Thursday, July 31, 2008

For the Glory

Greetings to all! As I sat down at noon mass today I did not immediately kneel down and pray like everyone else does. I just sat down and began praying then I distracted myself because I began thinking I know people are thinking, “uhm well look at him not praying.” You see in the movie that is going on in my head I am the lead actor and everyone talks about me all the time. And then I thought to myself, you know what St. Ignatius of Loyola like to pray laying on his back. You know there is more than one way to pray and I don’t particularly like kneeling down to pray because it is hard for me to concentrate. Well, wouldn’t you know that today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He has always been one of my favorite Saints and I really appreciate and enjoy his style of prayer and his spiritual writing.

When I was attending Franciscan University I was in a Household, which is similar to a Fraternity, just take the keg parties and replace them with praise and worship and you get the picture. The name of the Household I was in was Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam or AMDG for short. This latin phrase translates to All for the Greater Glory of God and is the motto of the Jesuit Religious Order order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. What I am getting at here is that St. Ignatius has for a long time held a very special place in my heart and in my spirituality. If you have never heard the story of his conversion it is an amazing one, I will give you the Cliff’s notes version and then you can go read the rest later. Basically, he was this big military hotshot who got shot in the legs with a CANNONBALL, did you hear that? Not shot by a bullet, but a real CANNONBALL! Needless to say he was laid up for months recovering from this awful experience. The only books they had were the bible and the lives of the saints and so he read them just to do it. Well, needless to say God moved in his heart in a very powerful way and St. Ignatius became one of the most holy, brilliant, and dedicated followers of Christ.

That got me to thinking in Mass today about the words ALL for the greater glory of God. Not just some of life, but all of life. The good and the bad. The pretty and the ugly. The neatly packaged and the falling out of the box. Ali and I were talking the other night about how so many people, both that we have never met and those very close to us, that God has impacted them through Cate’s short life and our family’s difficult journey and what is also amazing is that you all are STILL here with us. I truly thought that after Cate’s passing the story would “end” for a lot of people, but it hasn’t. Many of you have sent beautiful emails sharing very intimate parts of your own journey with Ali and I. You have shared how God has moved in your hearts in some VERY powerful ways. Some of you have made life changing decisions and some of you God has really renewed your faith, your prayer life, and your family life. We miss Cate, do not get me wrong, there are not many minutes that go by in a day where my thoughts do not turn to her and her absence, but what I told Ali the other night was that a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux has been stuck in my head when my thoughts turn to Cate. St. Therese said, “I will spend my Heaven doing good upon earth” and I truly believe that this is what Cate is doing and will continue to do. God is using ALL for His greater Glory, even Cate's death and the mourning that our family is having to endure. Just as He used the aweful situation that St. Ignatius found himself in after being shot with a Cannonball for His greater Glory, so too is He using this aweful situation that our little family finds itself in for His greater glory.

There is a song that many of you have left the lyrics to as a comment on the blog by the group Mercy Me. The name of the song is “Bring the Rain” and in the chorus of the song they say, “Bring me anything that brings You glory, And I know there'll be days When this life brings me pain But if that's what it takes to praise You Jesus, bring the rain.” Our family will continue to strive to give God ALL the Glory in ALL situations, and so Lord if that is what it takes to praise you, then Bring the Rain! We love you all and ask that you remain with us, and we thank you for continuing to standing by us through rain. May we all strive to live for the greater Glory of God. St. Ignatius…Pray for us!

Much Love, The Cantrells

If any of you out there still want prayer cards we still have some left. We have sent out a lot but we still have some left and if you want one we want you to have one! Just send me your mailing address to catecantrell@gmail.com and don’t worry I will not start sending you junk mail:)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Need a Minute?"

Greetings to all! This is a tough one to start because I feel like I am really putting our hearts out there, but I need to write about it because this is kind of like my therapy. I also ask that there be no “advice” left in the comments this is just my feelings today ,words of support are fine just no advice please. I would normally not ask this but that is just how very close to my heart that is this.

Ali and I had a WONDERFUL evening last night we sat on our balcony and just talked for hours. We covered an array of topics from budgets, to work, to the kids school and of course our precious Cate. I had gone back inside to check on the kids and then came back outside to meet Ali. As I sat down she had “that look” on her face. The look that every man knows, “Oh no, here it comes!” We do not usually know what “it” is but we know that it is going to be big and so we clinch our teeth real hard and wait for the question that ALWAYS follows, “Can I ask you a question?” We are trapped, there is no other response than “yes” and this is how quickly a woman can back us simple creatures, men, into a corner so there is no way out. It is like that Twix commercial where the guy is shoving both candy bars into his mouth at the same time and the announcer says, “Need a minute?” That is exactly how guys feel and you ladies do it with such easy and beauty that we are obliged to listen to the question that is about to bring up some kind of emotion inside of us. We do not know what that emotion is going to be so we nod our head in painful surrender in the yes motion and wait.

Finally after what felt like an eternity she asked, “Are we done having children?” It was like a cannonball hit me dead in the chest. The question that has loomed in my heart since all of this began. It is a question that I have asked myself numerous times over the past month, but I sure as heck was not bringing it up, not right now anyway, maybe like it TEN YEARS. I know my wife and I knew that when she was ready to talk about it she would. As the depth of that question penetrated my heart my eyes filled with tears. Ali and I have always been open to children. We had one miscarriage and three kids in five years. That means that Ali was pregnant more than she was not in the first five years we were married. Pregnancy, although unexpected at times, was always a joy for us, well I say “us,” I really did not have to do much during the whole thing, but we love each one of our gifts that our God has given us, even our little Rachel, she was our first that we miscarried. On the anniversary of her passing we go out to breakfast in memory of her and to celebrate the very short time she was with us.

After Cate’s death, things have felt real different, pregnancy feels unimaginably scary. I remember when Ali was pregnant with Ella, God began to reveal to my heart that I was going to experience a new love, one that I had never experienced before, the love of a father and boy did I! I remember seeing each of my children when they were seconds old and LOVING THEM, I mean lay down my life kind of love and I did not even really know them yet. They had not “done” anything to make me love, that fact that they existed provoked love in my heart.

Love is always a risk. It is honestly a crazy reality if you think about it. You put all of yourself out there to be hurt, rejected, and let down, but at the same time you also open yourself to the opportunity to experience real joy, peace, comfort, encouragement, and life. If we do not ever make ourselves vulnerable to love then we will never experience these wonderful realities that spring forth from the act of loving. When Cate died I felt as though a part of my fatherly love was just crush, robbed, and obliterated. If you can remember back to your first “love” and your first break up, do you remember swearing off the opposite sex? Whether it was, Boys are stupid! Who needs them? or Girls are just ridiculous, hanging out with the guys is more fun away. All because you put yourself out there in an act of love, as young as it may have been at the time, and you were hurt, you were let down. As silly as it sounds that is the way I feel RIGHT NOW. I feel hurt, I feel let down and so my reaction is to avoid what hurt me, a baby. I am honestly scared to risk loving again right now. I do not want to try to “replace” Cate and I am scared out of my mind of hurting this bad again. I know that in no way was Ali asking to get pregnant today, tomorrow, or next week, but I know there will come a time when I think she will want to get pregnant again. My stomach is tightening even as I am writing these words, but I know that in time God will heal this hurt and feelings of being let down. I know that in time He will ease the fear of loving again.

