The eulogy of a young, vibrant wife and mother of 4 who impacted millions of lives.
I have been charged with the extreme pleasure of sharing the beauty of the life Catina lived. We are here today because of our common bond … our Catina. Yes, OUR Catina.
Each of us feel as if we possess a part of Catina, something special, a bond … and do you know why we each feel as if we have a part of Catina? Because she gave of herself fully. I believe it was impossible to just be a causal acquaintance with this woman. She would pull you in with her larger than life personality, hog tie you with her infectious energy, and then you found yourself connected. All because she was incapable of keeping anyone at arms distance.
And she has left us all better just for knowing her. Every single one of us. She made everyone feel important, valued, loved. Because we were.
Catina walked into my life 5 years ago. More like stormed into my life, hanging half way out of a car, blaring the horn screaming “I’m here.” And when Catina showed up, you knew the good times were here. Wow, that’s really what she brought into my life, the GOOD TIMES. And I bet you feel the same way. She brought the good times for you too, huh?
Her crazy antics and ridiculously over the top quest for fun had her dancing like no one was watching (although she hoped they were watching – the girl knew she could dance!) She was high 5-ing compete strangers, and on a mission to make everything memorable. One trip into my local Walmart turned into a walk of shame when I heard a loud voice from across the store “Pamela, did you get your hemorrhoid cream?” And if she didn’t do it, you knew she was the mastermind behind it.
Most of us sitting her today have a crazy story we could share about how an ordinary day with Catina was made totally memorable, or how she convinced you to do something that made your heart race faster and laugh until you peed … and I just bet she took a photo to document it! She taught my daughters the art of ding dong ditching in a ritzy hotel in downtown St. Louis. She taught me to throw your bags on the floor the minute you check into your hotel room and immediately jump on the bed. It was a requirement of traveling with her. She taught me to always look people in the eye and ask how they were, and listen with genuine care. She taught me to be more patient, turn the other cheek, assume the best in everyone, and to stop whatever you were doing and pray with someone. Her prayers would typically include the words “bless them from the top of their head to the soles of their feet”, or her classic “repay them 7 fold, or 10 fold, I can’t remember, just repay them good God.”
What did she teach you? How did she impact you? Now, what will you do with it?
Catina changed us all. And we have her mom Debbie, her husband Jeremiah, and those 4 precious kids, Madison, Brooklynn, Xavier and Allison, to thank for that. They shared her with us. I would imagine that wasn’t always an easy task. When you have something that precious you just want to wrap your arms around it and claim MINE. But you shared her. You shared her with everyone here. You shared her with me, and I am forever grateful and forever changed because of that.
I wasn’t her closest friend, I wasn’t her longest friend, others carry that honor … but darn I consider myself so fortunate to have been in the presence of a woman like Catina. While I only shared a few years of life with her, I had the great honor of spending the majority of last summer with her … her final summer. We had dubbed it as the ‘EPIC Summer’ and even printed shirts with a bucket list of 100 things we wanted to do in those 2 ½ months of life. One of which was to take a road trip.
And I want to tell you about a conversation we had on that road trip somewhere between Tulsa and Chicago. We shared our dreams, our goals, and ultimately the legacy we would want to leave. And we planned our funerals. Yes, 290 days ago, young vibrant, healthy Catina told me exactly how she would want her life to be celebrated. She was preparing me for today so I could in turn help you through today.
So I stand before you, not only as a friend who deeply loved her, but as a messenger of her final wishes. But isn’t that classic Catina style, kind of taking your breath away and leaving you in awe.
What did this larger than life woman want on this day? What did she want for you, her family and friends? She wanted you to celebrate the heck out of her. She wanted you to remember every good moment you ever shared together and treasure it. She wanted you to be happy. Happy because she was alive. Happy because she was able to share some of her life with you.
And then there were the more specific instructions.
#1 – Make sure I look skinny. Real skinny.
#2 – Have everyone wear bright colors. (Hmmmm, well done – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a brighter crowd than this one.)
#3 – Play my favorite happy songs but include Amazing Grace.
#4 – And share my photos, lots and lots of photos. (But make sure she looked ridiculously good in the photos. Preferably choose photos where she looked just slightly better than everyone else. Well, that wasn’t a hard task because girlfriend ALWAYS looked good. Always.)
#5 – Tell everyone about my Jesus. Catina wanted to glorify God. She wanted to tell the world how good he was.
So, here we are today, fulfilling her wishes. In awe of the life she lived and celebrating just how well she lived it.
On our road trip I discovered our dear sweet Catina was lacking something of great importance. She didn’t know a single Prince song. Not one. Not 1999, not Little Red Corvette, not Purple Rain. And so on the long drive home, I taught her the words and we belted them out together. Her, the much more in-tune, talented one than I.
