Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Untitled Memories

I am not sure what led me to Cate's page today, there is a part of me that if I am honest, it is still to painful to re-live those moments in my life, but I know they are out there and I am drawn to them like a moth to flame. I know she is in a "better place," but am I? Ali was making plans this week for us to celebrate Cate's birthday next month, it is hard to believe she is going eight years old. There is such a part of me that wishes I could see her, hold her hand, hear her sing country music in my truck, just like her big sister Ella does so often. Ali and I often laugh, not always joyfully, about how "busy" we are, although truthfully no quotation marks are needed or how tired we are at this stage in our family's life, running kids from school, dancing, football or baseball games, but I'd give anything to be a little more "busy" and have to make one more trip to the dance studio to pick up another leotard wearing cutie pie. I was having lunch with a dear friend of mine the other day and as we sat in a busy lunch spot in Lafayette we talked about life, love and family. I shared with him that sometimes I still wonder if it was all real, did it really happen that our sweet Cate was gifted to us, even as briefly as it was. I also told him that it's a wound that I have not allowed to fully heal because the pain/lonesomness is sometimes the only thing I can still "feel." It was the first time I had admitted that out loud to anyone besides Ali. My friend gently reminded me of words I had shared with him after a tragedy in his own life, "Be gentle with yourself." I know its not "right" or "healthy" but it is what I have experienced and I don't know if you ever "fully" heal, until the day you are reunited with your child in the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. I looked today at the statics of who has viewed this blog, what countries they are from and what posts were read most often and I have to think that this is one of Cate's beautiful legacies. That mothers and fathers from around the world can read her journey and hopefully know that if they find themselves in a similar situation/storm, that they are not alone. Have we done it perfectly? NO, it has been a winding, zig zagging, backtracking and sometimes crawling on our hands and knees journey of hope. I look especially at my two big kids, now almost 11 and 12 years old, and what wonderful, loving, compassionate and strong kids they are and I have to believe that is another of Cate's legacies. She taught us to pull together as a family and to defend each other's hearts with a fury second to none. I also look at my bride and wonder how a woman of her...her...I can't find a word that encapsulates "her," she is a special occurrence in God's Creation and poor thing chose to pick me, but that is another time and place. Her mother's heart is a beautiful realm, one of fierce love, untamed compassion and an ability to be most honest with herself, with myself, our kids and her close friends. I have more respect and admiration for her, than she will ever know and she is the person I am most thankful for in my life on earth, because her presence in my life challenges me to be a better person. I am not sure why I felt the need to write this blog or what the purpose of it is, I just wanted to do it. It connected me with Cate and a part of the journey that was really special and powerful. I love you sweet Cate and await the day I see you again. Much Love, Charlie

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunken Footsteps

Sometimes it feels surreal, sometimes I sit in our backyard and look at the spot where the baby pool sat and the laughter could be heard so sweetly and it all seems like a dream that just continues to replay in my mind's eye. I often ask Ali, "do you have days where you ask yourself, was that all real?, Did that really happen to Cate...and to us?" Sometimes it seems so far away and then some days, the pain is so fresh and tangible it’s like the days and months after our sweet Cate left her earthly body and began a life that we thirst for.

Cate's birthday was on November 7, she is 3 years old...it's weird to think about sometimes. It's weird to think about what our life would be like if she were still alive, what would she be like, what would she sound like, what color would she have and then other questions arise in my heart, what would I be like? What would Ali be like, What would Ella and Dude be like? Sometimes death can leave you with more questions than answers, we, as believers, have heard all the clich├ęs and they don't seem to sit right with you...when they are directed at you. As a husband I always knew that mother's had a connection with their babies, that term is regardless of age believe me, I was my mother's baby until the day she drew her last breath, but it was not until we began this journey through our grief that I began to see the depth of a mother's love, commitment and unity with that miracle that she carries every so gently in her womb.

I have often thought about Mary at the foot of the cross but to be honest never really pondered the depth of her sorrow and agony that she must have experienced that dreadfully beautiful day. As I watch my precious bride journey down this path it is one of the most difficult things that I have ever experienced. After 2 years, I know there is nothing I can say, there is nothing I can "do" and that I simply have to trust that if she feels like talking she will and if she doesn't...she won't...so STOP ASKING CHARLIE! I often see our sweet Mother Mary shine through her as she continues on in her daily routine as her eyelids can barely contain the flood that wants to just rage out of her broken heart. She quietly puts her face to wind and continues on this journey showing our family what it means continue to serve even when it hurts, when you don't want to, when it almost seems like you can't even lift your hands up.