After talking to Ali last night I realized that I have to begin to invite God into this specific hurt. That I cannot and will not let there be a wall built that protects this hurt. If I do that then I do not allow God to take me into the middle of that hurt and show me that He is and has been in the middle this pain the entire time. I know that this is what I must do if I am to allow the healing to begin. I believe that there is a new love to be experienced from all of this, just as God revealed to me that I would experience a new love with the birth of Ella. I believe that this pain will birth a new love in my life and so I open my heart, broken as it may be to the Divine Healer and the one who IS Love. Please pray for this specifically for Ali and I for this healing as well as if and when it is time for God to bless our family with another child we are ready, eager, and welcoming. We love you all so very much and continue to ask that you remain with us in prayer. Much Love, The Cantrells

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Long Ride Home

Greetings to all! We just arrived home from a weekend at my sisters’ camp in Mississippi. It was an awesome weekend with family! We just hung out, rode four wheelers, fished, and ate like kings. There has always been something about the woods that sets my heart free. I do not feel trapped by a fence and suburban living. My mind and heart are free to roam where they may. My cell phone was dead and my computer was in my briefcase in my truck, and it was wonderful. No thoughts of work, bills, or anything else that ravages my mind on a daily basis. I thought about Cate often, but they were different thoughts, they were peaceful thoughts. Our families have truly been such a great blessing during this time, they let us talk if we want to talk and they do not ask us, “how we are doing?” They know that if we want to talk about Cate or about our hearts we will.
As we began our drive home my heart began getting heavy. The memories and the pain of Cate’s absence grew stronger. When I was a kid, as I wrote about in a previous blog, my mom and I would fight like cats and dogs mainly over her drinking. It would usually end the same way every time with me slamming something and walking out getting on my bike and riding away. I would just ride for hours, sometimes I would end up at a friend or a family member’s house, or sometimes I would just ride. The whole time I was riding the world was “good,” but when I would turn my bike back towards home I would be filled with all the emotions I had before I left, anger, sadness, and helplessness. It would all come flooding back, filling my heart and soul like a levee break. I have experienced that same occurrence many times over the last year. When I would be at work everything was fine, but when I would turn my truck back towards home all the emotions over Cate, her heart defect, her upcoming surgery would rage in my heart and I usually would arrive home in not the happiest mood. My poor wife, she has to deal with me ALL the time, that girl is going straight to heaven for sure.
This morning as we were driving on the interstate heading back home I felt so sad. I missed Cate, I missed her car seat being in the middle of our other two hooligan’s seats and them talking to her and making her laugh. Oh how Dude could make her laugh, at times he would make her laugh so hard that the rest of us would start laughing too. I knew that we were coming back to a house that was full of her memories that would just fall out like an overstuffed closet when the backdoor opened. I had just had this wonderful weekend with my sisters and brother-in-laws filled with laughter, scrabble, celebrity gossip, stories, and horseshoes, which I am sore from, aint that ridiculous. It was just an amazing weekend and not an hour after leaving I was right back to where I was on Friday before we left, heartbroken and helpless.
It is hard to believe it has been a month since Cate’s passing. It feels like it has been an eternity and a blink of an eye since she filled, or should I say overflowed her baby swing. Reality has set in that is for sure and if you read Ali’s blog then you know of the pain that she is experiencing. Our kids are still hurting, even yesterday sweet little Ella woke from her nap in a rather melancholy mood and of course I do not handle whining well so I was quick to fuss at her about trivial things that she could not do because she can be hard headed like her daddy. She went in the camp and sat in a chair and just cried. I went in to see about her and FINALLY asked what was wrong, to which she looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said, “Daddy, I miss Cate, I didn’t want her to leave us.” My heart was immediately filled with pain as I watch my little girl grieving over the death of her sister. I pulled her close to me and told her that I missed Cate too and I didn’t want her to leave us either. They all are hurting and as I watch and pray ferverently for them and try my best to lighten the cross that they are all carrying I know that this is just part of the process and it is just the road that we must walk right now, but it is a painful one. We are and will be a stronger family because of Cate. We are still and will continue to cling to the Cross of Jesus Christ right now. Someone included a quote of Mother Theresa of Calcutta in a card they sent us and I wanted to share it with you all as right now I find a real comfort in knowing that Christ is very close to us during this painful time. Mother Theresa said, “Pain, sorrow, suffering is but the kiss of Jesus. A sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you. May God give you all the courage to accept your cross with resignation and love in union with the passion of Jesus. God Bless you.” We will accept and embrace this cross knowing that our God loved us enough to lower Himself to become Man and to endure the Cross to pay a debt that humanity could not. We will let Christ kiss us and be close to us right now because we need him more than we need our next breath. Please remain with us in prayer, and know that we love to hear stories of how Cate has impacted your life or how you have used her for an intercessor in Heaven, it truly helps us bear this cross knowing that there is a bigger picture that God is still creating through the loss of Cate. We still have some prayer cards if you would like one please just send us your mailing address to catecantrell@gmail.com. We love you all and pray for you often. Much love, The Cantrells


I also am sad to say that I will be attending the wake tonight for sweet Baby Cooper, he passed away last Wednesday night. I asked Cate to meet him at the gates of heaven and show him around. He and Cate are now causing a ruckus together in Heaven. I am saddened for his parents and his family who now have to walk this road that we are on. I wish this pain on no one. Please pray for his parents and family as the mourn the loss of their precious Cooper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Life in the Here and Now...A Mother's Heart

Matter of the heart come easily…however, putting them out there for the world to read is quite a stretch for me. Thanks for listening.

A dear friend, who has recently lost a daughter, shared with me that the grief process is not one of those things that you can check off your list and say…yahoo, I am finished with the anger stage, what is next…she told me that she learned that we won’t get a gold star at the end, and that we will continue to jump back and forth from stage to stage because… well, you never really finish. This grief will continue to be a lifelong process, but she did promise it gets better.

We have heard it before, that “time” will heal you. And to “them...whoever they are” I say that on Thursday it will be a month since Cate died, and “time” is sure taking a long time to show up. Days seem to go on forever, and the tough moments take an eternity to pass. I sit and sob through this soul-shattering experience and wonder what the lessons to be learned will be. And, I am trying to be open to learning them. Charlie asked me the other day if I was praying; he wanted to make sure that I am inviting God into my heart, and to be open to His healing powers and graces. I told him that I really wasn’t praying, and that I was really pissed off at God. I had never been so faithful, I had never been so devoted to prayer, nor had I ever been willing to sacrifice so much for His greater glory…only to feel completely let down. I was quick to tell Charlie that it is so painful to pray, and that I fear that praying right now might actually require even more out of me…and that God would ask even more of us. “I can’t do it,” I told him. With all of the intense anger and grave sadness, it takes all of my physical and emotional energy that I have to just get out of bed in the morning. I told him that often my day of suffering is offered up, and that is really all the praying that I can muster.

