Greetings to all! Well, the Cantrell's arrived home today, not quite how we expected. The journey that we had mapped out did not exactly turn out the way that we had planned. We never thought that thousands and thousands of people from around the world would come to know our family and the journey of our precious Cate so intimately.
This past Monday as I drove to the hospital for another of Baby Cate's procedure I was praying as hard as I could, I was begging Jesus to fix Cate's heart, and I quietly heard the words, "Not today, I am not finished my work." I knew that it was God, there are few times in my life that I have audibly in my heart heard the voice of God, but over the past two weeks I feel like he spoke to me everyday, most of the time I didn't want to hear it, but it was the truth, again, just another little props to Baby Cate, she made God talk to her Dad ALOT! That afternoon after they finished the procedure Dr. Salazar came and met with us, he informed us that her little body was beginning the process of shutting down, her lungs were filled with fluid, she was starting to have a bacterial infection in her kidneys, and indeed her heart was not going to be able to recover from the surgery, due to the complex anatomy of her heart. A lot of tears and snot ensued, and then Ali and I went to Baby Cate's room and knelt by her bed and we prayed. We prayed in thanksgiving for the wonderful and joy-filled seven months that we had with Cate. In her prayer, Ali thanked God for the opportunity to have Cate as long as we did, because, if you have followed us all along or gone back to the beginning of this blog, Cate was not supposed to make it past five months in utero. We called my parents who were watching our kids, and had them bring the kids that night to Houston. We brought them into the hospital waiting room, and with the help of a wonderful, faith-filled child life specialist we began to talk to them about Cate, about her sickness, and about everyone’s feelings, and then we had them make cards for Cate. After they headed back to the hotel for the night, and Ali and I stayed at the hospital. The nurses moved Baby Cate over to one side of the bed so Ali could lay on the bed with her, and of course she did! She lay there with her all night long, and I sat in the rocker on the side of Cate's bed and kept vigil, enjoying the last night of my little girl's earthly life. It was about 3 or 4am that I was woken up by the sound of a voice saying, “She is already gone,” I looked at the monitors and they were still going, I was like, no she is not. And I closed my eyes and went vigil-ing again. We got moving around 6am and it was like all we could do was to keep looking at the clock, because 8am we were storming the beaches and it was going to be either, make it or break it. Before we walked out of the room around eight and we prayed again and I told Ali, what I had heard earlier in the morning and she said that she had in fact heard the same thing throughout the night. They made one more attempt to ween her off of her machine, but nothing in her little body was working right. They called us in, and told us the news, we cried, we felt let down in our miracle. The gentle nurses, dressed Cate in her hospital gown, and covered her with her own yellow blanket. They were able to remove as many monitors and IV tubes as they could. She looked beautiful and peaceful. We then began circling family through Baby Cate's room to say their good byes. After the family was done, we brought, Ella and Dude into Cate’s room. We wanted them to see that Cate was sick, and that she didn't just leave with mommy and daddy one day and then they not come back home with her. We wanted them to know that Cate was very sick and that she was not going to get better. Dude, sat her on bed and rubbed her hair and kissed her forehead over and over. Ella cried, she cried hard, and she took it a lot harder than I expected, but it was part of the journey that they are being forced to walk down. After the “big kids” kissed her, gave her the cards they made for her, and said their good byes. They left with the child life specialist and our family, they went and played and Ali and I stayed in the room. We talked to Cate, kissed her, and then around 12:20pm they began taking all the tubes out so Ali could hold her. The last thing they did was to turn off the Ecmo machine and the Ventilator, she never took a single breath on her own, because as God had told us, she was already gone, which was such a comforting feeling. They wrapped her in her blanket and gave her to Ali. We just sat, quiet, no beeping, no hum of the Ecmo, no ventilator, just quiet. We cried and we talked, but we knew she wasn't there anymore, that kid was already causing a ruckus in heaven. After a long while, we laid her on the bed in her yellow blanket, and we went down to get our other two kids and we left the hospital to get some lunch at McDonald's, cause he let us stay in his house for almost two weeks, gotta support the team right? We took the kids to the Zoo that afternoon, we just wanted to spend time with them. You know, we always have enjoyed our children, we make it a priority of our family, but with Cate's passing, there is even a more renewed sense of the day to day. To literally slow down, to listen when they talk, to play paper dolls, and to shoot spider man webs all over the room. And so that is what we did, we enjoyed the beautiful gift that God has given to us, what we call our family.
