Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Cate Sized Hole

Greetings to all! As yesterday had gotten closer and closer my feelings have been a mixed bag of tricks. It is extremely hard to believe that it has been a full year since our precious Cate left this earthly life and began her eternal one. Our little family has been on the ride of its life over the past 365 days. There were truly days where I did not know if we would make it through as a family and then there have been days that I cannot imagine how much more I can love my wife and children and I know that they are an essential part of my healing.

As I drove to Thibodaux, Louisiana the other morning for work there was a true feeling of freedom and even a true sense of happiness. These two feelings are not ones that I have had in quite a while so I began to explore them by simply asking God why I was feeling like this. It just had come out of no where so I was not really sure what was initiating the sudden onset of a joyful experience. The words, “You’ve made it” came to my heart, oh, yes, the sweet words that I have wanted and needed to hear. Is all well? No, not completely. Do I not miss Cate dearly? All the time! But I truly feel like with yesterday brought a true sense of freedom from that “first year.” I feel like as I look at my family I realize that we are not the same Cantrell’s we were a year ago, but I like some of the new aspects that I see in who we are as a family unit. I enjoy that I truly try to say yes to my kids more than no, not in the spoiling sense of “things” they may want but when they ask to do puzzles, swing, or play chase in the backyard. I enjoy that after struggling, clawing, fighting, crying and yelling, that Ali and I are beginning to come to a new place in our marriage that we have never been before, a place of deep honest mutual love and understanding.

One of the greatest joys that Ali and I have experienced over the past year is the love and resiliency of Ella and Dude. They have had their little worlds turn upside down and yet they continue to amaze me at the joy they possess and how loving they are! Ali and I were sitting outside the other day watching the two of them play on the slip-n-slide in our backyard when we realized that it was a year ago that we were playing in the backyard with Cate and we took the pictures of her in the pool with the kids and the ones of her sitting in the bumbo seat with food all over precious little face. I told Ali that the thing that I feel like is the largest testimony for me of who our family is, is who our children are today even with all they have been through over the past year. During the summer I speak at a series of Catholic youth conferences that are held around the country. I spoke at the first one two weeks ago and my family got to come with me, WHAT A BLESSING!!! After the weekend the coordinator of the conference called me on the Monday morning just to tell me how special our children are and the way that they love is so special. That phone call was such a confirmation for Ali and I from God that we are “ok” that our kids are “ok” and that with all the heartache over the loss of Cate that Ella and Dude have experienced that God has filled their little hearts with love.

Yesterday on the anniversary of Cate’s passing we did the same thing we did on the day Cate died, we celebrated our family. We all loaded up in the truck and went to our favorite local flower shop where the kids picked out the balloons and flowers that they wanted to give to Cate. After leaving the flowers shop we went to the cemetery to “Cate’s sign” where we released the balloons and gave her the flowers that the kids had picked out for her. The sweetest thing happened while we were there, Ella had gotten back in the truck because she was hot and Dude was wondering around looking at other people’s signs and Ali and I stood there having a quiet cry. I hollered at Dude that it was time to go he ran over to us, stopped in front of Cate’s sign, blew her a kiss and continued on the way to the truck. Wow, the tears just streamed down my face and my heart hurt for that little boy, but I was so proud of him for still loving on his sister!

We have made it through this year as a family and we will remain a family. As we prepare for our new arrival in November we know that Cate is still and always will be an active member of our family, in fact, Ella is so excited because now there will be three girls, Mommy, Ella, and Cate and three boys, Daddy, Dude, and Baby Boy Cantrell #2! We want to thank all of you who have and continue to lift our little family up in prayer, we would not be where we are today if it were not for those prayers and still need them alot. All of your cards, letters, gifts, and emails that you all have sent over the past year have reminded us of how loved and supported we were and are and you will never know how much that has meant to us.

On June 24, 2008 a Cate sized hole was left in the heart of our family and though she will never be replaced, God has poured a whole lot of love and grace into such a broken place. We have not done it perfectly by any means, but there is such a joy in my heart to know that we have done it together. Our family is stronger, our family is more loving, our family understands that God never abandoned us through this process and we remain a family journeying in hope. Thank you God for Cate’s life, for her love, and thank you Cate for all the prayers that your innocent little mouth has whispered into the ear of the Father for your family here on earth. We love you and miss you kid and we can’t wait to see you soon!

Much Love,
The Cantrells


Anonymous said...

we praise God for the feelings you've experienced in the last few weeks and for the growing closer of your family---through sorrow, you have gained what so many families strive and pray for... so glad yesterday was a celebration of family for you all...will continue to pray you through the good and bad times

the bermans

Marsha S. Thibodeaux said...

Once again Charlie you have brought tears to my eyes. Happy, peaceful tears this time. I love you and your family so much. Looking forward to welcoming baby boy Cantrell #2 in the fall!! Talk you soon...give my love to Ali, Dude and Ella. Love, marsha

Lila Lambert said...