It is difficult and trying each day to answer the same questions from Ella & Dude, about “why can’t we see Cate?” and “why do Jesus and Mary get to take care of her?” and “where is heaven…is heaven in the clouds” … AAAHHH! I can hardly understand any of this myself, imagine trying to explain it our children. It gets tough somedays to be available to two kiddos who are struggling to “figure out” their way through this grief. Ella, in her sorrow, cries often and wants to spend countless hours at the cemetery coloring with chalk on Cate’s grave, blowing bubbles for her, and bringing her flowers. She and I spent the morning there on Saturday, we walked and looked at flowers, and every so often we would happen upon a child’s grave, and she was so delighted that Cate would have a friend. Precious to come from a four year old, and devastating that she should need to know of death and grief so young. For Dude it is a bit different, he can be both raging and soft-hearted…He will throw play dough and kill lizards in the yard one minute, and the next he wants to be hugged and held. A friend of ours brought her infant son over to our house a week ago, and Dude just wanted to take care of him, and rub his head, and talk to him like he was so accustomed to doing with Cate. My heart broke, and I cried for days after. Our kids are definitely our greatest joys and our greatest distraction right now, but I feel it is such an unfair journey that they are forced to walk. I believe that no child should be robbed of their security, as ours have unfortunately been. And unless you have walked this road as a young sibling, you can’t begin to imagine how much innocence is lost.

What is also so unnerving about this process is that it isn’t “pretty, and it can’t be hidden.” I have worked a long time to try to shelter my heart from the “ugly & messiness” that life can show. I would chose to focus my energies on the positive and the “neatly packaged” lessons that life was teaching me. With friendships I would often skim the surface of issues, and seldom let others deep into my heart. My tried & true way of “guarding” my heart is, however, starting to unravel. I originally thought that getting back to routine and staying focused on the “positives” in life would keep me moving forward. But grief had a way of showing up and slowing me down to an almost standstill, and let me tell you it isn’t “pretty.” It has shaken me down to my core and even to do the everyday “usual” stuff is so unbearably painful. Changing the toilet paper roll means opening the cabinet where Cate’s diapers are, putting away dishes means seeing her empty bottles. Simply going into our bedroom, means walking through her nursery. I still sit in her nursery’s rocker and rock most days, and sing to no one but myself. I glance into her bed each morning trying so hard to remember what it looked like to see her there. There are days that I take out her clothes and refold them, not to torture myself, but to hang on to the scent of her and the memory of the days she wore them. At moments I cling to every picture I can find, and other moments I have to turn them upside down and can’t even begin to process it. I am so deeply saddened, and so visibly hurt by her loss. I find myself with little energy to answer the phone, check emails, pay bills, or fold clothes. I can’t bring myself to be with (or even talk to) friends who have babies, or who complain about trivial stuff, and I am tired of having to answer… “How are y’all…or better yet…are you having a good day?” So, I avoid the grocery store, the post office, the bank, etc… at all cost, but when duty calls, and I must go I usually wear my trusty UL baseball cap, keep my head down, and avoid eye contact at all cost. Grief is a very lonely place to be, but the energy that it takes to make small talk or to share is incredibly draining.

This grief journey is so different and so individual. Although Charlie and I both witnessed the same child suffer, and we both watched the same doctors perform the same tasks, and we both left the hospital together, we are mourning Cate so differently. I mentioned to Charlie that being back home and having to get back to the business of life is much harder than watching Cate struggle in the hospital. It was easy to feel God’s graces during her hospital stay and the funeral services. I felt that God showed up BIG for us (during her burial) and allowed us to truly celebrate Cate’s life. And even though I know of His presence now it does feel so far away and so less tangible. It is a whirlwind of emotions and we are ALL experiencing them, at different times and in different ways.

Along with this time of never knowing more misery, I, have also never know more love. In the midst of this terribly trying time I still cling to Charlie, and we cherish our kids more every day. I have finally learned to lean into the wisdom of my parents. I have shared with my mom that I have never needed her as much nor appreciated her as much as I do now. She has become one of my best of friends. I pray that my sisters, my children, or anyone else will never need to know this wisdom of hers and now mine. It is not my parents’ experiences or pains, but rather their hope and joys that continue to renew in me a peace that … time and God will heal us.

And still through all of this pain…like it or not… there is still a real life to be lived. I don’t want to look back in ten years and think that I just existed through this time. Most days it is a decision to live well and search for the beauty that life still offers. Other days it comes a little easier and I can buy milk and cheerios without a baseball cap. But to each day that has passed so far and to all that are to come… I am committed to welcoming the daily joys and will continue to attempt to graciously invite in the grief. I don’t desire to run from this time & I sure can’t make it pretty or tie it with a bow, but I choose to not to just exist. So, here’s to living life, living it well, and inviting God in!

To my friends, I ask you to be patient with me. Unlike Charlie, I often don’t hold my heart up for others to see. I shelter it carefully and I have protected it for a LONG time. It has been bumped and bruised before, but never shattered. I am still searching on the ground for any remaining pieces, please be patient. I will come up soon, and need your help mending & reassembling. I can’t thank you all enough for your supportive love, your respect, and your continued prayers. I love you dearly, Ali

Stay TUNED!!!!

Greetings to all! I just wanted to let yall know that Ali is almost finished writing her Blog!!!! The heart of Mommy will be coming to your screen soon! Give your refresh buttons a break, it won't be until this afternoon before we post her blog. Ali is working in her classroom this morning. On top of everything else we have going on she is starting teaching at a new school which means taking ALL of her teaching stuff that she has had stored at home and setting up a new classroom. Yall keep her in your prayers right now. We love you all PLEASE keep praying for us we need it!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Wordless Spirit

Romans 8: 26-27
Brothers and sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

Greetings to all! As I was reading over the Mass reading in preparation for Mass this afternoon these words that Paul wrote to the Romans really ministered to my heart and gave me consolation in my own lack of words I so often feel. Yes, at times I actually am at a loss for words as crazy as that sounds. As I watch my wife grieve I realize that there is nothing that I can “say” to make it any better and the times I do open my mouth I do the typical husband thing and say something stupid that makes her angry or sad.
As you can imagine the past year of our life has been very difficult. We have found ourselves in places that we never would have thought we would be in our short marriage. The whole pregnancy was VERY difficult on both of us and there was a quiet disconnect that had taken place. Yes, we lived under the same roof, we parented the same kids, but as a husband and wife we lacked “connection” with each other’s heart. After Cate was born and she did so well in the first few months Ali and I truly began to reunite our hearts and it was wonderful. We enjoyed each other’s companionship, conversation, friendship, and really just connecting on the deeper level of being a husband and wife.
Well, here we are again. Another very difficult spot and it is not always a fun ride right now. I am watching the woman that I love the most in this world, hurt, and I mean hurt bad. As, THE MAN, of the house, I want to fix it. I want to take out my tools of the trade that I have done for years and help her “work” through this, but I am STINKING IT UP at times. There are a lot of times that we are just not ready to be around other people yet. So, who do we have but each other? Two people who have said just about everything they have to say to each other right now about where they are at and how they feel. Therefore we just sit in silence a lot of the time. It’s a difficult silence, at moments it can be a deafening silence. It does not make me angry, it just makes me hurt more. I feel like I could not “fix” Cate, I cannot “fix” my wife or my kids and at times I just feel useless and helpless. I know that they only thing that I can do right now
is once again find myself at the throne room door, just knocking on their behalf, because I
do not know what else to do.
On Thursday when I wrote the blog, “Taking Off the Old Yolk” was a particularly tough day. I had called Ali and could tell by her voice that she was just hurting and I sat there on the phone in silence, not knowing what to say. This was mainly because the night before we were on our way home and I tried to offer her my words of “wisdom” and as Dude says, “It’s not working so well.” Thursday morning I had decided to go to noon Mass and I knew that Ali was at her moms just hanging out. I called over there to ask her what I could pray for her for, but she was indisposed at the moment and I was walking into Church so I would not be able to talk to her before Mass began. As I knelt in Church just “groaning” to the father, not know what to say the words, “lighten her yolk” came to my heart and I just prayed for that over and over before Mass began. I had not had a chance to look over the readings before Mass and what was the Mass reading but the exact words, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Spirit was taking the wordlessness of my heart and turning it into the exact prayers that He knew needed to be brought to the Father. Even in the Homily the priest said, “God is For Us!” which is what I read in a book and wrote on a piece of paper and nailed to the backdoor of our house so that we would see it every time we walked out the door. As I read this reading this morning I was reminded that the, “Promise of the Father,” the Holy Spirit is in fact with us. It may not make it any “easier” but it makes me want to continue on. I know that we are not alone on this journey that all of you are with us and praying for us, but it is nice to be reminded that God is on our side too. My prayer is that we all might know and be reminded “that the one who searches hearts” knows our hearts even if we do not know what to say or how to pray at any given moment. We love you all, remain with us and pray that we might be reminded often, that God is with us.
Much Love, The Cantrells

