How love changes your life

We are making our way through all the prep for Christmas. Buying and thinking of gifts is really no different. Making lists and hurrying about – rushing and feeling the need to rush – running out of time to get everything done – none of those are a part of this Christmas. Instead there is a peaceful calm amidst our heartache. Remembering Catie and missing her is where we are.

Thinking about Catie in some ways makes it feel more like Christmas. Catie and taking care of Catie brought us so close together as a couple and as a family. It has been said that children are the glue of a marriage. In our case Catie and her cancer became the cement. Anytime we attempt to move forward without Catie, without prayer, without God – we as a family or Kevin and I as a couple feel the crack.

At this same time the Fab 5 are a delight. I have never been so thankful for them. M.E. at three has developed her own language. When a shirt is in my mind, “inside out”, M.E. calls it “outside in” and asks me to make her shirt “outside out”. I relish observing and sharing her life and am so very thankful to Kevin and God that I have the privilege to stay at home. This is a decision that we made years ago before kids — did God know then that we would only have 7 years, 9 months and 2 days with Catie? Yes, He knew as He knows all things. I am so thankful that I accepted Kevin’s gift and was blessed with the extra time with Catie before she went to school. I am also and will always remain so thankful to all who supported us making it possible for us to seek treatment in Memphis at St. Jude. I spent four months with Catie and while I can’t recall every moment I know that each of moment was a blessing.

All children are a blessing. Spending time with the kids and witnessing all the wonders they discover in their world is a miracle that occurs every day. It is a gift from God and blessed are all those given that gift. I could watch the Fab 5 and listen to them (when they are interacting with each other playfully) forever. I pray I will be blessed with this reality.

This is a prayer I first prayed twelve years ago. “Dear God, please allow me to witness this child grow up to know you and love you and serve you in others.” Then I was pregnant with our first child. It was not an easy pregnancy but never having been pregnant before what did I know. When I was told just before midnight on December 16th that I was going to have child before morning I prayed like all mothers for a healthy baby — whether the baby was a boy or a girl did not matter only that the baby was healthy and that I would live to witness the life of that child.

Maggie was healthy. Our first child was a healthy brave blessing and that is exactly who Maggie is today. Maggie has an understanding of God and her faith in Him that I have never experienced before in a child. While I prayed and was concerned about Maggie due to her small size (birth weight 4.14) Maggie reached her hand out to me to grasp my finger as I looked at her in her incubator. At the time I was unsure how my life was going to change I simply knew that it would.

After each child my life changed a little less. Now it has changed as radically as it did after Maggie’s birth. Being pregnant, all us pray for a healthy baby — that makes sense; that is what we all want; to love and raise a health “normal” baby, we pray this not just for ourselves but also for anyone we know who is pregnant. Just like when we get married we take all our vows — in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad — again we all pray “between you and me God good, healthy, rich times, right?”

What happened to us when Catie became sick is what changed our lives. We had this amazing beautiful healthy strong intelligent girl. She was so gifted. She could sing like a bird. She was musically talented. She could mimic anything you taught her — a dance, a song, a movie line — on the first or second try. She was athletic — competing with her older brother Max when she was two years younger and she never backed down. She was happy and loved life and people. Put all of this together and you are just scratching the surface of who Catie was and we love her for this and countless other reasons.

I loved two things about her the most — listening to her sing in the back of the car and watching her. I loved the way her eyes squinted when she smiled. I loved that way she always wore her hair in braids. I loved the way she was so confident and sure of herself and you could tell this by looking at her. I loved her smile. I loved her because of who she was and because of how I felt being with her and I still do and I always will.

All this love that I have for Catie still exists. I still love her. When she became sick what changed was me. I became totally willing to keep on loving Catie even though she was no longer healthy. I would have carried her for the rest of my life. I would have read to her and bathed her and fought alongside of her forever. Loving Catie and caring for Catie became who I was and it became who we all were once Catie came home. Everyone helped take care of Catie and everyone loved it and Catie once again accepted it. Catie did enjoy being in charge and teaching the kids all about her central line. She loved telling them about how things were done and about the medicines that she was taking. She allowed them to be a part of everything. While she was busy accepting that she would no longer walk, run, jump or ride a bike we were growing in our willingness to take care of her and be Catie’s legs, feet, balance and strength.

I always knew that people were more than their physical bodies and told this to Catie dozens of times at St. Jude — where we saw many children without limbs, without “normal” walks, with scars and with lines coming out of and into many places in their bodies. We are all more than our bodies. Collectively we are all Christ. Individually each day we are offered at least one opportunity to use our bodies to be Christ for someone else. Each day we are offered the opportunity to allow someone else to be Christ for us. Catie taught us this and forever changed how we view our bodies. We watched her accept her body failing without complaint and we understood surrender from Catie’s example.

Catie loved us all so very much that she would have stayed here on earth to allow us to take care of her. We learned that we had to let her go and serve others who may need us just as much as she did; isn’t that just what Christ challenged us all to do for one another? We have learned through our grief that the tears keeping falling and the sadness remains with us unless we are reaching out and helping others. Each day that is what we pray we will do. Each day we are thankful for Catie, her life and her example. We will still miss her and long to be with her again but reaching out to others bridges that gap between heaven and earth better than anything else we have found.

Happy 12th Birthday Maggie! We love you and are so blessed to be your parents.

May the peace of Christ be within your heart today and always,

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

PS Please continue to pray for those that have asked for our prayers. For the children who are sick and recovering: Abby, Alex, Anne Marie, Brayden, Campbell Charles, Charlotte, Cody, Cole, Dan, Dax, Dylan, Ellie, Gavin,George, Hunter, Jack and another Jack, James, Jonah, Joseph, Kaiden, Kate and another Kate, Kathleen, Kendra, Marit, Mickey, Molly, Neve, Nicole, Richard, Sean, Sheldon, Stacey, Theresa, Trevor, Tala, and William. Please also pray for all the families who long to be reunited with their children and other family members.

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