If we were to write a letter summing up all of 2011 it would take pages – even if Kevin were the author.  The year was packed.  It was packed with all of us together to ring in 2011 and again we were happily together to close the year.  Now it is January and Christmas, New Year’s and the Epiphany have all been celebrated.  Yesterday our Christmas tree came down and most of the Christmas decorations were packed away.  There are two living poinsettias remaining, the photos of Christmases past still sitting on the mantle and the Christmas books are still on the shelves.

New Year's Eve 2011 in NYC

Many people experience the winter blahs as the excitement and busyness of Christmas and the holidays passes.  January is the time when life returns to “normal”.  This time of year in the Catholic Church is even called “Ordinary Time”.  Here within our home it is anything but ordinary time and life has not returned to normal at this point in January.  Each day as we approach January 25th we wait, we hope, we feel many things and few of them are ordinary.  Thankfully many of our moments are extraordinary and we are grateful.  There are other moments that are less than wonderful and joyous.  Is that true, or is it our perspective at the moment?

January 25th is just a date on a calendar.  Reading it causes me to pause and pray.  Hearing it spoken aloud by someone however, can shake me to my core.   The other day I was in school filing papers and I heard a teacher in another classroom inform her students that the assignment they were discussing would be due on January 25th.  Immediately I had to wipe a tear from my eye and I also had to resist the urge to run into the room and make sure that no O’Brien was in the class.  One of the children recently told me that they become so sad when they hear the date mentioned.

Looking back is still difficult.  The many memories of January 24th, 2009 seem so vivid.  I recall the hospice nurse telling me it would only be a few hours.  I remember wondering, how could that be?  How could it be that Catie’s life could literally be over in a few hours?  How was it possible and why was there nothing that I could do to stop it?  Where was the miracle that I had believed in and was still praying for?  I recall questioning myself; what more could I give to Catie that I would want her to stay here rather than go to heaven?  Did I truly believe that God knew best and that He was offering Catie complete healing IF she would let go of this life and be born to Eternal Life?  Did I truly believe? Yes.  I did then and I do now. 

But for me I would have wished things would have been different.  Yes, I long to see Catie, to hear her sing again and call Kevin on her cell phone.  To watch her dance and grow and become the person that I dreamed of her becoming – but what about what God wished for Catie?  Is my wish more important? I have another wish too.  I wish that I did not have to feel the pain that I feel or witness the pain and struggle in Kevin or the Fab 5.  Putting away Christmas stockings should not bring you to tears.  Setting up your dresser with teddy bears should not cause pain – but it does for some of us.  Why?

Is it that we miss Catie so much?  Is it that we still have not accepted that this is God’s plan for us?  Is it that we are still mourning?  There are days that I do not know the answer.  I do not have the energy or time or desire to even think about it.  I have come to realize that those days I am pretty far from letting God into my life.  God is always there but do I actively allow God to be present with me each and every day?  No, I don’t.  There are days when I want what I want and on each of those days I am like a spoiled child crying and yelling because I didn’t get my way.  I wanted the miracle.  I wanted God to want Catie here with us not in heaven with Him.  Each time I think this way I am blocking all the blessings that God has for me that day.  God is still real and present in those days – but I am not ready or willing to accept God or His love and those are the days I need God and His love the most.

There is a series of photos taken by me that help me to understand why I would wish things were different.  This series of photos is of Kevin and the Fab 5 on the beach in September 2008.  Catie and I were home for a break between treatments.  We went to the beach – Catie loves the beach.   (Even now I still speak of Catie in the present.)  Catie was too tired to enjoy the beach.  As she was sleeping we played in the sand and relaxed together. 

Fab 5 on the day after Christmas at the beach

Actually I took hundreds of photos of Kevin playing, hugging, and loving the Fab 5.  When Catie and I returned to St. Jude five of these photos were placed in frames in our Target House apartment. 

Each time I looked at them I knew that Kevin and the kids were fine.  I knew that they were OK without us.  They were happy and they would thrive.  They sort of have a pact that no one discusses with me what happened “when mom was away” .  Every once in a while a story will begin and someone else will end it before all the details are told.  I will never know what happened and I don’t need to but I do need to realize that life did happen – both good and bad things happened and they all survived.  I also need to accept that all of them are glad that I am back and they all miss Catie.  Now for the tough part – I am still struggling with accepting that.