Friday, July 18, 2008

Prayer Request

Greetings to All! You all have been so faithful in praying for us and now I ask you to step up to the plate again. Dear friends of ours little newphew is another heart baby who had surgery just about 3 weeks ago now. There are have been many complications and I am asking you once again to storm the gates of heaven on behalf of Baby Cooper, he is almost five weeks old. Please pray for him and his family!
Baby Cate, Pray for Baby Cooper! You still have to listen to your dad you know!
Much Love, The Cantrells

Cate's Account Information

Greetings to all! This is just information that we needed to pass along to you all. First and foremost to all those who have supported our family financially and contributed to Cate's fund so generously we want to again say THANK YOU! Due to Chase bank policy because the account was opened while Cate was at Texas Children's Hospital we had to close the account due to her passing. There are still people making deposits in the account and we did not want anyone to think that we were trying to pull a fast one when they got Chase to make a deposit and the bank tells them that the account as been closed. We had to close it because of Cate's death. If you would like to still contribute to Cate's Memorial fund you may mail your contribution to the address below. We are NOT asking for contributions we just wanted to make everyone aware of WHY we had to close the account. Again, thank you to every who has generously given to our little family in our time of need. Once all Cate's medical and funeral expenses are paid any proceeds remaining will be used continue Cate's legacy. We love you all! Much Love, The Cantrells

The Cantrell Family
P.O. Box 52978
Lafayette, La 70505

This is in Addition to New Blog Posted yesterday afternoon 07/17/08

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Taking Off the Old Yoke

In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul deals still more fully with the theme of this "birth of power in weakness", this spiritual tempering of man in the midst of trials and tribulations, which is the particular vocation of those who share in Christ's sufferings. "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us"(Romans 5:3-5). Suffering as it were contains a special call to the virtue which man must exercise on his own part. And this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life. And indeed this meaning makes itself known together with the working of God's love, which is the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit. The more he shares in this love, man rediscovers himself more and more fully in suffering: he rediscovers the "soul" which he thought he had "lost" because of suffering.
Pope John Paul II The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering#23

Greetings to all! It is amazing how the Spirit that unites us all flows similar themes through all of us at the same time. Pope John Paul II has always been a hero of mine. He was our Holy Father for the majority of my life and his passion for the gospel and his ability to make tangible what is so often mysterious in the world was always amazing. His writings have always inspired me and still do. The above quote was sent to as part of a mass email that Fr. Stan Fortuna sent out in the past few days. As I read it I felt as though the words were jumping off the screen and into my heart and I felt compelled to share them with you and what I felt like God was telling me through some of them.
My interpretation of this quote is that life and suffering is a two step process, seems simple enough right?? Step one is admitting that it is bigger than we are, this is where admitting our weakness comes into play. We must admit that we cannot do this on our own in order to receive help, right? If we cannot admit that we are in need of assistance than we simply try to “solve” it ourselves or as I mentioned in the previous blog, “self-medicate.”
Step two is the turn and this is where Pope John Paul says, “man must exercise on his own part.” God is great and huge and ruler of the universe, but He is NOT pushy. He respects our free will and desires for US to turn to Him. He will ever so slightly give us a nudge, a sign, a word in order to say, “Hey I am here, let me help you,” but he waits for us to turn to Him and invite Him in to our life and the situations that we find ourselves in. I think a lot of us see “Holy” people and their life looks perfectly put together. They are in Church all the time, the pray a lot, they have a great marriage, great kids, great lives and we say to ourselves I could never be like that. If that is what God is looking for, then I am not it! Am I right? Just look at the Gospel reading for today, it comes from Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Did Jesus say, “Come to me all who are perfect and I will give you rest. Come to me all you have your lives in perfect order and I will give you rest. NO, He said COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE BURDENED, and I will give you rest. He says, “Take my yoke upon you” He is not talk about an egg yolk. A yoke is the harness that they put around ox as they plow the field so they can guide them. He is saying to each one of us, LET ME GUIDE YOU! He is saying to us if you just let me guide you, I will give you rest, in the midst of your suffering.
The individuals who choose to take the yoke of the world off of their shoulders which by the way is driving them into the ground out of exhaustion and put on Christ’s yoke he will “unleash hope” into our hearts. As this hope is unleashed we will realize that this suffering will not get the best of us and I think Pope John Paul says it beautifully when he says that when this hope is unleashed it, “maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life.” Whatever situation we find ourselves, no matter how painful it may be we will still realize that it WILL NOT get the best of us because of the grace of God.
As we follow the gentle guidance of Christ through these storms in our live we will find meaning and purpose, but most important we will find ourselves. The true self that has been covered for so long by the masks of perfection that we have placed on ourselves so we can “fit in.” Christ was not afraid of the outcasts, in fact that is who He spent most of His time with. He hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, cripples, leapers because they were the ones WHO KNEW they were weak. They knew they were in need of assistance and there was no hiding it. May we too, not be afraid to admit our weakness and turn to our loving God, our Church, and our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we might all experience a “birth of power in weakness.” We love you all and ask that you continue to pray for us! Much Love, The Cantrells

P.S. We have had an overwhelming response in requests for Cate’s prayer cards and we are getting them out to you all. If you have not requested one and would like one please send me your mailing information to catecantrell@gmail.com we still have some and will be having more printed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Waiting in Jerusalem

Sirach 2: 1-6
My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him.


