The Heart Is A Muscle (Pass It On)

January 31, 2011

From my sister:

I read and reread the comments to all of my sister’s posts about Tanner. I do follow them but have never made one myself.

I am a strong woman and a mother… I thought I knew what I was capable of, I thought I could beat my demons by pushing my body and spirit to the limit… but I have been brought to my knees, again.

This isn’t meant to be melancholy or seeking sympathy, more an exercise in exorcising myself of pain… and to urge others to be compassion. I have to watch my child die, slowly and surely. As so many mothers and fathers do… Yes, there is always room for prayer and faith but sometimes you lose that… parents that face what I am facing know that. I don’t think life is unfair, nor am I complaining, it is what it is and there are lessons to be learned, but given all of that, it does not take away the pain.

Tanner’s diagnosis has brought me a lot. It has taught me to love better, live more freely and just laugh. EVERY SINGLE MOMENT COUNTS. Hug your kids. Tell your loved ones you adore them. Make a total stranger smile. He has taught me courage and dignity, something I always thought I had but I have learned so much more from him. He is slowly dying, being robbed of his independence, day after day . Yet he smiles – most of the time :) – and faces it. Faces the future that we both know, and faces it with grace and dignity and spark. That in itself gives me strength because I cannot possibly understand what he is going through in his mind, day by day, losing muscle after muscle.. As his Mom, I would lay my life down to spare him this, yet he never complains… he cries sometimes but he never complains. I cry often lately but on my worst worst day I cannot possibly compare it to with what Tanner goes through, or any other sick child. Their courage and strength astounds me.

With all of my heart, I ask that you take the time to consider another child, another mother or father that has to face life and death. Reach out, if with nothing more than a smile and a hug. It means something. We have been absolutely blessed by the support we have received… And my heartfelt thanks goes to all of you that made a tremendous difference in my son’s life… there are too many to name but if you are reading this you know who you are. I only hope that we can do the same for someone else.

My sister sent this to me last week. I wasn’t going to post it, because I thought, this is not the week. This is the week of Blissdom; this is the week of inspiration and hope and rah-rah-rah and rah-rah-rah just doesn’t sit well with enveloping clouds of dark. I thought. But then I thought again… this isn’t dark. This is – my sister’s words are – the very embodiment of light and hope. This is why we do this, why we share our stories, these stories, his story: so that we can move each other and be moved to care. And to act. And to love. So I posted it. Please drop her some love.

For her. For me. For them.

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    Edie Mindell January 27, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I am crying and at lost for words while reading this post. True to what it is written here, we must let our families feel loved everyday of their lives; even to strangers we meet everyday. After reading this, I appreciate life and my family more than ever. Thank you for sharing your sister’s letter to us. I’m praying for you and her family as well. God bless.

    karengreeners January 27, 2011 at 10:15 am

    So much for not crying at work.

    sashalyn January 27, 2011 at 10:19 am

    You were right to post this. Your sister’s words are inspiring, heartfelt, and a call to action. Kindness and compassion are free gifts that we can give to anyone. This, again, reminds us to choose love, live in the moment, and be present- for everything- good and bad.
    Thank you,

    Ironic Mom January 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Wow. The line, “He has taught me courage and dignity, something I always thought I had but I have learned so much more from him.” It’s not the same as watching a child die, but I’m going to go find my colleague – who’s mom is in a hospice – and give her a hug.

    Your sister is amazing. But how could the mother of Tanner be any other way? Courage is as courage does, and they both are inspiring.

    Thanks for sharing.

    maggie may January 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    i reach out, and i promise i will keep reaching out. ‘only connect’, right? yes.

    Kimberly January 27, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I work in a Children’s hospital and I am continually amazed of the strength and grace these small souls contain. It is this that keeps the parents strong as well as they take each foot forward…sometimes slowly…sometimes quickly.
    Know I’m thinking of Tanner and all the little souls who have to brave something far bigger than their years should ever endure and to be thankful that each waking day is a blessing.

    marci January 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I really did not want to cry again today. I am overwhelmed by your honesty and passion once again. It makes me want to do more. This post and Tanner’s journey will not be in vain Catherine.

