On and On

Good evening Catie Team,

     It is our hope that this message finds you well and in the tender embrace of the Father.  When we first started to write to you about Catie, the updates were focused on Catie’s disease and treatment and the impact it was having on our family.  As we continued to update, there were times when people following the story wanted more info on Catie and others wanted to know more about the family dynamics.  In an effort to be true to that model and be responsive to your desires, Catie continues to do very well.  She is busy in heaven talking with God about all of her kids that are still here battling their cancers.  She continues to welcome children home who have lost their battles.  One of her kids, Casey, went home to heaven last night.  Catie keeps busy because kids still battle and they still die.  In between, she plays, runs, enjoys her carefree timeliness with God and her family and friends.  In short, Catie is doing great.  Your prayers for her and your support allowed her to be fully prepared to spend eternity with God, thank you.  Believing that this is a fact – Catie is indeed in heaven with God Our Heavenly Father – provides each of us comfort and some days it is our only comfort.

     As for family dynamics and what is going on with us, we are not doing as well as Catie who is in heaven.  We are still striving for heaven, so that is to be expected.  We have good days and bad, and we have moments of pure joy and moments of utter agony.  We continue to follow over 150 of Catie’s kids by reading their stories, sending along hope filled and positive messages, offering our support, and praying daily for the kids and their families.  We are trying to offer to Catie’s kids and their families what you offered to us, prayerful support.  Thank you for the wonderful example.  True to Catie’s mission that she left for us, we strive daily to eradicate pediatric cancer through prayer and research.  As we have emerged from the wonderful success of reaching the financial goal for 2010, and look to next year, our focus now is on developing an even greater awareness of the plight of kids with cancer and expanding the number of prayer partners to assist us in storming heaven.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit breathes life into this most important aspect of Catie’s Wish.  We have some amazing ideas and amazing examples of dynamic prayer, from Eucharistic Adoration, weekly prayer groups, fasting, and family Rosaries.  We even had the prayer of a newly ordained permanent Deacon.  Thank you John.  Prayer is the answer and will be the difference in this battle to save our children.  Even though 46 families a day still hear the words, “your child has cancer” and 7 of them hold their child for the last time, many who have been stricken receive the hoped for result from a battery of tests that show “No evidence of disease”.  Countless others that we may never know about are never diagnosed because of the constant prayers offered by thousands around the world who follow the example of Catie.

     Christine and the kids are doing well.  Each of them have moments and days when the hole in their life left by Catie is wider than other days.  We are not a typical family or so we have been told.  Last night we were out as a family and someone innocently asked Mia, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?”  Even over a year later that innocent question causes a pause and an awkward answer.  Mia – who is never quiet – quietly answered, “I have one brother and four sisters – three are here and one died and is in heaven.”  We were told throughout last year that the first year of “firsts” would be the hardest year.  Many families who have lost a child implore us to guide them and tell them what will be the hardest – as a couple? as parents? and for the children?  To be honest there is no answer – everyday there may be a moment if not for you then for your spouse or one of your children.  Getting over or getting past losing Catie is not our goal.  When Catie first died my goal was getting to heaven to be with her.  Was that the same goal for the rest of us?  No.  Life felt as though we were living in a mental coma – we could hear and speak and move physically we just could not think.  We functioned – wake up, feed the kids, go to the bus, go to Mass, answer e-mails, do laundry, and so on.  Life happened and we functioned throughout each day.  At some point we wondered what people thought when they saw us laugh?  Then we realized that we did laugh.  Knowing that we could laugh meant something – we could be joyful.  We could do more than function; we could live knowing that beyond our pain we would still experience joy – for ourselves and within each other and that we could share that joy outside our family.  That is where we are now; aware of the pain and thriving in the joyful memories we cherish of Catie and those we are creating with one another.  Does that mean we are over or past losing Catie?  Is this heaven?  Just like in the movie Field of Dreams, this is not heaven – it is not Iowa either.  This is life and if it feels like heaven it is because we each are doing all we can to live like Christ taught us to live.