Greetings to all! As I was making my two and a half hour commute to work yesterday morning my heart was just breaking, the pain was so intense that I could physically feel it. Instead of running from it, turning up the radio, thinking “happy” thoughts, or making phone calls, I just sat in it and I began to simply invite God into that hurt, to join me in that place of suffering. I know that He is always “with us,” but He is still a very respectful God who will not force Himself on us but will quietly wait for our invitation.
The question that Ali and I get asked the most is, “How are you doing?” Although we know it is being asked out of genuine concern, we also know that a lot of times, the majority of people could not handle our answer. Let me give you an example. Now, remember this is all figurative language here for all you animal lovers out there. If someone catches me in the middle of a heart wrenching moment and asks the question, “How are you doing?” And I truly answered them, my answer would sound something like this, “I want to stomp on kittens, punt bunnies across the yard, I want to throw cute puppies are far as I can, I want to unleash the fury that is in side of me by punch something until my arms and my body cannot physically move anymore.” Now, is that the answer that “most” people want to hear, No. What most people want to hear is that we are doing “good, we are doing good.” Unfortunately at the moment and in the days and weeks to come, we will not always be doing, “good.” Does that mean that we are falling apart all day long, No. Does it mean that we find no joy in our life, no. What that means is that we just feel like we got the wind knocked out of us and could cry at ANY given moment sometimes because we are in pain right now.
In the society that we live in today, especially the one that I grew up in, we want to avoid pain at ANY COST! Just watch TV for an hour and see how many different medication advertisements there are on TV today. Our world has become afraid of pain, so instead of dealing with it we so often “self-medicate,” by alcohol, food, shopping, money, celebrity gossip, or whatever our poison might be, so that we can feel better about ourselves and our life or the other option is that we just simply pretend that it is not there and go about our daily lives like “nothing is wrong.” We are afraid in general of looking at the reality that we find ourselves in, instead of embracing it, allowing God to be present to us, walk us through it, and heal our broken hearts. In “crushing misfortune” we want to do ANYTHING but “be patient” and “Trust in God.” Unfortunately the reality of it is there is truly no other way around it, no other way that will last, no other way that will truly satisfy us, no other way that will give us REAL solace, comfort, and healing.
As I began my long trek home yesterday afternoon from work I turned my radio off and just prayed, prayed for my wife, prayed for my kids, prayed for myself and I just tried to be patient in the midst of the pain of Cate’s loss. The scripture that came to my heart was of Holy Saturday, the day after Good Friday. Let me set the scene for you and it is pretty bleak one at that. The apostles, disciples, and Mary are locked in the upper room. Mary is mourning the loss of her son, the apostles and disciples are mourning the loss of their Messiah, their friend and their lives. Think about this for a minute. These followers of Christ had given up EVERYTHING, family friends, and careers to follow, this “Jesus,” and now He is dead. They had to be feeling like they had just lost everything, not to mention their reputations, because now they just look like a bunch of idiots. Can you imagine what that Saturday must have felt like? Gut Wrenchingly horrible!
You see, we know something that the Disciples of Christ did not know on that painful Holy Saturday, we know what happened the next day, Easter Sunday, Jesus was resurrected from the dead and after His resurrection He spent forty days with them. In Acts 1:4 the scriptures say, “While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father.” To wait, did you hear that, He told them to WAIT on “The Promise of the Father.” That Promise of the Father that Jesus told them about was the Holy Spirit, the one who would empower them to leave the locked upper room and go out into the world and proclaim the Good News of Christ. Can you imagine what that waiting must have been like? When they saw Jesus they must have thought, Jesus is BACK! Whoopie Hooray, we are not IDOITS! And then He tells them to wait. They must have thought, Hold on, what did you just say? You want us to what? You want us to WAIT? Are you kidding, do you know what we have been through? Our people have been waiting for thousands of years for the Messiah, you are here now and you want us to Wait? Yes, WAIT. I believe it was worth the wait, their waiting is what enabled Christianity to be brought to the ends of the earth and be brought to you and to me.
I was talking with my mother-in-law the other day, who as I mention before, has had to face her own “Holy Saturday” when their son Phil died. I was telling her that Ali and I are not running from this pain, we not acting like it doesn’t exist, that right now, we are just experiencing it, in all of its fury, knowing that it will pass. I told her that either we deal with it now or we deal with it later, but it must be dealt with. She said something that I thought was very profound, every once in a while mother-in-laws can come out with some good stuff, wink wink. She said that right now, the pain is in your face, you know what it is and you can clearly identify it. If you deal with it now, it is a lot better than if you wait for years and the pain and anger gets intertwined into other things in your life and it becomes much more disguised as other things and is a lot harder to identify and deal with.
So, as all of us do at different times in all of our lives, Ali and I and our kids find ourselves experiencing our “Holy Saturday” and that is just what we are going to do, experience it. But, we will wait, like the Disciples of Christ, waited in Jerusalem for, “the promise of the Father” we too will wait in our Jerusalem. May all of us, not be afraid of the “crushing misfortune” that this world can bring to all us, but embrace it and allow it to refine us. We love you all, wait with us in Jerusalem.
Much Love, The Cantrells


I will leave you with a quote from the movie the Count of Monte Cristo that I think sums this up very well:

“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cords of Love

Hosea 11:4
I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks;

Greetings to all! My father-in-law stopped by my office this week to check in on me. We sat and talked for a while. He said that he just wanted to come by and to see how I was doing. You see Ali’s parents lost a child as well. Ali’s younger brother Philip was five when he went home to be with God and so their family knows all to well what it is like to be Minus One. Ali and I have talked many of nights about her parents and the loss of Phil, long before Cate was ever born or even a twinkle in Ali’s eye. Bill and Cheryl are a happily married couple and have been for almost thirty years. There is a picture of the two of them on their refrigerator that was taken on a boat off the coast of Italy somewhere, apparently when you get older you actually have money to travel, I am not sure, mine all goes to diapers, daycare, and MILK! Anyway, in this picture they both have the biggest cheesiest smiles on their faces and over the years I have often wondered how they could be so happy, and I mean genuinely happy, after losing their only son. I have always had a special place of respect and admiration in my heart for the two of them. Are they perfect, No. Do they do everything right, No. Do they bug me as in-laws do some times, I will not answer that:) They have three beautiful, wonderful, not to mention absolutely STUNNING daughters, who are all well rounded, spiritual, and fun girls. This just always kind of baffled me. Now, Ali and also have talked about how difficult it was after Phil died, how heartbroken her parents were and Bill and Cheryl have both shared these stories with me and this was all long before Cate. They have been blessed to have me in their lives for QUITE a while now, sometimes they probably thing a little too long.
As I mentioned in a previous blog three years ago my mother passed away. Now, my mother and I, put the FUNK in dysfunctional, but man did we love each other. We could fight like nobodies business, but in the end, we knew that there was nothing that would ever come between us. We had been through too much together to give up on each other. After her passing my heart was broken and I mean broken. Ali endured a lot during that time after Mom’s death. I really just checked out on her. I spent a lot of time alone, I spent a lot of time in silence, even with Ali around, and I spent a lot of time very angry at God, because, “How could He take my mother away from me at only twenty-seven years old? After all the work I had done for Him for all these years this is how he treats me!” It took me along time to work through all those feelings that were raging inside my heart. I remember one night sitting outside our home in Houston drinking a nice cold beer and suddenly I had this image in my head of a Phoenix rising from the ashes and the words, “You will rise” were spoken quietly into my heart. That day began a resolve for me; I knew I would be ok, I knew that Ali and I would be ok and that our hearts would mend.
As my Father in-law and I talked in my office I told him that we would be ok, there is a confidence in my heart and in the faithfulness of our God that assures me, we will be ok. Will it be today, tomorrow, next week or next month, probably not, but we will! I went on to tell my father-in-law that I feel like we have all the necessary pillars in place to succeed. We have our Faith, we have our Family, and we have our Friends. It is like God has set us up for success. I am a pretty self-aware person and as long as my family unit, Ali, Ella, Dude, and I are moving forward, then I will allow us to continue on the path I see working for each of us. If we start to waiver, then I will step in and get a little more involved on the individual level. If I am not aware that we are falling back, then our family and our friends will be very aware of it. As you might have noticed I don’t have hard time sharing my feelings of what is going on in my heart. Our friends are all walking in sync with us right now and if we begin to waiver, they WILL notice and none of them, Family or Friends, are shy about calling a spade a spade, Thank God!
On this Christian journey that we all walk I believe that those are some of the pillars that we must cling to in times of distress. I believe first and foremost we must draw close to our God and our Church for strength and wisdom. I believe that we must draw close to our families for experience and solace. And finally I believe that we must surround ourselves with friends of like mind, heart, and vision, true brothers and sisters, who are not afraid of the messiness that this world can bring into our lives and who know our hearts inside and out, that we can sit and cry, sit and laugh, sit and share a good glass of wine or a cold beer, or any other type of beverage you choose, maybe a coke or something. As the first reading from the Prophet Hosea says, “I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks.” These three things are the cords that He holds us close to His cheek with and it is because of these cords that I have confidence that my family, although Minus One, will be ok, in fact, we might just even be better. I just encourage each of you to utilize these three pillars in your life. We love you all very much and ask that you continue to journey with us towards healing!
Much Love, The Cantrells