    Dee Brun January 31, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Hugs and Love…so simple, free and easy…we all need to give them more freely…

    So you get 456 hugs…
    Your Sister and her family 56748…
    Tanner gets 76587345 hugs…

    Boy are my arms tired…


    Suebob January 31, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Big hugs to your sister, Tanner and to your family. You have all shown such grace and generosity of spirit. Tanner’s life and the reaction you have all had to his illness has shown what kind of people you are. The assurance of a family’s love is something that makes this journey through life worth going on.

    Pam @writewrds January 31, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Please know you and Tanner are embraced by caring. And love.
    Long distance, my mom used to say to me: “Feel me hugging you.”
    I say it to you: “Feel me hugging you.”

    And remember you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Triplezmom January 31, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Hugs and love and support to your sister and Tanner and your family. What a brave and wonderful group you all are.

    JustMom420zaks January 31, 2011 at 10:45 am

    My mother is a religious woman. Most of it is bs (or so I interpret) but something has always ALWAYS stuck with me.
    Before we came here to Earth, there was some kind of war in Heaven that ended up with Satan/Lucifer/Whomever and a bunch of other pre-existence people being banished from Heaven… the point being that we had to fight for our right to come here, get mortal bodies, learn lessons, etc.
    She (my mother) said that some Heavenly warriors were SO BRAVE in this war, that even though they still had to come down here to receive mortal bodies (sometimes for a very limited time)they had learned the lessons already, and were here to teach us lessons.
    On how to love without reservation.
    On how to be brave.
    On how to endure, (because what we see them endure blows us out of the water)
    On how to eventually say goodbye.
    Your son is a blessing to everyone he comes in contact with. Even those who from miles and miles away, simply read yours and Catherine’s words on a blog. He has blessed my life.
    And he is blessed to have you.

    Katherine @ Postpartum Progress January 31, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I’ve been sitting here for five minutes trying to think of a way to respond. What to say. Type. Delete. Type again. Delete.

    Only one word has clearly come into my head and stayed there, so here goes: grace. I am grateful for yours and your sister’s and Tanner’s grace. Thank you.

    Roberta January 31, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Love. Lots of it. Tanner’s story has enlightened me, and made me cry and marvel at the strength and grace and generosity that exists in the world. Thank you for sharing him with us.

    Heather January 31, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Sending big hugs and a lot of love your way. You, your sister and Tanner are in my thoughts.

    Bitchin' Amy January 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I am speechless, but I am thinking of you and your family.

    Alli Worthington January 31, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Big love. Big prayers.

    You are an inspiration and so is Tanner.

    We love you both so much.


    Erica Mueller January 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you, for reminding me to hug my son, for reminding me that I’m blessed beyond measure, for reminding me to pray for those in your shoes, for reminding me that life is short, and yet, not without it’s moments of pure joy.

    Your courage is astounding. I’m so inspired by you, by Catherine, and by all of the people who rally around you. And most of all, I am inspired by Tanner who knows what it coming, but faces it with courage.

    linney January 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    hugs and prayers and more hugs for you, your sister (and family) and of course Tanner.

    Rachel January 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm


    I’m so glad you posted this. It’s inspirational and true and something so many need to hear.

    GIANT hugs, many prayers, much love.

    To her, to Tanner, to YOU, to ALL

    xoxoxoox <3

    Forgotten January 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I love you guys!

    I know you think you can probably never really love a stranger but I do. I love you guys. I pray for you. I think about you all a lot. I wish nothing but the best for you and I hurt for you, too. If that’s not love, what is?

    Take care of you and yours. We’ll all be here supporting you through the power of our invisible hugs.

    Malia January 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    This is me, smiling and hugging you from across the miles. Your words are being taken to heart, in more ways than you can know.

    Mel Gallant January 31, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Reaching out with hugs and thoughts for you, Tanner and your family. Thank you for the reminder to love, appreciate and support our family and those in our community who need it most. :)

    coffee with julie January 31, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I don’t know what to say, but I wanted to simply let you know that I am here, I read your words and I won’t ever forget them.

