What a difference a year makes

How much difference does a year make in a life? Does it depend on your age? Does is depend on your perspective? Does it depend on you? Last year at this very moment I remember calling my mother and trying very hard to tell her to listen. “Mom, I need you to get in the car and drive to my house to stay with my kids. KC (my youngest sister) is on her way to relieve Lauri (our next door neighbor) who had just relieved Trish (a friend) who offered to watch the kids until she had to go to work at 6:30. Kevin and I are at the hospital with Catie. They have found lesion within her spinal column. Later tonight they will run a sedated MRI on the rest of her spinal column to get a better look at what we are dealing with. That is all that I know. Mom, can you leave now? Mom, do you know how to get to my house? (We had just moved to this house and town 9 months ago.) Thank you, Mom. I will call you when we know more.”

Last year it was June 17th a Tuesday. Max was away at his first overnight Boy Scout camp. The girls were all taking swimming lessons every morning, except M.E. she was not even two yet. Mia and Catie were doing Brownie camp each evening between 6-8pm. Kevin was joining us for dinner and then joining Max for the night. We were all enjoying the beginning of summer with the promise of many fun things to do.

We had one concern and that was Catie pain and her sleepless nights. We knew we had to get to the bottom of that and that the next step involved a sedated MRI. Hershey Medical Center could not get one scheduled for a few weeks. Our doctor had talked to them and they were trying to squeeze in Catie on Tuesday. Somehow God had worked it out that Kevin and I both were able to take Catie alone. We were together when we first heard the words lesion, emergency admission and neurosurgeon. Do these words even register with a parent?

All night while we waited and wondered what would be next I was amazed at how very happy I was to watch Catie sleep. I know that Catie was sedated for the MRI but she was also very still and peacefully sleeping. This was a blessed sight to me as Catie had not slept through the night in over 3 weeks. Some nights she would sleep for a few hours in the chair downstairs but she would always awake moaning in pain. No pain medicine that we gave her or that the doctor ordered the pharmacy to create in kid’s strength worked. I am sure in Kevin’s mind this made the words lesion, emergency admission and neurosurgeon much more serious than they sounded to me.

Even in what could have been one of the darkest moments of our lives, individually and as a married couple, knowing that Catie was sleeping, lying down and looking peaceful gave us peace. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) God was with us then and has remained with us throughout this entire year.

Many people have asked if we have received any signs from Catie. I am not sure what I would call a sign. When Catie first died I just wanted her to sit up and tell me she had a crazy dream. Now I am at peace for her as she is in heaven. I am trying, and most days succeeding, life without Catie humanly present to us. At the table Mia thanks Maggie for sitting in Catie’s seat. At nighttime Molly encourages M.E. to sleep in her room so that Catie’s bed will no longer be empty. Today was a bit different. We went to daily Mass after swimming lessons. I needed a tissue and Maggie and Max began searching the car high and low looking for a tissue. Maggie did not find any tissues but rather the very special rosaries that had been lent to me when I first went to St. Jude with Catie. These rosary beads and the case that contained them were held and prayed by me every day during radiation and chemo. I held them and was comforted doing so. While we were in Lourdes Catie bought me a set with their special case. I knew I would pray Catie’s rosary once I returned the rosaries to Vivian Jordan. Then right after Catie’s death I could not find them. I looked everywhere for them. I stopped throwing things out for fear that I had tossed them. Is it a coincidence that I found them today? The answer may depend on you and your level of faith. To me it is a signal grace again reminding me that God is always with me and will remain with me until the end of time.

May God continue to bless you and the work of your hands,


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

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