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Heart-Filled Hands

Matthew 10: 5-7

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

Greetings to all! When I heard this Gospel reading at Mass yesterday the words, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” reverberated in my head, over and over. I kept hearing these words echoing down deep into the recesses of my shattered heart. The image that came to my mind was a picture that Ali had taken where she placed the “famous” red rhinestone heart pin that someone had given her in Cate’s little hand. We did not put any pictures on the internet of Cate from when she was in the CVICU because we did not want people to remember her in that condition, but this one I will share with you all and I have added it to the profile picture on the blog.
This image of a rhinestone heart in my dying daughter’s little hand connected to the scripture quote, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Sounds kind of odd, but just hear me out. For many of us, including myself, sometimes “Heaven” seems like such a far away place, especially when someone we love has gone there or we are in a very difficult time in our lives where we feel like we have just had enough with this dumb old world. Yet, I love Jesus’ words to us, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” It is “at hand”, I know that this may be a stretch of what Jesus was saying, but the Kingdom of Heaven can be revealed to our world in a simple way, by the work of our hands. Whether it is extending a hand in forgiveness, extending a hand in peace, extending a hand in aid to the less fortunate, or the feel of a hand on someone’s back as you embrace them in love. Stop just for minute and think about instances in your own life where a hand was extended to you to bring peace, comfort and the hope of Heaven to you. It is a small gesture that has the ability to bring such powerful emotions, powerful strength, and powerful healing. It is a moment where I truly believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is, “at hand.”
Although Cate never extended a physical hand to any of us, she extended a very powerful spiritual hand and her life brought about the Kingdom of Heaven in a very powerful way. A way in which it showed all of us that Heaven, is not a far away place, that Heaven in not up in the clouds, but in fact that Heaven is all around us. This is exactly what Christ accomplished, in His suffering, death, and resurrection. In that through His life, death, and resurrection the chasm that original sin had made between Heaven and earth was filled, and that we, all of humanity, once again had the opportunity to taste, to feel, and to experience Heaven, in the here and now. We can now experience Heaven, in our Churches, in our cars, in our living rooms, in parks, in hospitals, or even sitting in front of our computer reading some silly little Cajun’s blog. Where ever we have had a hand extended to us in love, there is the Kingdom of Heaven. God used His little vessel, Baby Cate to extend that hand to all of us, to bring us faith, healing, peace, comfort, forgiveness, hope and with these a glimpse of what is to come in the fullness of Heaven.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” and that hand is at the end of our arm. So, as we go through our lives today, let us be reminded that we can bring a taste of Heaven into people’s lives. Whether it is the check out person at the grocery store, our next door neighbor, the attendant at the gas station, or maybe it is our parents, our spouses, our even our children. We will always remember the little heart-filled hand that was extended to each one of us through Cate. A little heart-filled hand that brought all of us, each in our own way, the Kingdom of Heaven. May we in turn go into the world and make the Kingdom of Heaven, truly be “at hand.” We love you all very much and ask that you continue to pray for our family during this difficult time. Also, we still have some prayer cards from Baby Cate’s Funeral and if anyone would like one just send Ali and I your name and address to catecantrell@gmail.com and we will be happy to put one in the mail to you. As Ali and I sat stuffing envelopes with prayer cards last night I told her, “I guess we are kind of like the Presidents of Baby Cate’s Fan Club.”:)
Much Love, The Cantrells

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

To the Fields

Matthew 9:36-38

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

I went to daily mass today because a friend of mine who had lost a child said it was a place where she was able to feel close to her daughter, Rachel. I didn’t go cause I wanted to be holy, to be feed or to look cool, I went because I wanted to be close to Cate. The priest proclaimed the gospel which is where the above quote comes from and then went on to give his homily. Well, I did what I typically do and started giving myself my own homily in my head, I know, its weird, but it’s what works for me.
Throughout Cate’s whole ordeal when people were flocking to the blog, flocking to churches, flocking to the throne room door of heaven, it was a huge witness to the fact that the Harvest IS abundant and that all of us often feel like sheep without a shepherd, just kind of wondering through life, until something worthwhile comes up to get behind, this time, that being Cate. I was reading an email that a friend sent me who quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who said:

“We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.”

So often we feel like we are just walking through life, day in a day out, getting the routine chores done so we can go home, go out, go to the lake, go fishing, go do whatever it is we do, but at the end of the day when all is done we still don’t feel like we really accomplished that much in the big scheme of life. We wake up the next day and we do it all over again. Cate never had the opportunity or the burden of running the rat race that we all run. She didn’t have to go school, do homework, do chores, go to college, get a job, do the mundane occurrences that we all call life that make this world “great.” Yet, look at who God called from birth to be a laborer for His harvest, someone who NEVER SPOKE A WORD. He used this baby girl to surprise people with the Gospel and for people to have a real encounter with Christ. Did we achieve the outcome that we or the world desired? No, not at first glance, but I challenge you to look deeper. It is bitter sweet without a doubt but yet still the outcome is greater than any of us could have EVER imagined.
I ran into to a friend of mine after Mass today who said, “Man, you have a Saint, for a child!” Wow! I do, Cate in her short time on this earth accomplished everything I want my kids to accomplish, to love their God, to love their family, and to lead other people to Christ, and she did all of this without ever saying a word. Now, I have to be honest, I felt a real kick in the pants as I was returning to my truck. As I walked I was thinking to myself, if God has to use a seven month old on her death bed to tell the world of His great love, he must be running out of people, kinda being funny, kinda being serious though. The Harvest is abundant, the laborers are few, and my little girl just ran CIRCLES around me, my life, and my ministry in only twelve days, and I have been doing this for years, I pride fully thought to myself.
All of us have an opportunity to be laborers and we are all NECESSARY, in God’s plan and we all have a story to tell of the saving power of Christ. And if you cannot think of one, think of CATE, tell others what God did throughout the World during Cate’s short life. We can all continue Cate’s legacy by telling people, those people who are looking for a Shepherd about what our Shepherd did through this little girl’s life, and death. It’s a simple story, you don’t have to remember scripture quotes, you don’t have to know doctrine, you just have to know what God did in your heart and what you saw and read about Him doing in the hearts of others. It’s that easy to become a laborer. You don’t have to go to college, seminary, bible school, or anything like that, Cate didn’t! If God can use Cate as a laborer for his Harvest, than He can and will use ANY of us. Thank You Lord for being our Shepherd, Thank you for calling us into an active role in bringing the message of your Salvation to the World and thank you for your messenger Cate who brought all of us closer to You! Much Love, the Cantrells

