We are an Easter people

Good evening to all of you who continue to journey with us,

May the joy of Easter fill your hearts and homes this night. As we reflect back upon the time since we last wrote to you we realize that as usual with the fab 5 and Catie’s Legacy, much has happened. We left last Friday for South Carolina and had 2 uneventful flights, arrived on time, and were met at the airport by Aunt Lynn. Molly, always the most blunt, quickly observed that it was a good thing Catie was dead, otherwise there would not have been enough seats. So on that auspicious note; we headed for Grammy and Poppy’s house. In a way, Molly allowed us to acknowledge early on that our family had changed since our last visit, and it helped us to just move on and begin to enjoy the weather and our family. We got the kids fed and headed off to Good Friday service at St. Benedicts which was spiritual, impactful, and thought provoking. After a pizza dinner with their cousins, the kids went to bed and awoke to a Saturday morning that begged us to head to the beach. The kids played in the sand and the surf, Christine was able to relax in a beach chair, and I cooked all of my exposed skin because my wife would not allow me to use any sunscreen.

Easter Sunday was just as beautiful, and Christine had the kids turned out in their Easter finest, (check out Catie’s website www.catiesstory.com for the latest picture of the fab 5). After mass, it was back to Aunt Lynn and Uncle John’s house for the 3rd Easter egg hunt of the day, a wonderful meal and terrific family time. Monday gave us our first taste of Geocaching, and despite a steady rain, it is an adventure the kids would like to continue. Tuesday, we took the four oldest on a long bike ride along Wild Dunes with their cousins and Aunt Lynn and they had a great time, summed up by Mia who from the back of Christine’s bike asked why we don’t live here. Wednesday had us back on planes home and by Thursday, the kids were back in school. Each day allowed us the opportunity to share mass as a family and we are grateful for the blessings that provided. All in all, it was a wonderful vacation, thank you Grammy and Poppy, Lynn and John, Austin, Douglas, and Anna.

Throughout the vacation, Catie’s absence was palpable, but only if we dwelt on it. For example, as we took the Easter picture on the steps of Grammy’s house where we have always taken it, Catie’s spot was empty. As we counted colorful bathing suits in the ocean, a bit of panic set in as we kept getting to five instead of six. Each time that the emptiness began to well up, God stepped in and reminded me that this was Easter and that because of what He did Catie’s presence in heaven was assured. Each time, His grace brought me calm and allowed me to focus on my job of getting Christine and the other 5 home to heaven, (and also to show them a good time while they are on earth!).

Back home again last night, Christine and I began our nightly walks again for the first time since Catie became ill. I have missed them and her so much. Our walks around the little cul-de-sac we live on provide so much to us and our relationship. After the kids are in bed, we can walk around and never be far from the house and yet we get exercise, time to decompress from the days events, and time to fall in love all over again each and every night. Even if a day has struggles and we are on each other a bit, we still walk, hold hands, talk, and pray, and we don’t stop walking until we are in each other’s good graces, it is such a blessing to our marriage. As we journeyed around in circles last night, (for you NASCAR fans out there, it is just a bunch of left hand turns), God allowed us to look at Catie’s journey and our response to it and other struggles in life in a new and different light. As we walked and talked, the Acceptance (Serenity) Prayer came into the conversation. We have always tried to live by that wonderful piece of wisdom, yet as we talked about little things that had caused us strife throughout the day, it appeared that we had an opportunity to live the prayer even better. If we put circumstances into one of the two “buckets” of the Serenity prayer, either things I can do something about, or things I can’t, that is a great first step. What we learned from each other and God last night is that living the prayer also involves moving things from one bucket to the other. Throwing up our hands about a situation and finding some sense of peace by placing it the things I cannot change bucket might work today, but tomorrow may reveal the opportunity to make some progress on those things, and we need to decide to put it in the things I can do something about bucket and get to work. The same is true in the opposite direction, things that I am actively working on may come to a standstill, and I have to be willing to let go of them and put them in the other bucket. The wisdom to know the difference and to keep the items moving is the hand of God, and the only way to receive the wisdom and counsel of God is to be in an active relationship with Him in prayer.

Prayer is also what keeps us in communion with each other and with all of you, and we continue to be grateful to you for your prayers and want you to know of our continuing prayers for you. Catie’s Legacy continues to grow and we look forward to letting you all know where we stand next week. Next week will be a busy one as we will be at a golf outing for St. Jude sponsored and organized by Matt Lisa of Chili’s on Monday (also at the Mechanicsburg Chili’s that night, 20% of all proceeds will be directed to the Catie Legacy fund), and then will be celebrating Catie’s birthday with many of you who are close by on the cul-de-sac in front of the house at sunset on Thursday. If you need the info and did not receive the invitation just let us know and we will get you the details.

We leave you this night with a thank you that we sent to many of the parishes that opened their collective hearts to us for inclusion in their bulletins, along with a response from Msgr. Chet of Saint Benedict’s in Mount Pleasant, SC. We are an Easter people. You may have noticed that we have stopped counting the days since Catie went home. Easter seemed like the right time to do that.

Please know that you are in our thoughts and we ask God to bless you and keep you safe on your journey,

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

Dear Msgr. Chet and the St. Benedict’s Parish Family,

Thank you one and all for all of your prayers and continued support as our family attempts to follow God’s will for us through the life of our sweet Catie. We want to know how very much we appreciate all that you have done for our family. We never felt alone. We knew so many of you were only a phone call away. Each time we entered the church building a smile on one of your faces greeted us and lifted us up offering more strength. Catie is the reason but the faith which holds this parish family together shone throughout each one of you who prayed with us and for us.

We knew you were with us each step of the way: throughout Catie’s illness; surgery and recovery at Hershey Medical Center; the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick in July before treatment began; temporary relocation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN; her return home in December; her celebration of her First Holy Communion on Christmas Day; her physical death and the celebrations of her life through the Rite of Catholic Burial in January; and now as we who remain here on earth all recover from our loss without Catie and come to understand the wonder and consolation of Heaven more fully. We know you are still holding all of us up in prayer.

Kevin and I have many thank you cards to write. Please accept this as our awareness of your efforts on our behalf. Know that we appreciate all that you have done for us and desire to personally thank you. We hope you understand that after the months of being apart we are spending the time being present in each others lives and thankful for the gifts of each other. It is my belief that if we were to sit and write thank you cards at this point and not hold the children and continue to pray with them and love them we would have indeed missed one of the gifts that Catie’s brief life gave to each of us – time is precious love those God has placed in your life TODAY!

God bless you and thank you.

Trusting in His will,

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

Note from Msgr. Chet,

Easter promises New Life to all who believe. For the members of the O’Brien family, these promises became very real as they journeyed together with Catie through her desert experience. Like Jesus, they faced temptation. Like Jesus, in His greatest moment of torment, they allowed God to touch their hearts and change their prayer from, “This can’t be happening to us” to “Lord, not our will but Yours be done.” In that simple yet profound act of faith, their lives were changed forever. Easter promises New Life to all who believe! Do you?

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