When Catie was sick I knew my purpose and my goal.  Follow the guidelines set forth by St. Jude and pray for a cure.  Between God and St. Jude everything would be fine.  Catie’s cancer would be, in time, a minor difficulty that we faced as a family and in the future just a memory.  THAT DID NOT HAPPEN!  Instead I left my family.  I left behind my husband who I love more than I love myself.  I left behind two little girls in diapers and three other young kids and I went to St. Jude fully believing it was the only way to save Catie.  IT DID NOT WORK!

When I was caring for Catie my life had purpose and direction.  It was clear cut.  I saw no gray, only black and white.  Do this, Catie lives.  Do the other and you are taking a chance.  I did all the “right” things.  Catie still died.  She understood this when we were at St. Jude and she understood this when we came home.  She even understood the crazy St. Jude schedule and helped me through that.  She was seven.  She has been in heaven for almost three years and I still don’t get it.  I get it for Catie.  I don’t get it for me.  There is nothing I could offer Catie that is better than heaven.  But what about me?  Why am I surrounded with all of this pain and sadness?  I did all the “right” things and not only did I leave my family to save one of them, now I have to comfort the others because it didn’t work.  Life is all gray now and I am struggling. 

When I pray I am given moments and thoughts that provide me comfort and hope.  Isn’t it just like God to always hear and answer us?  Today the date January 25th causes pain and sorrow but who knows, someday it may not.  Someday it may be the birthday of a future grandchild.  The last book that Catie wanted before she was ever sick is entitled Someday.  It is touching book about a mother and a daughter.  It is very similar to the book I Will Love You Forever.  Catie loved this book and read it over and over and would also ask me to read it to her.  Each time I did I would cry.  Now I realize that someday my tears will stop. 

Each day that I choose to think only about me and not about others is a bad day.  It is also almost always a sad day and it is usually a day filled with pain.  When I act this way I cause pain for others too.  God, help me to allow you to love me and to turn to you when something is wrong.  God, help me to rely on you and only you.  God, help me to trust in you more.  God, help me to love you through those that you have put in my life.  God, help me to be the person that you created me to be.  God, give me strength and peace.  Catie, thank you for your example and trust in God.

When Catie was at St. Jude Kevin had a t-shirt made for those that were following Catie and her story.  It read “The only limit to God’s ability to work in one’s life is their level of TRUST.”  Catie fully trusted in God.  Many people have told us that Catie learned this from us.  Maybe she did.  I feel as though my trust in God needs to grow so much to be like Catie’s level of trust.  I am probably looking at this from the wrong perspective.   What I probably need to do is surrender everything to God like my seven year old and know that this is the only black and white choice that exists.  Trust God with my life and live or don’t.  Life is really that simple.

Some of us are comforted by seeing Catie’s stocking hanging with the rest.  For other’s it hurts.  Some of us are comforted by seeing Catie’s little sisters wear Catie’s clothes.  Others are not.  It usually delights me to see those “special clothes” worn and not just sitting in a box.  This year Molly has grown out of most of the clothes that were Catie’s.  M.E. asked to try on a favorite sweatshirt.  Never thinking that it would fit (M.E. is only 5.) it was tried on and oh how it hurt to think that Catie was that little.  How could she be?  The only way that Catie could have been that small and young is because that was God’s plan for Catie.

All of us at Niagara Falls. Molly in Catie's clothes.

We will never know who or how many people were touched by Catie.  We will never know how many kids were comforted by Catie.  We will never know if miracles were granted because Catie went to Jesus with a request.  We will never know unless we – each of us – make it to heaven.  Won’t you join me in trusting all of your life to God?

Please join us in prayer this January 25th for the end of all cancers, an increase in prayer and trust and for another million prayers to be prayed before April 23rd.  Please join us at and log your prayers.  Remember to hit the refresh button on your browser for as many prayers as you have offered.  If you are praying with a group, remember to log all of the prayers, they all count, and the one you say may be the one that makes the difference in the life of one of Catie’s kids.  Thank you.

God is good, all the time,

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

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