Happy 21st Birthday Catie!

March 2022

Happy 21st Birthday Catie,

Each year as we write this letter to you and share it with so many who love you, miss you, and support your mission, we pray and talk about the past year and what we want to say to you. This year, I am filled with missing you. As we mark this milestone birthday when you should be celebrating rites of passage into a new stage of adulthood, I am struck by the reality that we have now celebrated twice as many birthdays without you here than we did when you were here with us. Just thinking of that causes me to sob for I long more than ever to take my little girl into my arms and hold her. Perhaps it is the on-going pandemic and the suffering of the people of Ukraine, but I find myself missing you more than ever this year.

And then I stop and I take a moment and I allow your example to guide me. You lost more than any of us who mourn your absence and yet courage and joy were the faces you showed the world during your battle and especially as you approached the end of your life on earth. The last Thursday with us, just three days before you died, you simply sat and watched the rest of us with a look of peace and contentment on your face as if you were making sure that when you left us we would all be okay. This is just one more way that I can honor your life; to follow your example of battling with every ounce of my being and then accepting peacefully the realities of this life. Your grandfathers, one with you in heaven and one blessedly still here with us, embrace and understand both the battle and the acceptance, in part because they, like us have you as a role model.

We have other role models as well who continue to fight battles similar to yours. This year as we mark thirteen years since you left us, St. Jude marked their sixtieth anniversary since the doors of the hospital opened to all of the word’s children regardless of their race, beliefs, or ability to pay. Thousands of kids like you fight their battle each day, and although more of them than ever win their battle, so many still succumb to their disease and we feel their loss. In those moments, we remember the mission you left us to eradicate pediatric cancer through prayer and research and we forge ahead.

Your mom, more than anyone, stands and honors your journey. The countless hours she spends thinking about and actively supporting families who have lost a child take a toll. You know how empathetic she is and as she listens to hundreds of grieving families, I am sure you are with her, for without you holding her hand, I do not see how she could do all that she does. Thank you for taking care of the love of my life! As for your sisters and brother, thank you for taking care of them as well. Maggie is amazing; as she leaves each evening to start her twelve hour shift as a Neuro-ICU nurse, I am filled with peace to know that the patients she cares for are blessed to have her as their nurse. Max is an Ensign assigned to the Bataan and is at sea. Please watch over him and keep him safe. Mia has come so far since our last letter to you. She is a Sophomore studying to be a Physician’s Assistant. Last year she came to visit your grave on your birthday and was struggling. Since then, she has cared for herself so beautifully and to see the joy on her face or hear the pride in her voice fills me with gratitude. Thank you for looking out for your little sister. Molly will graduate this spring and will be off to college next year to study and become an English teacher. She is such a hard worker and in many ways reminds me the most of you as she quietly and without fanfare cares for so many in her life. M.E. is wonderful. She does so much, from being a fantastic student to playing basketball and lacrosse and yet she is so hard on herself. Instead of celebrating a great score on a test, she beats herself up for the one question she missed or instead of celebrating a great game, she thinks about mistakes she made. Sound like anyone you know? You were just like that! Please help her to go easy on herself. As for me, I am so blessed. I get to be a husband to the most wonderful person I have ever known and a dad to seven children who provide me with more pride and joy than any father could hope for. I have been able to share your story with more people this past year than ever before and watching their faces as I talk about you, I know that you continue to make such a difference.

One of the fears you shared with your mom and me was that you would be forgotten. You are not. I get to see the difference you continue to make in those that knew you and those that have come to know you. You continue to change lives for the better; whether it is through the power and courage of your example or through the influence you have on those of us who look to you for your intercession. I met a family with a seven year old son at the Bronx Zoo this year and he was fighting a brain tumor. The treatment plan he was on was the same one you were on with two differences. He was able to be treated at his local hospital and stay home with his family and friends, and his treatment called for thirty-one radiation treatments. Do you remember that you were the first kid ever to get thirty-one radiation treatments? In part, because you blazed that trail, the treatment plan changed and that seven year old and many more like him are alive. Your legacy continues in so many ways and I am so proud of you.

And so I end this letter to you the same way I began it, with tears in my eyes and a deep desire to hold you in my arms and tell you I love you. You are amazing, Catie, and I am honored to be your dad and your voice to so many. Please keep us all safe, please help us through all of the challenges we face in the world today and until we meet again, hold us all in your beautiful heart.

Love always,
The Fab 5

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