Monday, July 7, 2008

United We Stand

Greetings to all! Well, as Ali and I approach our six-year anniversary and the birth of our family, on July 12th it’s hard to believe it’s already been six years. I know for a lot of you that may not be along time, but for me in my youthfulness, wink wink, it is one-sixth of my whole life, and that is a lot to me. I am married to the most amazing woman that God has ever kissed this earth with. She truly embodies everything it means to be a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She does it with such love, grace, gentleness, humor and sincerity that it is very easy for anyone, but especially me to love her and desire to serve her everyday. It has been a true honor, joy and blessing to be able to journey hand in hand for the last few years and I look forward to many more to come. God has taken us on a variety of road trips over the past six years that we were unprepared for at such a young age, but with each situation God always provided us with the grace and love to weather each storm, which is what gives us our confidence today as we stand in the midst of this new road and new squall. Which leads me to my feelings of the day, or the past couple days I should say.
As I woke up yesterday morning my heart was heavy, just missing and longing for Cate. I was in the shower and I just couldn’t get her off my mind. Ali walked in, my family has NO issues with personal space or busting in on people in the bathroom and Ali began doing whatever women do in the bathroom that takes FOREVER and I said to her over the shower, “I really miss Cate today,” to which she replied, I have too. She went on to say that the past two days had been very difficult for her. We went throughout our day yesterday in a quiet respectfulness of each others processing time. There is not much to “say” right now, we have said we miss her, we have said we’re sad, we have said we’re angry. We are beginning to run out of “new” words to describe the way we feel right now.
I woke up this morning, LATE, rushed out of the door and began my morning commute to work. The passage that kept returning to my mind was from Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” Pope John Paul II called the sacrament of marriage the “primordial sacrament,” because the purpose of a sacrament is reveal, to make known, or to make present a hidden mystery of God. Ali and I’s marriage, some days more than others, reveals a hidden mystery of God to each other first and secondly to the world. She and I are united in a similar, yet far reaching way, as the Holy Trinity is united. Therefore, our hearts will feel the same, will beat in unison, morn in unison, and hopefully heal in unison. But, for this to happen we must create an environment for that to happen. We must take time to nourish our marriage.
The other night Ali and I got the chance to go out to dinner in Lafayette to one of our favorite restaurants. We ate EVERYTHING that we enjoyed to eat, shared a GREAT bottle of wine, but as good as the food and wine were, it was not was those ingredients that made the dinner wonderful and life giving. What made the dinner wonderful for me was that Ali and I got to sit in each other’s company and not have to talk about Ecmo machines, blood transfusions or funeral preparations. We just got to enjoy each others companionship, laughter, and life. It was truly an Oasis in this desert time and reminded me that we must continue to do this for our sanity and for our marriage. It is difficult with children, as many of you know, to take time for yourselves, but it is a necessary ingredient for us to have a solid marriage, especially as the storm winds blow hard against our unity. I don’t want the winds to tear apart what we have works so hard to unite and by the grace of God they will not. We will cleave to our God and to each other during this storm knowing with confidence and hope that His Grace is sufficient. Summer is fading fast and Ali, being a teacher, knows that hers is coming to an abrupt end VERY quickly, but we are trying to sketch out a weekend where we can “retreat” just her and I to refocus our marriage and our family so that our vision might be united as we travel down this path together as a husband and a wife. Please pray that our destination may be clear and our time relaxing, refreshing, and visionary.
We have started the “Thank You Note” process, which will take a while, but we have started. We are extremely grateful for everyone who has sent flowers, food, and financial support for our family with medical and funeral expenses. We are; however, unable to find out the names of all of you who have so generously contributed to the account at Chase in honor of Cate and our family. We have tried, but the way that they handle deposits at the Chase it is impossible. If you have contributed and would like to make us aware of your donation you can either send me an email at catecantrell@gmail.com or send me something in the mail to
P.O. Box 52978, Lafayette, La 70578 with your address information. We do not want people to think that we are ungrateful for your generosities we just are unable to get anymore information from the bank. We hope that you understand.
We love you all very much and are extremely grateful for the continued support and prayers for our family. May God continue to lavish on each one of you and your families: let us all stand united! Much Love, The Cantrells

