Two weeks ago, today, I was up at 5:00 AM preparing for my day like usual. Well, not exactly like usual because it’s a Wednesday, and I usually wash my hair on Wednesdays. Two weeks ago, today, I was dragging. The alarm went off and I had to work hard not to hit the snooze and roll over for a few more minutes. I don’t recall why I wanted to be up at 5 AM. Interesting.
I will post more about that morning soon. It’s taking awhile to write about it and I want to allow myself time to write the full story – every detail I can remember – so I’ll have it forever.
I have already done a lot of writing. I wrote an obituary. Well, it wrote itself pretty much. And I wrote a homily to deliver at Catherine’s funeral. That wrote itself also – the morning after Catherine went to be with God. I believe God wrote both of these, so if you find beauty in them, thank God.
It’s 6:46 AM. Time to post.
While I continue writing the details of the that morning in the way I want to remember them forever, I’ll post a link to Catherine’s Obituary.
And I wanted to provide the words of the homily I shared at her Memorial Service because so many asked for it.
Alleluia! We are here today to celebrate Catherine’s miraculous, quiet, important life. A life that started far too early at 25 weeks and ended far too early at 719 weeks – that’s 14 years for those trying to do the math. We used streamers in front of the cross today, which are only used in times of great celebration. At the same time, we are filled with profound, deep sadness that is nearly untouchable. It is sometimes said that the ability to hold two competing thoughts in your head at the same time is genius. So, in this moment, everyone here – and thank you for coming – is genius.
Catherine’s life mattered. Despite all the many, many things she couldn’t do, she mattered and impacted the world in meaningful, important ways. And her death matters, too. Despite the many, many things she can no longer do here on earth, she continues to give and will help advance science, by allowing researchers to study her brain to help advance a clinical trial for kids with CP who have hard-to-control seizures. And there may be even more studies that learn from her brain as we’ve donated it to the MD Brain Bank so we can continue to hope, despite the disabilities. Elleanore Catherine Moore, whose name means “Pure Light” – didn’t just matter in her life (as in the past tense), she matters now – in the present. And she will continue to matter in the future.
Catherine was a surfer. I remember the day Jack Viorel of IndoJax Surf School approached me on the beach in Wrightsville NC. He saw me standing with Catherine in a beach wheelchair with super fat tires that could roll over the sand. You could see that wheelchair a long way into the distance, it was so big.
“Ever thought about putting her on a board?” he asked. No “hello”. No introduction. Just a question.
It lingered for a moment. Surprisingly, I had thought about that. I had just read an article driving the 8 hours to the beach about kids with disabilities surfing. When we discovered Catherine had a 95% chance of having CP, we chose to believe Catherine would be able to do anything she wanted; we’d just have to get a little creative about it. In that moment; however, I had doubt – big doubt – and I told him. “Actually, I have,” I said, “but if she fell off, she wouldn’t know to hold her breath so I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.” He didn’t try to persuade me. He simply invited us to come watch the kids the next day and see what we thought. Just before he walked away, he said, “I never met a kid I couldn’t get on a board.”
Brian and I talked about it, and the next day, we made the trek down the beach to watch blind kids and kids with autism surf. We still didn’t believe she could do it; we wanted to see. Parents stood on the shore cheering as dozens of kids rode the waves while many fell to get back up and try again. Huge, muscled instructors swarmed the water holding kids, guiding kids, encouraging kids. We decided to do it. In that moment, we made a choice to let Catherine surf. And I think she loved it.
My brother once told me that he actually enjoys going to funerals. Before you think ill of him, let me explain why. He said that he’s never been to funeral where he didn’t learn something about the person and he thinks that’s kind of cool. I agree with him. I can’t imagine any of you here right now – at the funeral of a child – wanted to come. Trust me, I didn’t want to be here either.
Then, I realized, like all of Catherine’s life, she’s led us to places we didn’t want to go. In those moments, we’ve had a choice. Do we go to Hopkins or not? Do we do the surgery or not? We always have a choice. And we still do. Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” I choose to view this service as an opportunity. We’ve been led here against our wishes, and I view it as an opportunity to invite you all to make a choice.
Some of us believe Catherine is simply dead. Some believe she’s gone to a better place. Some believe she’s dancing with God. Some believe she’ll be reincarnated – or that she was reincarnated already. Some believe she’s running and doing cart-wheels with her Gran and MawMaw in heaven. We don’t know. And we can’t know. We have to have faith. Because, unlike surfing, we can’t walk a bit down a beach to watch and see what happens next to improve the odds that we’ll know for sure. We get to choose. Actually, we must choose. We must choose what we believe. It may be a spiritual exercise. It’s also a mental exercise. We get to choose what we believe.
Shortly after Catherine was born, a Steven Minister helped me by having me do an exercise. She had 2 columns of words and like a Chinese menu where you pick one from each column, she asked me to define God. One list contained adjectives; the other contained nouns. I looked down both lists and fell short. “It’s not here. It’s not on this list,” I said. I didn’t know my definition of God in that moment. I wasn’t looking for it specifically on that list. But the exercise somehow revealed it to me. To me, God is Infinite Energy. And I still hold to that definition today.
So, do we believe Catherine is part of Infinite Energy that lasts forever? Do we choose to believe her brain will contribute to research that will last forever? In either case, we don’t really know. Einstein said, there are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle. We have to choose what we believe. That’s faith.
Years ago, I was in a Sunday school class with Jim Sell studying the burial service in the Episcopal Church -the one we’re doing today. I was terrified that I was there to prepare and plan for Catherine’s service. There is a line in the service that says “In sure and certain hope…” I asked Jim how we could have certain hope. It sounded like an oxymoron to me. He suggested I look into it and let him know what I found. That resulted in a presentation I made about Catherine’s life where I studied the difference in Faith, Hope and Belief. Now, my understanding is enhanced for I see the contradiction in “certain hope” with new eyes. It’s genius.
Hebrews tells us that Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen. Hebrews is also genius. I don’t think faith is something you either have or don’t have. I think it’s a choice. For some of us it’s an easier choice than for others of us. You can try to rationalize it and think about it and study it like a scientist to see if you believe or don’t believe that God is real – and that there is something eternal that happens after our bodies give out. You can risk being wrong like any scientist does when he makes an hypothesis. You can risk not being able to breathe with the fear that you won’t be able to hold your breath as you make that choice – just like it seemed when we were looking at that huge ocean, considering whether we should let go of Catherine for her to get to surf and ride a wave.
Let go. Believe. Make the choice to ride the wave. It’s simply one of the millions of choices we make every single day. As we say in our house – Make the most of what you’ve got. And make good choices.
And Catherine, wherever you are, I believe you’re running and doing cartwheels in your new, perfect, eternal body. I love you and I hope you’re riding the waves, Butterfly. I’ll see you when I see you.