    Kristi @ Creative Kristi January 31, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    My thoughts are with you, your sister & Tanner. My sister just lost her 3 month old baby girl a month ago. It is something I wish no mother ever has to go through but I also know your perspective of being the sister. I want to take my sister’s pain away- I want to make everything ‘go right’ for her but I can’t. I can only hug her. Whisper I love you and hope that it’s enough.
    Much love to you all.

    The Stiletto Mom January 31, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I cannot imagine what you are going through and I pray for you and send hugs your way.

    I do know that the strength of those around you will sustain you. One of my best friends lost her 25 year old son right before Halloween this year. Granted, she was able to spend so much more time with him, but I will tell you that a circle of friends surrounded her and we hold her up every day.

    Tanner is an amazing little man…what incredible strength of spirit he has.

    Please know that a bunch of people you will never meet think about you a lot and pray for you and your family.

    Much love and many hugs from Texas,
    Mary Anne

    Craig January 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    You are strong. You have limits. God knows that. And sometimes you lose faith – he knows that too. Life isn’t fair. This is an unbelievably cruel thing that you are going through.

    I do understand how you would lay your life down for him. You’re a mom. A brave mom. I get that part. I can’t fathom the pain, or the energy it takes to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know you but I’m proud of you.

    I have prayed,
    for you
    for others
    and I will again.
    God bless.

    Kathy January 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Big love and hugs to you from the Pacific Northwest. I am glad to connect and reach out.

    N January 31, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    The posts about your family, about you, about Tanner, have meant so much and been an inspiration to me. Every loss is different and hard in its own way, but having been through a lot of it myself, the courage with which all of you are facing this amazes me. I’ve been told by people that they don’t think they’re strong because they cry, or because they’re scared, or sad. But tears, or fears don’t negate strength. They only emphasize it. I am thankful that you’ve been letting Catherine post about Tanner and what’s been happening to him, and I hope that you feel the love that flows through these crazy internets to you.

    Micky Jones January 31, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing about Tanner, your sweet wonderful son and wonderful nephew. It is amazing you can feel so much joy and pain at the same time. Thank you for sharing and for letting other mothers know that these feelings are okay. And that it is always okay to share when we need to share. Just know that I for one will be thinking of Tanner when I meditate and pray. He is a special boy whose life has so much meaning. I am thankful he stopped by Earth to bless us with his presence, even if just for a little while.

    Emily February 1, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Sending Love and hugs to all of you going through this.

    Laurie February 1, 2011 at 1:15 am

    This reminds me of the song Hello World… I recommend the video.
    The smile will keep you going. Love and prayer being sent your way dear one. In moments when your faith is weak, be encouraged… You are not alone.

    Maya February 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Love you Catherine.
    Tanner is such a big part of my life and the lives of so many people. And I am grateful.

    Hugs and love to all of you.

    Tracey - JustAnotherMommyBlog February 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I cannot imagine that anyone who reads Tanner’s story isn’t immensely touched by it and him and your whole family. He is a beautiful boy and is so obviously loved… Only a truly remarkable soul can be so well loved…

    Ann's Rants February 1, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    In my social work internship I worked with families grieving the loss of a child.

    Reaching out–holding hope for each other when your bucket is empty–meeting someone who has walked a similar path–this saves people.

    One woman described a vision of herself walking, joining in a long line of mothers grieving their own children–stretching infinitely in front of her and behind her. None of them wanted to be in that line, but they knew they were not alone.

    Telling your story is reaching out and holding hope for another Mama (or Father, Aunt, Grandma )in that line.

    Jalus February 2, 2011 at 3:28 am

    no words ~ wet eyelashes

    Amy February 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Just Monday my friend’s son, who is a former student of mine, was diagnosed with brain cancer. He will die from this. He is 15. The whole community is completely shattered by the news. At the same time, the community has come together to support this family and try to provide a place of comfort and peace while they navigate this nightmare.

    Karen February 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    So much love and hope to your family. Many smiles and moments of laughter for you all. My prayers for your whole family.

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