I am so in awe of your family and how open you are to God's plan for your loss of such a precious one you find Him...through the hole in your heart you see spiritual growth you thank Him..what a blessing for us following you that we also should keep our eyes fixed on Him..God bless all of you and still praying for you!!!

Anonymous said...

So well written... I love your little family! I have a visual of Ella wiping the sweat off her face as she heads to the truck. And the kiss from dude... I just want to squeeze those chubby cheeks.

You and Ali are such awesome parents, and your children are so kind. I can only hope to be so blessed one day.

Love ya'll!
Jade Richard

p.s... The company of your family is always a joy! It was so good seeing ya'll on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

So well written... I love your little family! I have a visual of Ella wiping the sweat off her face as she heads to the truck. And the kiss from dude... I just want to squeeze those chubby cheeks.

You and Ali are such awesome parents, and your children are so kind. I can only hope to be so blessed one day.

Love ya'll!
Jade Richard

p.s... The company of your family is always a joy! It was so good seeing ya'll on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

The tears don't stop and I am not crying for sadness, it is for happiness for you and your family. I love Dude and Ella so dearly it is unreal to explain. Everytime I babysit them, I have a wonderful time and they bring true happiness into my life. No matter what kind of day I have I look forward to babysitting them. When you ask me "how were they" or "where they bad?", I truely don't lie. They are amazing children and they give so much respect to everyone. You and Ali have raised some beautiful children. And by the way both Dude and Ella talk they LOVE Cate so much. Even though we have some bad nights where they cry and they say they miss Cate, you can tell that they are truely grateful for what they have and they truely love her. And although I never meet Cate, I feel like I know her from Ella, Dude, Ali and yourself. Your family is a warm, welcoming family with lots of joy and happiness. I ALWAYS get advice from Ali and I love going over just so I can. I have so happy that ya'll have stuck together and have became closer even after everything. Your family is in my prayers EVERY NIGHT!
I love you guys so dearly.

chris mitch travis cana said...

praying that carrying this with you (and maybe some days FOR you?) makes for the lighter moments, the joyful memories..and knowing that you still show us the what makes for some of ours. love u all.

Lori, Willie, Anna said...

Congratulations on the Baby Boy! You are all still in my prayers. May God continue to bless you and use you all for His glory.
Lori Thomassee

Anonymous said... couldn't have said anything better...I'm so happy for your family. Love you guys! It has been so nice seeing you guys so often!! Love, Allie

Sara Susy Bob said...

tears streaming down my face...A Cate sized hole and a whole lot more that overflows! Thank you for your words, for bringing Cate's love to life again. We continue to rejoice with you in baby #2's growing life! God is good!

Anonymous said...

Charlie and Ali,
What a beautiful tribute to Cate's life. Through her short, sweet life, she has taught y'all how to love more deeply and completely. I pray God continues to bless y'all. Is it a boy or wishful thinking?
Much love,

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! I did not realize that it has been a year already.You guys are truly blessed.......Sunday after the recital,I was walking to the car when Ella called my name.I was excited to see her.I miss her so much.Dude was even telling me a story.Thank you again for allowing Mandy and I to be a part of Ella's first year of BIG school.Looking forward to having Dude!!! God Bless, Kim Hebert

Crystal said...

Just wanted u too know that I am still praying for U & your family. God Bless you all & good luck with the new baby boy!!!

God Bless,
Crystal JUdice

Hudson said...

It's so great to hear that things are good, God is good! Thinking about all of you and sending our love!

Bryan, Stephanie & Hudson Carnes

Anonymous said...

Cantrells, I can't imagine how difficult this has been for yall, and Im glad that yall are doing better. Cate will never be forgotten. I pray for you every night, and I'll pray for the new baby too. You have been more inspirational than you will ever know.

Kristin Boudreaux said...

'Freedom' and 'True Happiness' are such precious gifts for those of us that mourn our children. It seems like we wait forever to regain those feelings, and then one day we wake up and a year has passed. We wonder how we survived a year without them...and that is exactly what we did, just survived it. And although time will never mend our broken hearts, it does heal our spirit. I am truly elated that you and Ali have come this far. I will always remember your precious Cate. For it is in our daughters' spirits that we move forward. Know that I continue to think of ya'll often.

Lots of love to you and your family (& especially the little miracle that is growing)!!

Love, Kristin Boudreaux

Anonymous said...

Your lives and recollections remind us that hope is real, God is good, love is healing, and that tomorrow is better than today. Thank you guys. We love you. The Pizzitolas

midwestmom3 said...

Our family still prays for all of you everyday. So happy to hear that you are all doing well and that you still feel God holding you in the palm of his hand.
The Andersons

Alicia said...

You have carried your cross with such grace and faithfulness.

Thank you for remembering all of us as you travel through your lives. Cate is still on our refrigerator and the Cantrell's are still part of our lives.

God bless

The McDuffie's