The Things We Do For Love

Greetings to all who continue to journey with us,

This past week offered its share of blessings and challenges as I am sure your week did. Part of the reason we continue to share Catie’s Story is that it continues to resonate with the everyday lives of so many people and yet because of her life and the way she lived it, it has changed our everyday and may still have an impact on others. We still receive correspondence from many who have fundamentally changed the way they deal with the relationships in their lives because of Catie, and it is that legacy that makes her other wishes a reality.

We left for South Carolina on Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Christine and the kids went to visit a dear friend in the hospital but were still able to have the suitcases packed with all of the accoutrements for an 8 day O’Brien excursion. While in the area, they stopped by Catie’s gravesite where a new headstone has been placed marking Catie’s grave and many relatives including her great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and her great uncle Billy. Christine and the kids were able to capture Catie’s name from the headstone on a piece of construction paper for me to see. As a result of their long drive to Philly and back however, some of the details went unfinished by the kids and me and as luck would have it, many of the missing details were “discovered” just before we departed. It put a bit of a damper on the first leg of the journey and the wonderfully spacious accommodation at a unnamed hotel where we had to cram all seven of us into one room allowed for such a wonderful night’s sleep that we debated canceling the vacation and returning home for a week of progressive torture. Undaunted and full of faith that things could only get better, we continued on and after acclimating ourselves had a terrific visit with Grammy and Poppy. The beach was beautiful despite Maggie and Christine being stung by jellyfish and as always, we were saddened that our time had come to an end.

We cut the visit short by a day so that we could travel the great circle route from South Carolina to Pennsylvania by way of Memphis. Many of you have been praying for little Elizabeth Grace (Catie’s “little sister” at St. Jude). Christine felt compelled to visit her and her mom and we gladly went along. The hours we spent taking turns going into Elizabeth Grace’s isolation suite to pray with her and her family and offer our love and support more than made up for the 14 hour detour. Christine was able to go back and visit with her again that evening and the next morning and we continue to pray for a miracle for Elizabeth Grace and for our own acceptance of God’s will. When our own little Elizabeth dressed in an isolation gown wrapped her arms around Elizabeth Grace and kissed her on the forehead and told her it was time to wake up, I do not believe it would have surprised anyone if in spite of all of her medical issues she had complied.

Shortly after we arrived home however Elizabeth Grace’s body, having taken all it could handle, allowed her soul to escape and journey home to Heaven where Catie was waiting to show her around. After 17 months, she succumbed to her disease and her parents and brothers are left with many of the same questions that we faced in January. Please pray for them as they battle the doubts that may surface in the coming weeks that they know the presence of God and the peace that only He can provide. Be assured that Catie and Elizabeth Grace, Mary Kate and Hannah, Konley and Mary, and the others continue to bask in the loving embrace of Our Father and He listens to their pleas, so continue to ask them for their intercession.

While we were in Memphis, we also had the opportunity to visit with many of our friends from St. Jude and to spend a few moments with those who had meant so much to us when we were there with Catie. While we could not see all of those who had touched our lives from this wonderful hospital, know that we looked for you to share a moment and a hug, and will catch up with you on our next visit to St. Jude. On Saturday morning, we were able to spend some time with Miss Mary, (you may remember her as the sweet angel who made the cookies that Catie loved so much !) She has been a wonderful support for all of us and we had a lovely visit with her. We stayed at the Marriott by St. Jude, and they were as amazing as they had been in November when we stayed with them and 20 of us celebrated Thanksgiving on the first days following the news that Catie’s tumor had returned. The hotel and the people in it continue to provide us with a home away from home and their hospitality and generosity are much appreciated.

The drive home from Memphis was significantly better than the drive down, and when we arrived home at midnight on Sunday, we climbed into bed and thanked God for our safe arrival. Sunday was a low-key day resting in God’s and each other’s presence. Monday brought a return to work for me and unpacking from the trip for Christine and the kids. Despite many potential pitfalls, the day went splendidly for all of us and we ended it at the pool and Chili’s extending the vacation just a little bit longer. One of the highlights came as we shared Mass together as a family at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Harrisburg. The normal Monday crowd was joined by two bats who spent the time in church circling around and swooping towards many of us. Mia held onto Christine tightly during the bats flight through the cathedral. She calmly stated “This is not what I was expecting and I am scared.” How beautifully poignant were her words and yet so child like in their simplicity – life often hands us what we are not expecting – like a child with a rare tumor, a broken appliance when there is work to do, or rain on your only day off. The unexpected is part of our days and our lives. How do we handle the unexpected? Do we simply hang on the “Our Father” and trust that our fear will pass? Throughout the Bible there are stories of God’s love conquering our fears and from where we sit we can verify that the fear will end and that the peace is worth the wait.

All in all, it was a wonderful week as we look back upon it, and yet dampened by the loss of yet another child to a disease which has claimed so many. Lost in the advances in the fight against pediatric cancer in the past 50 years is the stone cold reality that until the cure rate reaches 100%, more children will lose their battle and die. Catie’s great uncle Billy with whom she is buried succumbed to the same disease 50 years ago that took Elizabeth Grace this week. Perhaps the advances made in the meantime lengthened Elizabeth Grace’s life, but until a true cure is found, the battle continues. Those facts, and Catie’s determination continue to motivate us to stay in the fight and try to make a difference. Until the mission of the Catie’s Wish Foundation, “Eradicating pediatric cancer through prayer and research,” is realized, we will not stop. Thank you for continuing to battle with us with your prayers. Only God knows when this battle will be won, but He also knows the victories that we cannot see, and that is why we press on.

Thank you for pressing on with us and may God bless you,

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

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