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Mutual Admiration

Greetings to All! These pass few days have been getting adjusted to our new "normal" life. For those of you who know us personally, you know that we have never been, "normal." It has also been a time of becoming aware of how each of us as Husband and Father, Wife and Mother, Son and Brother, as well as Daughter and Sister are dealing with this grieving process. We all are doing it very uniquely although we are all walking the same road. We have had to come to understand and to respect each other's personal process of dealing with our loss.
I want to back up a few years to when Ali and I first were married. We had made a decision that we would always be a family of gratitude, with others, but even more consciously, with each other. We always say "please" and we always say "thank you" ALOT! And we do not only say that we are "sorry" if we hurt or offend someone in our family. We also ask for their forgiveness. Sometimes, it’s given quicker than others:) Even with our children if we lose it with them we will go back to them apologize and ask their forgiveness.
My mother was diagnosed with Cancer four years ago, I am an only child, and Ali and I were living in Houston, TX at the time, while my mother was still back here in Louisiana. Once diagnosed, she moved in with our family while she was receiving treatment in Houston. For those of you who knew my mom, she could be a tough old bag when she wanted to be. She was very honoree and stubborn MOST of the time, I can't imagine where I get it from:) And it took some adjusting for all of us, her having lived alone since I had moved out and us being newlyweds, new parents, and having two mothers in the house, but we continued our families tradition of gratitude and asking forgiveness during that whole journey. As you can imagine there were moments for all us being, stress, tired, a little put out, but we strived for it anyway. As time went on I saw a softening in my mother. She began to say please and thank you, and asking for forgiveness ALOT! One night her and I sat outside my home in Houston and she ask for FORGIVNESS, for things in the past that had happened between her and I, both us sat there with tears streaming down our faces, and I told her, that I had forgiven her years ago, but I was SO GRATEFUL, to hear her say that. She died only a month later, but there was nothing left unsaid between her and I. All wounds had been healed between us and I don't wish there was anything else that I should have said.
Here we are again only three years later, walking the road of mourning once again. As I sat back the other night reflecting on my family and how each of us was mourning differently, I realized that we must do, what we have always done. Be gracious and be willing to ask for forgiveness. As a Father, the things that tug on my heart strings or make me angry over Cate's death are going to be VERY different than what pulls on Ali's heart strings or makes her angry about Cate's death. And the same goes for Ella and Charlie. We are all processing and coping with this time VERY differently and we cannot become impatient with one another, for that will only create a divide and set us back. There must be a mutual admiration and respect for one another, something that we have always strived for, but now it is a little more important. I truly believe it is part of the glue that continues to unite our family as the storm rages on. So, if right now, Ali struggles seeing little babies, I have to allow her “her mourning” and strive to not get impatient with that. If the kids want to carry around a framed 8x10 of Cate and talk to her and sing songs to her, Ali & I can't get frustrated with their processing. If I want to shoot guns and hang out with the boys from time to time, Ali strives to allow me my time to mourn and process. We all are going to do it differently and that is ok. And when we get short or impatient with one another, we need to simply ask for forgiveness and not let anything get a foothold in the door of our family. We must remain a united front that is moving forward toward our goal of being reunited with our girl one day in Heaven and we will not let anything, including our pride, mine especially, get in the way of that.
I know it may sound like a small thing but "please", "thank you", and "I ask your forgiveness" are some of the key things that keep our family what it is today and will continue to keep it that way as we walk this road. Small acts that have a big impact on the life of a family! We ask that you pray that we remain in mutual admiration towards each other as we mourn our beautiful Cate!
I want to leave you with this story that Ali told me last night that LITERALLY, I was like WOW, from the mouth of babes. Ella, our oldest is quite the little artist, she get ALL of that from her mother. She loves to draw pictures of our family. There is actually one on the flicker account that she drew the day we brought Baby Cate home from the hospital, www.flickr.com/photos/cantrellkids. In Ella's drawing Cate has ALWAYS been a little swaddled up baby in the picture down around our feet. The other day Ella, was at my in-laws, and was drawing pictures of the family. She drew one of the family and Nana, Ali's mom, was asking her about it. Ella told her who everyone was, Daddy, Mommy, Dude, Ella, and Cate, but this picture was different than any picture Ella had ever drawn before. You see in this picture she and Cate were holding hands and they were the SAME size. She told Nana, that Cate wasn't a baby anymore that she was a big girl like Ella and that she could now run and play! Wow, tell me that God doesn't speak to the heart of Children!!! If you would like a prayer card from Baby Cate's Funeral please see the Previous Blog Post "In Addition" Much Love, The Cantrells

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In Addition

Ali and I were talking last night and I was telling her that if people who were unable to attend the Funeral would want one, we have plenty of extra BEAUTIFUL prayer cards that we had a graphic designer buddies of our make for Cate and would be happy to mail you one. Just let me know. You can email me at catecantrell@gmail.com with your address and we will put a prayer card in the mail to you. If you haven't already check out our newest blog below. We love yall!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quiet Hopefulness

Greetings to all. The formal celebration of Baby Cate's earthly life have all ended. The outpouring of love for our little girl and our family was just amazing. The Mass was beautiful and I mean beautiful! Our little girl packed the church in Rayne, which is a fairly large church. Ali and I were very intentional about the readings and the music for the Mass. We truly wanted it to be a celebration of Cate's life, not a quiet and somber ceremony, but a ceremony that was filled with joy and hope, just as Baby Cate's life here on earth was. The first reading was Isaiah 49: 1-6 and the Psalm was Psalm 33. The Songs were "Never Let Go" by Matt Redman, "Who is to Come" by Kelly Pease, "Mother's Song" by Kelly Pease, "Set Me As a Seal" by Matt Maher, "Amazing Grace" by Chris Tomlin, and "We Stand and Lift Up our Hands" by Chris Tomlin. Fr. Michael Delcambre, who baptized Cate delivered the homily and knock it out of the Park! John Ray Perkins, Cate's God Father and I were pallbearers and at the last minute, "Dude" Cate's big brother ran up and helped walk is sister down the isle. The whole thing was absolutely perfect in Ali and I's opinion. It has been quiet around our house the last couple of days. Strangely quiet. I can't put my finger on it and am obviously still trying to process it, but life seems much slower. I enjoy our kids more, I enjoy my wife more, I enjoy the little day to day activities that once irritated me, just a little more. But there is an emptiness that is left in our hearts, there is an emptiness left in our home, there is an emptiness left in the swing that Cate once sat in, there is emptiness in her baby bed that I look in every time I pass it. In my head I know that she is in a "better place" but in my heart I just long for her smile, her smell, even her dirty diapers. I know that in time God will console this emptiness, I don't know if it will ever, "go away." I didn't really see very many people at the Funeral Mass itself. I was focused on Cate, my family, and giving all praise and thanksgiving to my God for allowing us to be the parents of such a wonderful little girl. But, I did notice the faces of two people, parishioners of the Church that I worked at in Houston for a few years. They are just wonderful, and I mean wonderful people, and about a year and a half ago they lost their teenage daughter very suddenly. She was a teen in the youth group that I had the privilege to run, while we were in Houston. I talked to them both at the reception that my in-laws had at the after Mass and I said, you all know what this feels like and told them of one person's comment to Ali and I that, "she wishes she could tell us that it gets better, but it only gets worse” they said that was not true, the pain doesn't go away that God just helps you to deal with better. Those were words that I could hold onto, they were words that strengthened my hope. I won't ever forget Cate, stop loving Cate, or even missing her. We will always be, Minus One, in the Cantrell house, but our God is faithful and his word tells us, Blessed are those who Morn, for they shall be Comforted! Yes, we shall be comforted, we already are comforted and I know with confidence that our comfort will only increase as we allow God to heal our broken hearts. It is a process, it is a journey, one that we must and will take, because of our Faith, Hope, and Trust in our God. My heart just aches right now, as it should, if it didn't then that means we wouldn't have loved and been loved by our precious Cate. Many of you asked at the Funeral home and after the mass that we continue this blog, that we continue sharing the Cantrell's journey into the heart of our God and so Ali and I will, as long as you all want to come along. Thank you to all of your generous prayerful, physical, and financial support to our family during the difficult time. We love you all and remain in Hope, remain with us in prayer.

I want to leave you all with something that God put on my heart this past Thursday as we were preparing for Cate's Funeral. The day after Baby Cate's surgery when she was on the ecmo machine Ali and I were talking about God and about Him "showing up" to heal Cate's heart. I told Ali about something that I had read in a book years back about God kinda having a hero-complex. Look throughout scriptures, He always like to show up big and sometimes He would kinda drag out the story to make an even bigger finish." I was reflecting on these words I had spoken to Ali when I realized, God SHOWED UP! He showed up in a HUGE way! He brought together and is still bringing together people from every nation under His banner. That He, through the suffering of Baby Cate and our little family, He is drawing thousands and thousands back to Him. He did a MIGHTY MIGHTY work in only twelve days, we keep saying seven months, including myself, but in all actuality, He did this mighty work in twelve days! He drew people from the corners of the earth to His feet in prayer for Baby Cate, in TWELVE DAYS! Our family is humbled and honored that we got to play a small role in God showing the world how He can make Good out of even the worst situation. So, please don't feel like God didn't show up, because we, our family, feel like He showed up BIG TIME! Isaiah 49:6, "It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." He used a little baby girl, our Sweet Baby Cate to be a light to the Nations that His salvation might reach to the ends to the earth! Thank you God for Showing up! We love you!