One of the things about Ali that has always intrigued me and really drew me to her was her simplistically beautiful spirituality, it wasn't heady, overly pious, overly traditional or overly complex, it was simply...beautiful. I can remember her talking about praying when we were dating, she said, "You know Charlie, I don't pray like you do, whenever I am walking (exercising), I picture Mary walking along side of me with her hair in a ponytail. She said, I pray my rosary and I just talk to her, like a friend." I remember that day, thinking WOW, I wish I could stop all my overthinking and start simply participating. Through Cate's death, well let's be honest, I still haven't stopped, it’s not in my nature. I overthink EVERYTHING, which is probably why my stomach is a wreck, but my stomach problems are another blog. I have thought about who did this, who didn't do that, who said this, who said nothing, why God did this, why God didn't do that, should I have made this decision or that one and on and on and on. All these thoughts can completely preoccupy my time, attention, and even my energy.

On the other hand, I watch Ali, who may at times have the same thoughts and questions, but she handles them so differently, she is a mother. She will love on our kids, do their homework with them, get them bathed and ready for bed without saying a word, then I’ll ask her how her day was and you’ll see the pain flash like lighting in her eyes and she’ll say, “I was real lonesome today.” I’ll wrap my big goofy arms around her and just hold her, sometimes, it’s the only thing there is to do. If that would have been me, I would have come home sat on the couch, felt sorry for myself, probably yelled at Dude and then felt bad and gone to bed, but not my sweet precious wife. She encompasses what it means to be a woman of God, I believe she treads in the sunken footsteps of our Mother Mary. She would never say anything of these things about herself, so I’ll say them for her because I am so proud and lucky that she is my wife and so grateful that she is the mother of my children.

So this is a thank you to you Ali, you are amazing and I love you more than words, to my mother, and all the mothers out there who choose to follow the selfless path of the Sweet Virgin Mary, may she take you by the hand and guide you down whatever paths you may find yourselves on in life!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Healing House

As most of you know, we lost our sweet 7 month old daughter Cate a little over a year and a half ago from complications after open heart surgery. The days, months, and past year have been a world wind of emotions and experiences for Ali and I, but also for Cate's big sister Ella and her big brother "Dude.” It has been a difficult journey for those two little troopers to wrap their little hearts and heads around loss, grief and death. About two weeks ago I was lying in bed with Ella saying prayers and she began to cry. I proceeded to ask her what was wrong, she then told me, "Dad, I want a sister on earth. I miss Cate, I want her here with us." What do you say to that question as a Father? As my heart broke for her, I held her and cried with her because I do not know that pain. I do not know what it is like to lose a sibling at such a young and formidable age, but she does, but luckily she does not have to alone.

Ella and Dude attend the "Healing House, whose vision is, "that no child should grieve alone." Every other week Ella and Dude attend a group session with a volunteer facilitator and other children, who have lost siblings as well. They have group time where they can share their thoughts and feelings about their grief or whatever they want. This is truly "their time" without having to worry about how their feelings will effect mom and dad, because believe it or not, a 6 year old does worry about that. After group time they have "free play" time. They have a room full of dress up clothes, puppets, arts and craft supplies, and musical instruments because children often express their grief through play. They also provide what is called the "Hurricane Room" which is full of large bean bags and big pillows, where the children are safe to go in, throw stuff around and get angry if they want to, which allows them to release their anger in a safe and productive way and of course Dude loves this room. One does not think that a 4 year old can experience the anger that adults feel about the unexpected loss of a love one, but they do. They are little versions of adults with all the same thoughts, feelings, and emotions just simply on a child’s level. Dude is viciously protective of his sisters and gets very angry when someone upsets them and I have seen him over the past year get very angry over Cate's death, so the Hurricane Room provides a place for him to express that safely and thankfully not on the neighborhood cat:) The Healing House fosters an environment that allows children to meet other kids who speak their language and to express what is going on in their young and unfortunately experienced hearts.

Ella and Dude have been attending the Healing House for a year now and it has RICHLY blessed their lives. Ali and I, as parents, more often than not feel like we do not have the answers to the questions Ella and Dude have regarding the death of Cate and it is so wonderful to know that there is a place where Ella and Dude can find comfort knowing they are not alone and its ok to feel whatever you are feeling. In the year that we have been attending Healing House they have asked us for 0 dollars! Everything the Healing House does for us and our children is COMPLETELY FREE! The Healing House runs completely on the generosity of others to provide a service that is priceless to these children who have experienced this type of tragedy at such a young age.

