Another first has come and gone without Catie. We have lived in Mechanicsburg for almost two years. In 2007, we relocated here and lived in a hotel for the first week of school needless to say we did not attend Back to School Night or Kindergarten Orientation the week before school started that year. One week in a hotel with six kids in enough for this mother; the kids now consider moving a vacation. Last year, 2008, Kevin attended Back to School while I was still at St. Jude with Catie. This year I attended all the functions to help prepare all of us for this school year. This year will be Molly’s first year of official school. (Molly and I will always think of Mrs. White as her first teacher and we will be correct and thrilled with that decision forever.) Molly will be in Kindergarten and so there was orientation to learn all about the changes that have been made since Mia was in Kindergarten two years ago. Now that Molly is in school every day this will be M.E.’s first year home alone. This year will also be Mia’s first year of being the big sister at school – a title she loves! Finally, this will also be Maggie’s first year of Jr. High, which will involve many changes throughout the school day. Where did the time go? I can remember Maggie’s first day of Kindergarten – she seemed so tiny and innocent and all those Jr. High students seemed big and loud. Now Maggie is one of them and yet to me she still seems so innocent. I delight in reflecting on how much she has grown and the remarkably kind and thoughtful young lady she has become. As I thought about Maggie’s first this year there was no sadness only satisfaction that she would be able to handle whatever came her way.

After all the Back to School Nights were over – this year we had three – I reflected on our many firsts this school year I couldn’t help but cry. This summer was spent together. We spent as much time together as we could. Many weekdays this summer, we crossed the river and attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral so that we could share Mass with Kevin and pray together. We learned and read together. We vacationed and adventured together. We laughed and played together. We cried and healed together. Now as the school year has begun we are apart and I pray that all of our time together has strengthened us for this new time apart. So many people and organizations offered the children so many outlets for coping with Catie’s death – not one of the grief camps or grief sessions offered something for all the ages of the Fab 5. Each time I offered a new option to the children they simply stated that they would rather be together and so we were.

We were also together this past Sunday as we toured school to show everyone their new classrooms and point out where things would be this school year. As I walked down the hallway on the second floor it didn’t dawn on me as I searched for “Franchetta Groves”, the name of one of Catie’s dearest friends that Catie’s name would be missing. At this point I know that Catie is always with me and yet her friends are not and I look so forward to seeing all of these beautiful children. These children were so kind and loving to Catie when she returned home last year. Do you remember that it was raining and yet the cul-de-sac in front of our home was covered with people showering their love on all of us? Catie’s smile was huge that day. I never told her who was coming to pick her up at the airport. When Catie saw her entire family she shouted and ran to everyone in her delight. (It is one of my favorite photos on her website.) Catie was not told about the welcome home celebration that had been planned either. Again the photos tell the story of Catie’s joy and happiness to be home. These third graders and all the children that gathered and reached out to us throughout Catie’s Story all hold a special place in my heart. These wonderful children never made Catie feel bad, sad or sorry for herself that she was sick, or bald, in a wheelchair or even dying. These children just loved Catie and that love kept her going. These are special children and I look forward to seeing them, to watching them grow, to witnessing them receiving their sacraments and growing in their faith – just as we witnessed their receiving their First Holy Communion this spring – all of these steps that they take are the steps that God wants them to take. Watching them I don’t miss Catie but rather know that Catie is witnessing and cheering on these amazing kids who have given so much to her and continue to give so much to us. These amazing kids I know will continue to give to God’s other children throughout their lives.

So when did the first tear fall on Sunday? When I saw Dominic and John’s desks because they held a special place in Catie’s heart, it was then that I realized that Catie would not be with them this year. Then I realized that Max, too, would be alone. Sunday night at the table we all discussed the summer. Max offered an insight that helped me realize some of what he has been made aware of this past year. Max said that this was not the best summer or the worst. There were times of sadness and happiness. There were things that went well and there were things that did not. “This is life Mom and whether Catie had died or not summer would have had good days and bad days.” It made me wonder why at ten years old Max needed to understand this lesson about life that escapes many college graduates. Then I remember that God has a plan for all of us and he has a specific plan for Max. Max’s plan involved no brothers, the death of his only sister that truly understood him and a funeral on his tenth birthday. Is the worst over or yet to come? That all depends on Max, his level of faith and his outlook on life – from where I am sitting he is handling it all fairly well – when asked how he felt about having Catie’s funeral on his birthday he simply remarked that he never had so many people sing to him on his birthday before. To me that is why Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 20: 14)

Today Molly rode the bus to school for the first time (yesterday we missed it). She sat bolt upright in her seat and looked at me out the window and waved. She even turned around to make sure I was still looking and waving as the bus drove away. This is what Kindergartners do, maybe even some first graders. After first grade they slouch down so low in their seats that the bus appears empty. Molly loved riding the bus to school – on the way home the bus was empty and not as much fun. Catie was our first child to ride the bus in Kindergarten. Catie also loved riding the bus. It really was a van and it drove right into our driveway, so I loved it too. Catie would jump off the bus and start talking about her day at the same time she asked questions about her sisters. There are so many similarities between Catie and Molly. Molly delights in these similarities. They skip the same way. They laugh the same way. They are intense about the same things. They both wish they never had to have their hair brushed. They are both strong willed and yet can be so surprisingly gentle. Today when I hugged Molly before she rested she curled up and looked at me and said something just like Catie would have. Yesterday I would have cried. Today I just delighted in Molly and I knew that Catie did too!

