Scarred but Whole

What makes one expression known for all ages like “life is a bowl of cherries” and others fade away as if never spoken?  My answer would be a shrug of my shoulders because the answer is unknown.  Some people live lives that are filled with every advantage and are grateful – not wanting to judge – my comment would be “PRAISE THE LORD”.  There are others who live lives filled with one challenge after another; they never seem to get a break.  Most of us live lives somewhere in the middle.  We have our good days and our bad days.

Looking at myself in the mirror this is where my reflection gazes back at me and we both see ourself in this middle.  Now does that mean that having buried our seven year old is seen by me as merely a challenge in my life?  At the time living through it probably not and now??  My answer on most days is hopefully.  Though on some days my answer would be, “it better be for my sake because this world has little time for a mourning mother” and that is the truth. 

Any attention that surrounded us during Catie’s illness was for Catie.  Any attention from anything that we have written hopefully is seen as a light shining on God.  Any attention that comes from us sharing Catie and her story – even two years later, hopefully – is seen as an attempt to bring awareness to this disease called Pediatric Cancer and rally others to join us in prayer and to do what is needed to further necessary research leading to cures.

Back in August of 2008 Catie was in radiation.  It seemed so easy for us.  The schedule was timely most days.  My internal mantra was “do what they tell you and everything will return to normal”.  My ability to survive was living in this bubble thinking it was possible to return to normal.   At this same time friends of ours were planning a fund raiser for Catie.  A dear friend sent me an e-mail to confirm the posters for the event.  The title of the poster read ROAD TO REMISSION.  Starring at the computer, thoughts jumbled, my breath slowed and my head began to sway as my fingers automatically dialed my phone.  Screaming into the phone “What do we expect to happen after treatment?  What is next for Catie?  When will we know if this is working?  What will we do if this doesn’t work?  Are we sure this is the best shot?  Did we research everything?”  These words are flying out of my mouth.  They are not heard or understood by me.  Finally all that can be heard is my love calmly saying “Sweetheart do you know what you are asking?  “What started all of this?  Where is Catie?  Is she alright?”  An e-mail came stating that they were planning a party and calling it the road to remission.  Is that what we want for Catie?  My love again calmly says, “Remission means the absence of cancer.”  My response is “Will she be cured?”  And again there is another calm response, “You realize that being cured of the cancer for Catie means a very specific thing.  It means being alive five years after the day she was diagnosed.  That is all.”  My screams are joined by tears, “Are you kidding me?  That is not what we want for Catie.  If that is the best that we can expect then why are we here?  Why did we leave you?” Calmly again the following words are heard saying, “There were no better options for Catie.  Nothing better is out there yet.  We are doing all that we can today to get her to tomorrow.  We are trading eighteen to get her to eight. Are you OK?”  “NO!”

This conversation and so many other conversations that I had between June 2008 and January 2009 are seared into my mind.  They are the mental scars that are a part of me.  Kevin carries his own as I am sure do each of the Fab 5.  In this conversation that Kevin and I had in August 2008 I had yet to understand that normal or a returning to normal was not possible.  I wanted all the blessings that I had before and like a spoiled child wanted to give none of them back.  I wanted Catie whole and healthy and home.  There was no second option.  Later in August I would sit in the Radiation waiting room and have a very similar conversation with another St. Jude mother.  While her daughter was ahead of Catie in treatment by two weeks, she was still seeking the return to normal.  Understanding this difference between where I was only weeks before and where I was now was began to create the new me – scarred but whole.

Catie's Collage

Now as we approach the second anniversary of Catie’s death many of the moments flood our memories and either tears fall or laughter erupts from deep within me.  We visited Catie’s grave last weekend.  We sprinkled conversation hearts and prayed.  The kids ate cookies and slid in the snow.  Kevin was quiet as he gave his little girl a chocolate rose.  I know that she is not there.  I know that she is with us and yet visible only in my faith.  She is also visible in the love that is still poured out to our family. 