Last year there was a raffle in conjunction with a golf tournament here in Lafayette that offered the Healing House a chance to sell raffle tickets. Whatever money the Healing House raised they kept 100% of it! This is an awesome fundraiser for the Healing House and last year through me pestering you and you giving in, we raised a little over $3000.00 and that was just through Ella and Dude's friends and family!!!!!!! This year I want to beat that! I want to let the Healing House know in a BIG WAY how much we APPRECIATE the services they provide for Ella and Dude and ALL of Acadiana.

The Grand Prize of the raffle is $5000 and the tickets are $10 a piece and 10 tickets come in a book PLUS for all you Acadiana golf fans your raffle ticket gets you a one day pass pass to the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at LeTriomphe Golf Course. So, not only do you get a chance to when 5000 bucks, but you get the chance to watch these great golfers battle it out for a PGA card, I went last year with my free pass and it was amazing!

Please help our little family make a huge THANK YOU to the Healing House by supporting the Healing House through this raffle. Your support ensures that no child will grieve alone! You can send me an email at cdcantrell3@gmail.com and let me know how many tickets you want. The checks are to be made payable to "Healing House" NOT to me! You will mail your checks:

Charlie Cantrell
P.O. Box 52978
Lafayette, LA 70505

I will then fill out your tickets and mail the stubs to you. It does not matter where you live, last year we had people from ALL over the country who supported the Healing House by buying tickets! Thanks for taking the time to read this note and for your support of Ella and Dude and the Healing House, hope for grieving children!

Much Love,
Charlie

Friday, February 26, 2010

Only the Lonely

Let me start off by asking you an honest question and do not just answer right away, really take a minute and think about it, are you lonely? When we hear the word lonely we think of someone sitting in front of the television with a pint of Bluebell ice cream, some of it on their shirt, some of around their mouth, most of it already in their belly, watching a sappy romantic movie or maybe star trek and wishing they had a significant other to do something with. That is usually the picture modern day media paints as someone who is lonely, but that is far from being the only definition of loneliness. As you think about that question, are you lonely? You might think, “no, I’m not lonely, I have a great spouse, great friends, great kids, a great job, a great social life, a lot of friends on facebook…I’m not lonely.” You might have all of these, any combination of these or even one of these and think I’m not lonely.

In the meditation book I am reading right now Nouwen talks about two types of loneliness. The first being an “emotional loneliness” which is important but more on the surface, i.e. “the need for friends, family, and home.” The second is a little deeper it is one that is there even if we have some or all of the above mentioned things to fill the “first loneliness.” The second loneliness is one that cannot be filled by any of these things because it can only be filled by one thing, the love and intimacy of a relationship with God our Father. As I read the reflection this morning and began to pray, the question that popped up in my heart was, “What am I filling that loneliness with?” There is a natural desire in all of us that when we feel a sense of loneliness to begin to grab at things that this world provides to either distract or numb this yearning that is deep in our hearts. Honestly, I think most of the time, because it has become so habitual for us, we do not even realize that we are doing it to fill that void. It become such a part of our life that whether it is getting on facebook every five minutes to see what other people are doing as not to feel lonely, eating as to fill a spot in our hearts that yearns for comfort, pornography to satisfy our loneliness, empty sexual relationships that leave us feeling more empty the next morning than we felt the night before, the use of alcohol or drugs in order to just completely numb this feeling of loneliness, or it might even be buying things we cannot afford in order to feel excitement and fulfillment, when in two months when the “next great thing comes out” we will need whatever that is too.

The list can go on and on and it is a very personal list. It is something that if we step back from our lives and take an honest look and ask ourselves the question, “Am I lonely” the answer is ultimately a resounding YES. Here the thing though, the loneliness that I speak of is NOT a bad thing, in fact it was placed in our hearts by our loving Father in order that our hearts may always have a longing for Him. Nouwen says in the meditation, “It is important for us to dare to welcome the fullness of our second loneliness…In a way, this loneliness opens us to personally know the true God.” Our effort should be that we begin to readjust our thinking from a fear of loneliness to a welcoming of it. As we begin recognize this loneliness not as a bad thing but as a stepping stone that allows us to touch the heart of God, we can begin to transition “from Fear to Love” as Nouwen put its.

As we end the second week of Lent journeying towards Easter can we stop for a few minutes and take a long hard look at the loneliness that permeates from the inner depths of our hearts and not be afraid of it? Can we be honest with ourselves and really ask the question, what am I filling this loneliness with? And that question is followed by, is it truly working? The priest who celebrated Mass on Ash Wednesday at the Church I attended posed the question, “Will I be the same person on Easter Sunday that I am on Ash Wednesday?” It is during this time of Lent that we concentrate on purifying our hearts and our lives from the things that keep us from truly experiencing the fullness of God’s love and acceptance. May we take this time to rid our lives, not all at once, but a step at a time, of the “things” we are trying to put in place of a true, deep and intimate relationship with our loving Father!

