Greetings to All! As I sit at our breakfast table on this lazy Sunday morning listening to the kids play their imaginary games my heart is a little heavy, not bad just a little. Ali had said this morning that the past few days had been tough on her. I could tell that something was bothering her, but I tend to think that I have done something to upset, offend, or bother her instead of remembering that we lost our daughter less than two months ago. It’s that whole “movie thing” that I live in. This week was A LOT better than last week, it just seemed to go a little smoother. We had another milestone, the 13th came and left pretty quietly. It’s hard to believe that it has already been two months since Cate’s surgery and the heart wrenching grace-filled days that followed.
Our pediatrician called last week with the results of Cate's autopsy. This kind of brought back up a lot of memories and emotions. There is a series of the questions you ask yourself when you lose a child. Did I do enough? Did I make the right decisions? Is there more that I could have done? These questions haunt the recesses of your mind and heart. In those dark moments of grief they seem to come up more poignantly. Of course these were the questions that I did not want to ask, but I knew that I had to. Dr. Mark went on to explain that everything surgically look great, and that he had even called a profusionist friend of his to ask about how they continue to give the heart oxygen during surgery because he wanted to more fully understand this process of Cate’s surgery. After the surgery the surgeon told us himself, that he was unhappy with the amount of “clamp time” that they had to do in order to get Cate’s heart surgically corrected. Dr. Mark went on to say that he truly believes that it was the amount of clamp time that was the downfall of Cate’s heart. He said that he truly believes that the right side of Cate’s heart died that day of surgery.
I asked him why we did not see the complexities of Cate’s heart before and were there any procedures that we could have done before the surgery that would have enable us to see the complexity of Cate’s heart. If Cate’s heart was SO complex why was she not having “Tet spells?” This is where babies turn blue because of the lack of oxygen in their blood. He said, Charlie, I don’t know why Cate appeared to everyone to be so healthy. Even, the night before her surgery we went to Dr. Mark’s house so that he could give her a “once over” to make sure she was ready for surgery. He thoroughly checked her out and told Ali, “She looks great, yall go have that surgery and come on back home.” He said that after reading the autopsy he just can’t understand how Cate was not much sicker that she appeared to be to everyone.
Although it is difficult losing a child, Cate was such a joy. Our memories are filled with joyful moments of laughter and love. She was truly our most joyful baby, all of our children are joyful, but Cate was just different as a baby. The memories that we have are ones of a smiling, healthy, beautiful baby girl and for that I am so grateful. We did not have to watch our child suffer for seven months, we got to watch her live life to the very fullest a seven month old can. I smile even as I type this just thinking of Cate’s joyful presence. This is what I miss the most and what pains my heart to tears at time. I remember one night in the hospital, at Texas Children’s, as I sat at her bedside crying my eyes out, one of the profusionist left his machine and came and sat beside me and just put his hand on my leg. He just sat there, he did not say a word, he just sat there with me. As I went to walk out of the room he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, “I lost my son fourteen years ago, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. She will be with you forever whether you leave here with her or without her.” How true those words are, I do feel that she is always with me. As I have told you all before I feel her presence very strongly at mass. The other day I was at mass and I quickly noticed that her presence was not there with me. I know that may sound a little crazy but I was very aware that her sweet spirit was not around. As soon as I noticed that she was not there with me, I heard her voice in my heart say, “Sorry dad, God has me working on something right now, see you soon.” And sure enough the next time I was at mass, she was back there with me. It was really a very neat experience.
Since Cate’s death butterflies have been a real connection to Cate for Ali. People who lose children or loved ones will often have something that reveals the love one’s presence or a connection of some sort. For Ali’s family their connection to Phil, the brother that she lost, is dimes and rainbows. We have jars full of dimes and their car ashtrays are full of dimes. It’s just a connection that they have with him. For Ali and Cate, its butterflies. Ali and I were talking on the balcony the other night about my conversation with Dr. Mark. I was relaying the information that Dr. Mark had given me and I was specifically telling her about how Dr. Mark said that he believed that the right side of Cate’s heart had most likely died the day of surgery. She smiled and said you know what? “I was talking to one of my students today and a butterfly went fluttering by. I was telling her how butterflies were very special to me. The student then responded, ‘You know Ms. Cantrell, a butterfly can live for 12- 14 days with only one wing.’” Now, we don’t know if this is actually true or not, and if its not, don’t tell us, per Ali’s request. It’s just another connection to our sweet Cate and the beautiful reality that her life and the grace filled days that followed her surgery. Her short yet beautiful life touched our family and so many others so deeply, just as butterflies can brighten our day with beauty and grace as they flutter by us for a brief moment.
Thank you all for your continued prayers, cards, and support. They are so very appreciated Ali and I were talking just the other night about how blessed we feel by those people who have not forgotten about us, now that the “hype” of Baby Cate is over, so again thank you. A prayer request, we are beginning the process of getting the blogs turned into a book because of the overwhelming request we have had. This is much more emotional for me than I had anticipated. Going back and re-reading the blogs during those days is difficult, but I want to do it while they are fresh on my mind. Please pray for good discernment of what goes in and what does not go in and that we find a publisher that is a perfect fit for us. Also, after re-reading the blogs from when we were in Houston, I want to thank you for interpreting my jiber jabber at times, WOW, there was some terrible grammatical things going on there. And last but not least if you still are wanting a Baby Cate prayer card but have not wanted to ask, go ahead, ask! It honors us to know that you want to pray for our family and to ask our precious Cate to pray for you. So again, if you want one just drop me your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org . You all really do mean the world to us and we appreciate you staying with us, Please keep praying for us! Much Love, The Cantrells