This past Christmas another angel was added to our garden.  She is blue and beautiful.  When we returned from South Carolina she was standing next to our statue of the Blessed Mother.  We have moved the blue angel to the side garden so that she can look over Catie’s fairy garden that Mia maintains for all of us.  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do; maintain – to keep in existence or preserve – our faith, our families, our friendships, our marriages, our world for love of another? 

Somewhere over the last two years the scars have healed and I am whole and home.  I can hardly ever sit through Mass without tears falling – but they fell before Catie was sick.  I am not bitter or sad – though I loved my daughter dearly and long to be with her again.  There is joy in my life.  There is clarity in my life.  There is love in my life and I am grateful for all that share my life and our lives.  Someday, God willing, I will join Catie in heaven with the Lord and I hope to see you all there.  In the meantime I am here and there is much to do.  No time to want life to be different – accept it as it is and look for the blessings that do exist – they are there trust me.

Somehow throughout this entire experience of loving, losing and regaining both Catie and myself I have come to understand more fully where I am headed.  Knowing where you are going is  as important as the plan of how to get there.  God is in control.  He takes the lead and the only true suffering that I do is when I attempt to take control back. God has His own plans to bless me, love me and one day bring me home – if I choose.  Yet even knowing this there are days that I do not make the choice to follow God, to love those He placed in my life or to allow them to love me – why?  I was blessed by God to live with and exercise my free will.  Each day that I freely choose to live and love as God asks, is a better day for me. 

Those are the days like yesterday when we shared with listeners of Country Cares the importance and meaning of St. Jude even as we are remembering that they were not able to save Catie.  Days like today when we went to Central PA Fitness and thanked everyone who participated and gave to their fundraisers for St. Jude.  Tomorrow we will be at Trindle Bowl for the Bowl-a-Thon to celebrate and remember the life of Corey Somerville.  Corey is a member of the St. Jude family.  He battled his cancer at a young age – younger than Catie – and was cured and yet he died last year due to complications that resulted from the treatment he received.  There is still work to be done; successful protocols that find cures, cures that beat the cancer and leave the patient healthy and able to live out their dreams and wishes.

Cures cannot be found without research.  Research cannot be done without fundraising.  Fundraising cannot be done without willing and generous donors.  Prayer is needed at every step for everyone involved.  On January 25th, the second anniversary of Catie’s birth to eternal life; join us in prayer for a cure to pediatric cancer and in thanksgiving for all who are engaged in finding a cure.  We will be at the 9am Mass at St. Joseph and then we will spend the day remembering our beloved Catie.

God is good, all the time,

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

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2 Responses to “Scarred but Whole”

  1. Marthe Terry says:

    Dearest Family in Christ, Know that you will always be in my heart and prayers. Your faith is palpable, real, a witness to all with whom you share yours and Catie’s Story. I will offer my Holy Communion at Mass on Tuesday, 1/25, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and Catie’s 2nd Birthday in heaven. As he said, to paraphrase, “Fight the good fight. You’ll run the race and win the crown, an imperishable crown.”
    I’ll wear purple, too! I love you all, Marthe

  2. Edith MASSENET says:

    January 2011, 26th

    Dear Catie’s Parents, and all your family,
    On this day of second Catie’s birthday in Heaven, I am happy join you by thought, trying bring to you my friendship through these few words, probably clumsy, because my English language is very poor!
    Yesterday, on January 25th, as on every thuesday, I went to Lourdes for the Service in Sanctuary’s Piscins : with me, there were three others “hospitalières” who had with me the grace to accompany your family at the time of your bath on January 2009, and we never forget this moment. We had prayed rosary united with Catie in Heaven and all your family on the earth ; and we confided to Catie few ill children.
    I often join you, in spite of the long way between France and USA, by “Catie’s wish foundation” and I thank
    you to write regularly on this wonderful place ; it allows us keeping connexion with you and your magnificent family.
    Would you kiss each of your children for me, and keep to you, Kevin and Christine, my deep union by thought and prayer. I thanks God for introducing Catie and all your family in my life, and thanks you for being that you are, and, with you, I say also : “God is good, all the time”.
    God bless you and keep all your family in His Peace, and under the maternal patronage of Notre Dame de Lourdes,
    Edith Massenet.