Finding Love in Life, Cancer, and Death Catie Matlack Drewry (10-14-73 to 2-9-20)
On Valentine’s day, I went to my friend Catie’s funeral. Catie was one of my wife’s “favorite people,” the beloved sister of one of my closest friends, a family friend, and a fellow cancer patient.
Just a year earlier, on February 11, 2019, doctors diagnosed Catie with glioblastoma, a fast-growing and fatal brain cancer. After a courageous and grace-filled battle, receiving world class medical care, and participating in two research studies, she passed at the age of forty-six.
The community filled the sanctuary of Fayetteville North Carolina’s largest Presbyterian church. Catie's husband gave the first eulogy, holding before the congregation Catie’s Bible, and reading the section she had last read. He testified to her dependence on prayer and the Word of God.
One of Catie’s two brother’s shared on behalf of the family memories and stories of their energetic, fun, beloved sister. Throughout her cancer battle, even in the worst moments, she had been more concerned about them than she was of herself. When she passed, they surrounded her in love.
Catie’s seven-year old daughter, Ginny, stood beside the pulpit and held up drawings she had made for her mommy. Seeing her standing alone and so brave brought tears to nearly everyone watching. The Pastor brought a stool for her to stand on, so everyone could hear her say into the microphone how much fun she and her mommy always had and how much she loved her mommy.
The Pastor’s sermon acknowledged the incomprehensibility, disorderliness, and painfulness of Catie’s death. He reflected on Jesus’ parable of the talents and lifted Catie up as an example of one who received many talents from God and used all of them faithfully. Similarly, while she had not received as much time as all would have liked, she used the time she had well. She loved God and loved people to the very end.
He recalled how from the start how Catie had always been more concerned with others than herself even when she first received her devastating cancer diagnosis. In that difficult meeting, one of her oncologists, a young woman, became visibly upset and shaken as they communicated the grim prognosis. After the doctors left the room, Catie commented to her family, “That must have been really hard for her. I hope she’s ok.” Her family looked at Catie with awe and disbelief.
As he spoke, I recalled my visit with Catie at Duke Hospital a month before her death. Ginny wanted to Face-time mommy and see her. Catie didn’t want Ginny to see the side of her head that had been shaven bald, the side with the needle stuck in her head, the tape and tubes. That would be too hard on Ginny and surely frighten her. Catie only wanted her to see her "good side," the other side of her head that had a little hair, and so with help she staged the call just right.
She had always cared about people. She taught for many years before becoming a mother. She had countless friends in the city of Fayetteville and beyond. For many years, she had been the director of the Church’s community outreach ministry.
She had a special gift for seeing the treasures in life. Her passion led to the opening of the “Pickettt Fence”, her downtown shop which specialized in new and vintage treasures. She had everything from furniture to lamps to home décor to custom jewelry to a screened door she found on the side of the road. She was just as skillful at seeing the good stuff in her family and friends, and she treasured them all.
Lastly, the Pastor assured us all Catie had taken her place in the Kingdom of heaven, where there is no more sickness or death, pain or suffering, only life and love forevermore. She is now alive and at peace in her Savior’s arms.
Catie’s funeral reminded me of the reality of death. Funerals have that effect on most
everyone. As a person who has had cancer, who lives with the realization that it could come back, seeing someone die because of cancer is especially hard. For Catie to be just a couple years younger and to also have a child adds to the harshness of the reminder. Whether your living with cancer or losing someone to the disease, cancer puts the reality of death “in your face.”
During the funeral, I recalled a self-improvement exercise. You were asked to imagine you had died suddenly. You are at your funeral. The time has come for the eulogies and the sermon. Who speaks? What do they say? What don’t they say? Is it what you hoped they would say? If it's not, you need to look at your life today and make the changes needed so that people will say what you hope they will say.
I believe Catie would be pleased with what was said about her. I hoped, by the grace of God, when my day comes, others will speak as kindly about me. Her life inspired me and challenged me. RIP, Catie. Thank you for your beautiful witness.
Originally published at https://david-gira.blogspot.com 2/20/2020