When Ali and I reflect on Cate’s life, we agree that it was an AWESOME seven months, Ali and I do not regret one single thing. We treated Cate, just like our other two children, with a LOT of love, a LOT of fun, and a lot of "tough-it-out" kid attitude, and she did. For a child being born with such a serious heart defect, we did not spend much time at ALL in Doctor's offices or hospitals. Cate's progress surpassed our expectation.
I told Ali, that I was not sad for Cate, that she was going home, to the place that we all long for, a place where there is nothing to "need" because we are completely and totally satisfied in our loving God. That she would NEVER have to experience the wages of sin, the shame that often comes with it, or the guilt that so many of us drag around our WHOLE lives. That she would leave this world, HOLY, PURE, and PERFECT, the worst thing Baby Cate probably ever did was poop out of the back of her diaper, and last time I checked that wasn't on the ten commandments. I wasn't in any anyway sad for her, I was sad for us, for Ali and I, who would from this time on have a hole in our hearts that was taken out when little Cate left this earth. I was sad for her brother and sister, who at such a young age would have to experience, sickness, dying, death, and the grieving process, (which is hard enough for most of us, "Grown UPS" and I use that word lightly because I know some of the people reading this blog:).
There are a few things that we have learned through this process that I wanted to share with you all. First, God can use ANYONE to reach out to the world, literally, the WORLD! Our little girl lay on her deathbed, almost lifeless and she still united the world in prayer, Ali and I are so humbled to be her parents, and we proudly stand in her shadow. We have learned that hope is not based on a certain outcome. That hope is what gets us through everything. Just because the prayers of many were not answer in the particular way, that we thought they should be, doesn't mean that WE, all of us, should give up HOPE. My hope is that we will be better people, that we will be better evangelist and allow God to minister through us to get His message out. My Hope is that my wife and I will be a better husband and wife because of Cate, that we will better love each other and continue to honor and support each other. I hope that we are better parents; soaking up lavishly the love, the beauty, and the joy in situations that God continues to reveal Himself in through our kids. WE, my family and I, are HOPE FILLED! We are not letting up on our faith in God, in our prayer, or in our hope, because if we do Cate's life was in vain! And I can't let that happen, and I ask all of you who have come back into relationship with God or allowed God to renew your relationship, to not let this shake you, this is life! God DID NOT GIVE CATE THIS HEART CONDITION, He DID NOT GIVE CATE TO ALI AND I BECAUSE WE ARE RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE, nor did He give us Cate because HE THOUGHT WE COULD HANDLE IT. This world is imperfect, it has been since the fall of mankind and we are still living with the consequences. The consequence of sin is death, everyone dies, all at different times. What matters is what we make of this life. God can allow good to come from any situation. Look at Cate, a little seven month old girl laying on a bed DYING, and people are RUNNING back to their faith, is that not Good being made of a very difficult situation. Ali and I are honored that we got to be a part of that Good, we are proud that we got to watch the mighty works of God through our daughter, so if you give up, then Cate's journey was in vain, don't give up because WE, her family, are not, we are HOPE FILLED and plan on remaining that way for a very long time.
If you would have told me two weeks ago that there would be over 50,000 hits on Baby Cate's Blog in less than 4 days I would have laughed so hard, but God did a mighty work, Wow, praise to you Lord Jesus Christ! This Blog isn't ending, the Cantrell's plan on continuing to share their Journey, through the grief and the laughter, through our trials and victories, as we continue to press into the heart of God with all of you… if you want to stay tuned it will be quite a ride.
We will continue celebrating Catherine "Baby Cate" Francis Cantrell's life in the next couple of days, Friday, June 27th, will be the Wake from 10:00am to 10:00pm at Martin & Castille Funeral Home on St. Landry St. in Lafayette, LA and the Funeral Mass will be on Saturday June 28th at 11:00am at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Rayne, La, we would love for you to come celebrate Baby Cate with us.
We love you all so much and thank you for journeying with us, and running this marathon. The race is over, and Cate was victorious. We all win that way. We do ask that you remain, Hope Filled, with us as we stand together, plus many, minus one.