Our memories will hopefully always be with us. When I remember Catie and when I think back on the eight months that we had to tell her we loved her I have come to realize that this time was a gift for us. Without even knowing it Kevin and I and our “know or go” (if you know you can’t go, so if you want to go it has to be a surprise) plans are very much like God’s plan. If God had come down and told me that one of my children was going to become very sick and suffer greatly and fight a great fight and die anyway all within eight months it is very likely that I would have turned my back on God. Instead the plan rolled out a bit at a time – there were days and moments when it all rolled too quickly still but I am more accepting knowing that it is God’s plan. This morning after Mass I was taking M.E. with me to visit someone. This had been my plan for yesterday but it had not worked out. I never told M.E. of yesterday’s plan and she was neither expectant nor disappointed. Today I simply stated that we were going to visit someone and she delighted in the adventure. Just like Max and his outlook on his tenth birthday celebration, M.E.’s delight again showed me that childlike simplicity is the key to trusting God.

Each day I focus on the readings and the Gospel message I find that God gives me all that I need for that day. If I look elsewhere for what to focus on I only find problems. There will always be work to do – what is most important and should be the focus of today is a plan that I will understand more fully if I ask for God’s input. Today’s Gospel was to spread the Gospel message to people you meet. So after having this update float around in my head nagging me to make time to write it I figure today was the day. Monday’s gospel was also about working for God. Both of these messages can come to fulfillment as we work to further the mission that Catie left for us. I always knew that she knew more than she was telling us – in order for us to keep Catie alive and to help us deal with her physically being absent from us we would need God’s grace.

I would have taken care of Catie forever. Would it have been difficult? What relationship involving another person and loving them is not difficult? Would it have offered rewards – seeing her sleep, touching her, praying with her? With Catie’s death my reward is heaven or fulfilling her wishes through prayer. There is no way possible to raise the money that Catie wanted without God’s blessing through which prayer is needed. Throughout the past year I have struggled with my faith  most specifically I have struggled with prayer. I have questioned “why should I pray?” I have wondered “why would God not heal Catie?” and “why would God not answer prayers from Catie’s intercession for Mary Kate, Mary, and Elizabeth Grace?” I know so many of the answers can be found in the Bible but Monday’s Gospel almost made my heart sing.

Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarepath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.
(Luke 4: 25-27)

You may not feel the thunderbolt but I just read this gospel to Maggie and she understood. These were two of Catie’s favorite stories before naptime when she was little. She enjoyed and read Beatrix Potter’s Miss Moppet everyday at naptime between the ages three and four. When she turned four Catie wanted to read Maggie’s Baby Bible Stories. It was a very little book (two inches by three inches). Size is one of the three most important criteria for books; the other two are voices used when the story is read and action. In Miss Moppet the cat jumps upon the mouse and I would always bounce Catie on my lap and she would laugh with delight. In the Baby Bible Stories Catie would stand up and pretend to be Naaman and wash in the river “splash, Sploosh, and Splish.” God knew what Catie was thinking as she heard these stories. I never did. I just sat with her laughing as she brought God’s words to life for Mia and me. That is one of the gifts that Catie gave to us – she taught Mia how to tell a story, act dramatically, sing with feeling, and strike a pose – the gifts of an older sister or the demands for attention – either way whenever Mia is “acting” I know who is behind her egging her on even now. Isn’t that what we are all called to do as followers of Christ to stand behind or beside each other and lead each other to bring out and use all of our God given talents? Not for our own attention but rather to bring God’s words to life for others? And isn’t that just what Catie’s Wish is praying that we do for all those who are with their child at St. Jude, like Tala, Dax, Alex, and Sean?

Yesterday, Kevin attended a golf outing for JustCabinets, a corporate partner for St. Jude. He had yet another opportunity to share Catie’s story and talk about the wonderful hospital that St. Jude is and was for us. There are so many doing so much and yet we all need to realize that there really is so much to do in the world of pediatric cancer. We all have been involved with an organization where the same people are involved and do all the work – you know 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. Through your prayers and our efforts it is our belief that Catie’s Wish can be different.

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

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

PS. Please join us in praying for the following Kevin Kret, Samuel Gordon Bish, Baby Logan, Bill’s dad, Tyler, Jaden Duttine, Eddie Weddle and Evelyn Grace Doyle and for all those who need healing. These are some of the recent prayer requests we have received. Also a very special thank you to the St. Joseph Charger Football team – they held their second annual sub sale for Catie’s Wish and raised tremendous awareness and financial support for Catie’s Wish!! Go Chargers!!

Discover more from Catie's Wish Foundation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Comments are closed.