone, in my opinion, may need rather than witnessing the gift of love that M..E. is sharing?

That is when it began to dawn on me today in my personal grieving process my communication and trust begins with prayer to God, my Father. There have only been brief moments when I have been bitter or angry with God during this. Those moments have been brief because I believe with every ounce of me that God loves me beyond my own imagination and understanding. Somehow God has all of this figured out. When I don’t understand or become overwhelmed I need to stop and turn to Him in prayer. I need to be like a child…just like Jesus tells us in the scriptures. “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like a child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3) When a child doesn’t understand what they are seeing, reading, or told do to they immediately turn back to their parent or someone they trust and ask for clarification. All parents have lived through the “why?” stage.

I will always be a child of God. I hope to never be too proud to miss the next line of scripture (Matt 18:4) that states “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” I need to remain open and trusting in God at all times. I must turn to God in my anger and sadness and He will give me what I need to grow deeper in understanding and peace. God already has given me all the answers through His son Jesus. I just need to keep searching for an increase in my understanding. Jesus gave us all the examples that we need through how He lived His life. I just need to do a better job following His example. Jesus shared His life with others. He shared everything. He shared His body and blood and continues to do this today through the Eucharist. He shared His suffering and death with all of us. As He looked down from His cross who was there for him? He saw His mother, Mary. Mary, who had witnessed His entire life and loved Him as all mothers love their children. She was there for him sharing in His suffering. In the midst of His suffering Jesus offers His mother, Mary, comfort. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he turned to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27) Jesus is, even as He is dying, offering us an example that we as human beings need others to share our lives with each and every day.

Certainly there are moments when we need to be alone. Jesus did too. He went into the desert alone for forty days. During His agony in the garden, He prayed alone. “After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling he prayed”. (Luke 22:42) These instances are mentioned for us. They are also contrasted by the rest of Jesus’ life. Throughout the rest of Jesus’ public ministry He lived in communion with His disciples sharing stories, praying to God, His Father and breaking bread. If I am to live my life with Jesus as my example I need to do as Jesus did. Jesus gave us a game plan for our lives in the two great commandments. And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, ‘Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

Each time I pray living each day for God and those He put in my life there is less grieving and more rejoicing for Catie. These days are filled with the wonder that Catie’s life and legacy have provided to my life. These blessings far overshadow the loneliness and sadness created by her empty chair. These blessings are multiplied exponentially by all of you who have shared our journey, have offered your prayers, have donated your dollars, have sacrificed your birthday presents, have cooked a meal, ironed a shirt, driven an O’Brien, organized a fund raiser, written a card, dressed in purple or shared Catie’s wish. Catie’s desire to give was infectious during her life – so many gave to her. Catie’s last two wishes were to continue the giving.

Today for example we saw many of you at the golf outing and at the lunch and dinner sponsored by Chili’s of Mechanicsburg. Matt Lisa and his staff, and their regional director put the resources of the Chili’s restaurant chain behind Catie’s Legacy wish and a portion of all of today’s receipts will be sent directly to St. Jude in Catie’s name. Golfers enjoyed the wonderfully refreshing 40 degree temperatures, driving rain, and blustery winds which gave us all of the excuses we needed for our errant shots. We also met Major who turned seven today and donated his birthday money at Chili’s tonight. One of the golf foursomes sported electric green St. Jude hats with Catie’s Team emblazoned on the side! Thank you to all of you who made this such a special day.

Over the past three weeks the campaign for Catie’s wish has been growing. Our kids watch the St. Jude thermometer rise each day. Monday the thermometer jumps the highest when the donations from the Marlo Thomas letters are added to Catie’s wish total. Before the campaign began Catie had provided St. Jude with about $35,000 in donations. The first full week provided a jump in the thermometer of approximately $200,000. The following week the thermometer really took off, adding $700,000 to Catie’s total or 67% of the goal. Today, three days prior to Catie’s birthday (with multiple tag days, dress down days and fund raisers to be held on Catie’s actual birthday) we are thrilled to report that Catie’s thermometer has again jumped. As of today, on behalf of Catie’s 8th birthday wish, $1,798,183 and counting has been raised. Talk about the multiplication of loaves and fishes… with God all things are possible.

Share your life, look for the blessings in each day and wait to see how God is going to love you – just you today!

With humbled appreciation and love,

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

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