Much Love,
Charlie

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Leaving and Returning

As I started this Lenten season to be honest it was the beginning of “returning” for me. It is funny, not haha funny, more God funny, how certain things get put in your path at just the right time to be aids in the “returning” process. On this returning process it has been a little Lenten meditation book given to be my mother-in-law. It is called “From Fear to Love, reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen. I have always been a fan of Henri Nouwen’s writings but this time it seems as though God has hand picked one to be an aid/guide as I begin yet again the returning process. Over the past year, as I said in the first reflection, I feel like the efforts or lack there of to deal with these issues has not truly gotten me anywhere. As a result I have often felt unworthy and honestly scared to return to the Father, whose infinite love waits patiently for the return of his son. A couple of things that I have stood out to me in these reflections that I wanted to share because I think the are applicable to each and everyone of us prodigal sons and daughters whether we find ourselves in the younger or the older son’s role.

“The Love of the Father embraces not just the return of the son but also the leaving of his child. That is really important: the whole movement of leaving and returning is a movement done under the loving eyes of the father.”

As a father myself, this reminds me of something that my son, Dude, says all the time, “Daddy, don’t see me,” He will say this when I am standing right in front of him and it usually involves one of three things, either he is mad at me about something I have just told him, he is doing something he should not be doing or he is trying to “surprise” me with something special. This is the exact same thing we try to do with our Father in Heaven. When life hurts us in a way that throws us for a loop and all out of wack we usually ask one of two questions, God why did you do this? or God, how could let this happen? And the reaction that follows is like Dude’s, “God, don’t see me” and we go off to try to “figure it out on our own.” Am I right? And to be honest I believe God’s response is similar to my response to Dude, “Ok, buddy, I don’t see you, said with a loving grin and all the while keeping a watch eye on what he is doing. The loving eye of the Father never leaves us, even though we think we are “out there on our own.” When Dude is upset with me he goes off and does his own thing and usually, being the big soft hearted lug that he is, like we all are whether we act like it or not, he comes back in to me in a matter of minutes and says, “Daddy, I’m sorry for not listening, do you forgive me?” And my response is the same every time, I wrap his little body up in a big hug and say of course I forgive you and I love you so much. If I, an imperfect father, have the ability to do this for my child, how GREATER is our perfect Heavenly Father’s response when His child returns. So the question is “Why do we leave?”

Nouwen’s response to this is:

“I believe that in a very deep sense, one has to be convinced of God’s love in order to take the risk of leaving once in a while…It is important to understand that God’s love fills you and surrounds you whether you are leaving or returning, and that God waits with longing love to welcome you on your return.”

If Dude was not certain of my love, would he walk away or would he return? If he didn’t know with confidence that he was safe to get upset and angry with me and at the same time know with certainty that upon his return he would be met with love and forgiveness, would he leave? Or more importantly, would he return? I think these are interesting questions for all of us to ask ourselves. I think written deep in our hearts is a confidence in the love of our Heavenly Father. Even with all that life has thrown our way, somewhere underneath the pain and rubble of what was once our innocent and pure hearts remains the confident love of a son or a daughter in the powerful love of their Heavenly Father. I think what Nouwen is saying is that if we can begin to realize that the love of God is not ONLY with us when we are doing everything right, but with us ALL the time, it begins to make our return a easier and quicker. If today we can try to connect with that confident love in the Father that was woven into our hearts when we were created we can begin to experience life in a new way. A new way in which our “leavings” and our “returnings” do not have to be filled with resentment and guilt, but that we can begin recognize that they are surrounded by the acceptance and love of our Heavenly Father. If we can begin to do this then the leavings don’t have to be years of hurt, anguish, and loneliness, but can be times of, Ok, God, I need a minute here to think about how I feel about what just happened, knowing that His loving eye is on you and your return can be like that of Dude, quick and confident in what is waiting for you, that being perfect acceptance, love and forgiveness.

I think that the question that poses itself naturally right now is what are we waiting on…RETURN!


Much Love,
Charlie

Its been a while since I've been inspired to write but I think its returning, below is another one that I wrote recently.