     The kids are winding down the school year and looking forward to Swim Team, swimming lessons, and sleeping in.  They are adjusting to their thoughts and understanding about how they feel each day.  M.E. will be playing and Christine will overhear her saying, “Catie, can you just come down for a little while and play with me until the kids get off the bus?”  Catie obviously answers her, because the next words out of her mouth are, “That’s okay, we’ll just keep playing like this.”  Molly, who has the personality that reminds me the most of Catie just continues to grow into a wonderful little girl, with a healthy dose of attitude that says, “I know who I am and I like me.”  She physically resembles Catie and when she walks into our room at night and touches my pillow my heart races as my mind understands that it is Molly and not Catie with us.  Molly has the faith of a child and doesn’t question why or what happened; somehow I believe that she just understands better than we understand.  Mia has moments of struggle where the sadness of Catie’s absence visibly weighs on her little shoulders.  She wears many of Catie’s clothes, and in some cases is growing larger than Catie was and realizes that soon she will have outgrown her big sister’s hand me downs.  That brings sadness as she continues to question how do I move forward and keep Catie with me each day.  In many ways Mia reminds me of the kid who is a copycat.  It is sometimes a brother or sister or a friend.  When the question is asked “Would you like a glass of water?”, the first child answers yes and the copy cat answers “Me, too!”  Mia continues to play copycat to Catie.  We, as her parents, struggle to understand, comfort and know when and how it is right to push Mia to take a step that Catie didn’t take.  Max struggles with the vast number of emotions that make up each day.  He is blissfully happy reading and being distracted in any way.  He still cherishes the morning and is realizing the staying up late at night makes getting up in the morning a bit more challenging.  Knowing how very close he was to Catie and knowing how much he valued Catie as a peer to physically compete with and to discuss things with; the void of her absence is obvious.  Getting Max to talk about this and helping him to understand – what we struggle to understand – requires patience, love and prayer.  Please join us.  Maggie seems to be a bit stuck, similar to Mia, between growing up and branching out and staying close to home.  Being together is such great comfort for each and all of us.  Last week we sat for hours all on one couch – it was raining outside – helping Maggie with her homework.  Maggie’s homework was about TV.  We don’t watch TV – even though we do have cable.  Not knowing what the kids would be exposed to if I turned on the TV I opened my laptop and we watched Youtube.  Pulling up old episodes of The Flying Nun, My Three Sons, The Brady Bunch, Family Affair and Family Ties, just laughing and being together – not to mention without commercials a single show takes less than ten minutes.  This time together with us makes sense to Maggie and it provides comfort; out there with her peers she is not as sure of the comfort or the fun.  This is new territory for not just Maggie – but our entire family. 

     As for Christine and myself, time marches on and the blessings of our marriage bathe us in the warmth of God’s love; when we allow it to.  Sometimes, out of my own stupidity or obliviousness, I make the mistake of shutting out Christine’s love and retreating like a turtle into my shell.  Christine allows herself the emotional latitude to be sad when something makes her sad and to be joyful when there is reason.  Recently, someone questioned what there was to still be sad about.  “Get over it” seemed to be their message, followed by, “lots of people have worse problems than you, stop complaining.”  Rather than bristle at the words, we sat and prayed and talked about where we are and whether we should be “over” Catie’s death by now.  We believe that despite the moments of sadness that come out of nowhere, we are doing well.  Responding to the challenge that Catie left for us to care for her kids has allowed us to turn her short, beautiful life into a positive.  I am blessed to have my best friend to be with me on this journey.  Please pray for me as I hope to be for her what she is for me.

     Last week, we met with a literary agent to explore the possibilities for publishing Catie’s story.  As we continue on that road, we will keep you posted.  This weekend, we head on our annual pilgrimage to Washington D.C.  It marks the second year since Catie began to have the pain that alerted us to her tumor.  Bittersweet as it will be, the kids look forward to this trip all year and we will have a great time.  Please know that you all continue to be in our prayers.  Please visit the website www.catieswish.org and look at the pictures and read the stories; continue to pray for Catie’s kids; and continue to spread the seeds of Catie’s Wish.  Together we can win this battle.

God is good, all the time,

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

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