God bless you all,

What makes grief so different from everything else in life? I have asked myself this question a dozen times over the past four months. Is it because in most cases we are not ready for it to happen and there is no practice or opportunity to “do better next time”? Not that we are asking for a next time or a second chance.  We are not prepared to say good-bye. Catie’s disease made that part a non-issue. Catie simply drifted off to sleep and never woke up – did any of us really understand that there was never going to be another moment to say “I love you”? There was no second chance to tell our child we loved her or ask her any questions once she was dead. So what are we to do? Focus on the living. Make sure that each and every day we use wisely the opportunity to put everything else aside and tell your spouse, your kids, your parents, your family and your friends that you love them. If you think that you will get another chance, that it can wait, then you will have missed today’s chance. Remember that Catie’s first wish was that we all take that extra opportunity each day to tell the people we love how important they are in our lives.

Most of us are planners to one degree or another. We plan our vacations, we plan our meals, we plan for our family, we plan tomorrow’s schedule and some of us plan for our future – including our own death. I can remember telling Kevin when Max was born that I thought we should get some life insurance for the kids. At this time Maggie was one and Max was a newborn, Kevin thought that I was crazy, morbid and that all the years living with my father (who sold insurance for a living) had totally brainwashed me into thinking that as long as one had enough insurance one was ready for anything. Kevin’s final word was no (for any of you who know us Kevin doesn’t usually get the final word). We would plan for our children’s futures but not for their death. We simply didn’t want that to happen. So if we didn’t plan for it, it wouldn’t happen. Right? Wrong. You just never know.

Knowing and planning for death is so awful and impossible and that is why I am so very thankful that I am a Catholic Christian. Thanks to Jesus Christ who has conquered death and my firm belief in Christ’s resurrection I am able to believe that my relationship with Catie is capable of continuing. It is not over. It is not finished. It is there for me to draw strength from each and every day.

Do I need to believe this? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t believe it before Catie became ill. I just understand it better now, because now I live it. Each morning I wake with the sun and pray and after I am finished praying to God my Father I turn my prayers to Catie. I tell her all about my concerns for the kids at St. Jude and her brother, Max, and her sisters, Maggie, Mia, Molly and M.E. and her father, Kevin. I tell her about the other prayer intentions that have become known to me through her website. I tell her about my day and about my struggles. I tell her that I love her. I tell her that I miss her. I pray with her, just like we did in Memphis, for my relationship with Kevin. I pray that I will never get too busy again to miss a chance that a day offers me to do something special or loving for another person. I pray with Catie that I will always appreciate how special and rare life and love are – they are gifts. These are gifts that we hoard, like the things that fill our garages, or gifts that we share.. It is all up to each of us.

Throughout the journey that we have been on for the last year – today is the anniversary of Catie’s first night of hip pain – that is the main message that I have learned. Love is a gift that grows best when shared. For all of the gardeners – love is a perennial. There should be a little of its beauty in all of our lives. This Friday we all worked together in the perennial beds around our house. We planted a new rose bush for Mary. I love to work outside. I love that everyone else that is working with me does so because they love me.

Saturday we woke up early and began our annual trip to Washington D.C. This year we stopped on the way at the Grotto in Emmitsburg, MD. The last time we were there Catie was so healthy and vibrant. This time she was just missing. Her absence brought Kevin to tears. We made great time and as usual found a wonderful parking spot on the Mall in front of the Air and Space museum. Catie’s shadow was everywhere we went. Again this brought Kevin to tears. I took pictures of the kids but most pictures were taken from behind them – capturing their sizes and not their smiles – in some sense freezing them. I don’t want them to keep growing up. It is just another reminder that Catie is not joining them or us. Each year we add another new site to the trip. This year’s addition was Mass at the Basicilla of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Kevin and I had been there years before with just Maggie and Max as babies. Sunday and Monday were quiet days spent with family friends – enjoying and reflecting, tearing up and brushing the tears away, while we miss Catie we will always remember her and that is what we celebrate not just this Memorial Day weekend but every day.

Jesus taught us in His own life and death that it is how we live that matters. It is in how we remember the life of another that also matters. To call yourself a Christian means that you remember the life of Christ and wish to follow Christ’s example in your life. To call yourself a Catholic Christian means that and also means following that example through the observation of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Several of you have returned to the sacraments or grown stronger in your faith and prayer life after journeying with Catie. Praise the Lord! I refer to you as Catie Catholics. I think there is a nice ring to the name. It will probably not catch on and I would never publicly name any of you by name, but there is something to all of this. Catie only was given seven years to make a difference. She did to us. She did to you. She didn’t think that her wish was too big or impossible to achieve – neither did Martin Luther King or many others who went before Catie. Dream, wish and pray for the strength to make your dreams come true. Remember the motto of Catie’s Wish – The only limit to God’s ability to work in your life is your level of trust!!! Who deserves our trust more than God?

So I offer you this: DREAM; PRAY; TRUST: SHARE; and LIVE. Great things are bound to happen. What do I think is next? I can only imagine…

Peace be with all of you,

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

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