Happy 20th Birthday Catie!

March 2021

Happy Birthday Doll Baby,

Do you remember when I use to call you Doll Baby?  It is a term of endearment I learned from Mom-Mom (my mom) and GP (my mom’s dad).  You will always be my Doll Baby.  I love you.  I miss you so much and yet somedays it feels like yesterday was the last day I saw you, buried my face in your neck and counted your freckles.  Oh, how I loved kneeling bedside your bed and watching you sleep when it was just you and me living in Memphis.  I would sit there watching you, being with you and willing you to fight and live and begging God to allow the same.

Catie in protective mask, hair covering, gown, and glovesThese past twelve months more people than ever understand how we both felt when we were “just us” in Memphis.  I did not realize as we wrote to you last year how long COVID would last or how many would be impacted.  COVID bought many to their knees as they prayed for their health and safety as well as the health and safety of their loved ones.  COVID had everyone wearing masks like you did after a round of chemo.  Like in the days with your counts being zero, masks were once again stored in Ziploc bags in the car in case someone forgot to bring a mask.  How often did you “forget” because you knew I would always remember?  I think Molly does the same thing because she like you knows I always have masks to spare.

Something else COVID has done, is isolate many friends and families from one another. You had Skype to keep you in contact with your siblings and classmates.  When you came home for your break between Radiation and Chemo, you would use it to “see” Molly and M.E. in the laptop screen and then would walk downstairs or into the next room and see them for real.  Remember how it was not the same once we returned to Memphis?  Many people have felt that isolation this past year, even when they had Zoom.

We are still grateful that Zoom, Google Classroom, WebEx, FaceTime and other such platforms exist.  It was through these that everyone here was able to finish school last year and begin again this year.  Dad’s new job went on-line and having him work from home was a blessing.  Maggie came home and continued working in the ICU at Holy Spirit (she is so brave, and we are so proud). She will graduate in a few short weeks and is applying for an ICU Residency.  Max came home, finished his semester and was a TA on-line.  He is back at Pitt and will also graduate and be commissioned as an Officer in the US Navy in May.  Mia graduated from high school and began college on-line.  Mia also began accruing patient care hours required for Physician Assistant majors as she worked at an assisted living facility caring for those with memory issues (she is amazing).  Molly finished her sophomore year and started her junior year on-line.  Can you believe she will be applying to colleges?  She is also learning to drive and will have her license soon.  M.E. graduated from 8th grade and now is at Trinity with Molly.  She made the JV Basketball and Lacrosse teams.  As for me, my work at both Penn State and St. Jude continued.

See even though many things in the world changed with COVID, kids still were diagnosed, went through treatment and still 1 out of 5 of them died; leaving behind parents and siblings, friends and communities all grieving and in need of support.  My work in helping the grieving find resources did not pause.  The need for parents to be listened to, heard, and understood was greater than ever this year due to the increased isolation.  So more than ever the number of programs needed to support these grieving families increased and many had to be created or modified using virtual platforms.  Every day while Dad is working for St. Jude connecting with donors, I am listening to mothers as I remember and honor all of those who were there for me.

You will never believe this; Da is out there pulling grapevines out of the trees in his backyard and creating wreaths.  He talks Mom-Mom into making bows to decorate his creations.  Then he loads up his car like Santa and like a good salesman he goes to all the businesses, offices, and stores in and around Basking Ridge telling anyone who will listen about you and how brave you were as you fought your fight.  You have a very special grandfather.  He singlehandedly raised so much money for Catie’s Wish this past year; a year with a global pandemic!  To all our new donors who learned of us from Bob Closkey, thank you for your support!

I don’t even know how to tell you this.  I know you know.  Telling you makes it more real.  My fingers won’t even type a sentence.  I keep typing and backspacing.  This fall I felt the agonizing pain that your siblings, the Fab 5, have lived with since you died.  This September your Uncle Bobby died of cancer and I am still reeling.  The hole in my heart has a Band-Aid over it for sure.  I never quite understood how the Fab 5 felt, now I do.  Siblings, love them, hate them, be friends with them or ignore them they are still there; part of your past, part of you and when they are gone the hole is overwhelming.  Aunt MaryBeth, Brian and Catherine decided that for those who wished to give in honor and memory of Bob they should give to Catie’s Wish.  Your foundation was blessed by so many who in one way or another were blessed by knowing Uncle Bobby.  To all our new donors who came to know us through Dr. Bob Closkey, Jr. we are so grateful for your support.

Journal cover that reads "Just Mom and Me"I must confess I did a crazy thing in response to losing my brother.  We rescued kittens.  This Christmas when I was going through a few of your things, I still can only handle about one inch of one box of your things each year, I found a journal of yours (pictured here) and you wrote that if you could have any pet it would be a kitten.  It seems like all the good things I do bring me always closer to you.  Are you whispering in my ear?  If so, keep whispering.  Molly has named her kitten Biscuit and M.E. has named hers Boots.  They are so fun, so sweet and they make me laugh and remember Bob and help me feel close to you.

The pendulum keeps swinging.  Life begins and life ends but this year as with every day since you died it is the time that is spent in between the two that really matters.  Thank you for being my Doll Baby.  Thank you for loving me and for the honor of being your mom.  Thank you for allowing me to take care of you when you were sick; you were so brave, and I am so proud.  In many ways it was through your death that I found the purpose and meaning for my life, outside of loving your dad and the Fab 5.  You opened a door in my heart for being there for others and I thank you for that!

I love you, my darling girl.  Happy 20th Birthday!  Continue guiding us as we live to make you proud.

God is good, all the time,

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