Lenten Recognition

As this Lenten season begins I find myself in a place of longing. It did not begin today, it has been stirring in my heart for sometime and to be honest I did not know what to do with it. Though I knew the “church answers” I still found myself unsure of what it was I needed to do, but more importantly I was unsure of where God’s love was in the midst of this confusion. After the loss of our daughter Cate, my family and I went into survival mode. We just had to figure out how to survive the immense grief and confusion we found ourselves in the days and months that followed Cate’s passing. It was difficult to understand how this could happen and even more difficult to understand how God could let this happen. There was real sense of being ALONE, and this sense permeated through our marriage, friendships, and even my relationship with God. It was difficult to see how or if at all He was working and moving in my life because all I could see was the pain, hurt, anger and resentment. Although from the outside we may have looked like we were “moving on with God’s grace and assistance,” there was and sometimes still is, another life being lived in my heart that very much felt and still feels stuck sitting in a pool of pain and confusion.

After the year anniversary of sweet Cate’s passing there definitely felt like a lighting of the load of which we had been carrying, but the pain and confusion still lay so deeply in the hearts of my little family and myself. A few months ago I began to just feel like it was time for me to begin a process of slowing trying to sift through this darkness that I had been in for so long. I felt like because of past experience I knew in my head that God was not separated from this place I found myself in but that in fact He was in the middle of it, even though I did not “feel” He was anywhere near me. One day back in December I shared in a nutshell with a brother of mine what was going on in my heart and asked him to pray for me. He of course agreed to pray for me, like a good little Christian brother, and then he asked me when the last time I had met with my spiritual director was? I honestly told him that it had been quiet a while since I had seen him so he encouraged me gently to call him and set up an appointment to meet with him. About a week later my brother sends me an instant message, asking if I had called my spiritual director yet? To which, I honestly answered, no. The next day he call my cell and left a rather strong message of encouragement that told me to put on my big boy pants, get off my rear end and call my spiritual director, this is a very loose translation of what was actual left on my voicemail.

Due to his persistent encouragement I called and set up an appointment with my spiritual director. The appointment went well as they usually do and the direction that I was pointed in was to recognize my own helplessness to get through this pain, resentment and abandonment I find myself, which is VERY hard for me to do. I am the kind of guy who says, no one is going to do it for me, so I have to get it done myself, this is a lie comes from an old wound in my heart, that I struggle with often. Well, here I am a year and half after Cate’s death and I am STILL trying to do it by myself and needless to say, it has not worked very well. What I believe God is calling me and all of us, is to actively recognize where He is, where is HAS been, and what He has been doing all along. He is the reason that I began to recognize that something was not right in heart, He is the reason my heart was moved to share with my brother about where I was found myself, because HE lives in my heart, He is the one moving me back to Himself, not because of what I can do for Him, but for the simple fact that He loves me.

My sweet wife left a Lenten reflection booklet by Henri Nouwen, under the keys to my truck this morning. As I went to walked out of the door I grabbed the book and thought, “you know, I can take few minutes to read this in the morning and pray at my desk before I start the work day. God in all His divine persistence, chose to continue shining His light on my heart and to continue revealing his love for me this morning and to remind me that the only reason that I know that I am lost is BECAUSE I know His love. Here is a few excerpts from the reflection for you to chew on:

“If there is no parent, we cannot be lost. If we have no parent to return to, there is no experience of being lost. We are only lost, when we can be found. Only in the light of goodness and forgiveness do we discover that we are lost.”

“The love of a parent makes the child aware of being lost.”

“We only know that we’re in darkness when we come into the light of God’s love. It is only in the light, in the fullness of the sun, that we know there is a shadow.”

These simple words remind us that our Father in Heaven is the one who even helps us to see that we are lost, so that we may choose to return to the safety, comfort and love of His arms. The two things that really jumped out at me in my own life were: 1) the only reason I knew I was lost was because I knew the love of our Father in Heaven, otherwise what would I have noticed was missing? and 2) It was only through God shining His light in my heart to help me to realize that I was lost and then shining His light through my heart to my brother to encourage me to meet with my spiritual director did God not begin, BUT continue the process of drawing me back to Himself.

My prayer is that this Lent be one of recognition. That I truly begin to recognize how God has been working in me and around me over the past year and half, that I begin to recognize that it is not ME, but HE who lives in me, who will heal the hurt and confusion, and that I also begin to recognize again His movements in my daily life. May this Lenten draw us all into a deeper understanding of God’s immense Fatherly love for his children!

Much Love,
Charlie

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jacob William Cantrell

Greetings to all!

Well, #4 entered the world last night! Jacob William Cantrell entered the world weighing in at 8lbs 11oz and 20in long. Mom and Jacob are doing great! Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers, God Bless you all!!!! I uploaded some pictures to my flickr account. If you would like to check it out go to www.flickr.com/photos/cantrellkids We love and appreciate all you have contined to pray for our little famly!

Much Love,
The Cantrells