And since Catina was the younger one, she likely didn’t know about the movie Steele Magnolias … but she lived it. Julia Roberts played Shelby in the movie and there’s one line in particular that is our Catina …
“I’d rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”
Catina didn’t want a long life full of nothing special. That would have been misery to her. She lived for special. Those that knew her know she couldn’t stand just laying in bed or being locked in a room. She was always busy living an adventure, or planning the next one. She would have gladly chosen 30 minutes of wonderful over a lifetime of nothing special.
And Catina had exactly 12,782 DAYS of wonderful!
This woman lived every one of her days. She did what she wanted to do, she said what she wanted to say, she went where she wanted to go. Catina lived BIG!!!! 12,782 days of waking up thankful for each new day given to her. 12,782 days of living with tremendous intention, not letting a single one pass her by.
On April 6, 1982 Catina’s soul was given a body and on April 4th, 2017 her soul left that body. Between those dates are what we call her “dash”. The separation between her date of birth and date of death. That dash represents all the time she spent alive on earth. Every day of her life is right there in that little dash and she crammed as much living, as much joy, laughter, photos, gatherings, adventures and LOVE as she possibly could into it.
Please understand, Catina wasn’t cheated. She was CHOSEN.
Her God did not forsake her, her God healed her. Fully. Completely. And he chose her as his daughter to live for an eternity. She was chosen. And of course she was … everyone would have chosen Catina. Everyone wanted to sit by her. Everyone wanted to be with her. Everyone wanted to have just a piece of her passion and zest for life rub off on them. She was always chosen, never cheated.
Last October she wore a party hat with the numbers 12610 written on it and blew out the candle on a cupcake. It wasn’t her birthday … it was just a random Friday. But she was celebrating … do you know what she was celebrating? It was day 12,610 of her life. And she felt it was worth celebrating. It was a day that would never come again for her, so she embraced it, she lived it, she loved it, and of course, she took a photo of it. That’s just the way she lived her life. Looking for a reason to celebrate. Ever on the hunt for a simple reason to put on her blingy jewelry, her big beautiful fake lashes and take a photo.
That was our Catina … the funnest person in the room, right? But not only the funnest, but the happiest … the most loving … the most genuine … and undoubtedly, the most beautiful in the room. Always. Gosh that girl could ask for the world with that smile … and get it! I witnessed more free meals and deep discounts given to her, just because she asked with that big ol’ smile. She knew what she wanted, and wow, did she ever get it.
Catina – Do you know what Catina means? It means PURE. And wasn’t that what she was? PURE love. PURE joy. PURE light. PURE goodness. And that girl loved her name. I’ve witnessed her introduce herself hundreds of times by saying, “hey everyone … I’m CATINA!!!!” (pronounced like kahhhhhhh-TEEEE-nahhhhhh) One encounter with that girl, and you would never forget her.
Catina’s entire life was one big, beautiful love story. She loved everyone. She loved hard. She loved unconditionally with no strings. How fortunate are we to have received her love? Aren’t you forever grateful to have been loved by her?
But her greatest love story was with Jeremiah. He shared her with all of us, but ultimately she was Jeremiah’s girl, I mean her license plate told us so. Upon first glace of the two of them together, it would be easy to dismiss it as fake. I mean really, how can 2 people really love each other that much and have that much fun together … all the time?
Well, it was real, it was phenomenal, and it should be honored. There are countless videos of Jeremiah and Catina sharing their great big beautiful love with the world, but today, I want to share 2 of my favorites with you. “Date Night” and “You’re An Ugly Girl”.
Men, this is the way you should love your woman. Ladies, this is the way you should love your man. What an example for all of us. What a love story on display. Catina … pure love. Pure joy. Pure light. And Pure FUN.
And when you have someone with such pure love and pure joy, pure light and pure fun in your life … and then they’re gone … you are left with a big hole. That’s what we feel today. We feel the hole that is the absence of all Catina was in our lives.
And I know this much … Catina would not want her family and her friends to live with a great big hole in their hearts. You know what she would want … she would want someone in her family to rise up and lead the way in the fun.
She would want someone to be in charge of gathering the family.
Someone to step up and make every birthday party completely ridiculous and over the top, just like she did.
Someone in this family will need to take the photos just like she did.
Someone will need to buy a PARTY MACHINE!!!!
Someone in every circle of friends will need to bring along the games and get it started.
Someone will need to be the first to dance, just as she did.
She came into your world and made you better, right … so live better now.
In her final 24 hours of life, she looked me in the eyes with tremendous determination and she said “I have a story now Pamela … give me a stage, give me a microphone!” I so wanted her to have her stage. I wanted nothing more than to hand her a microphone in front of thousands to let her share her story.
But why didn’t she get that chance?
Make no mistake about it … Catina got her stage and her microphone. My life, your life, our lives are her stage. We are her microphone. WE GET TO TELL HER STORY. We get to share her with the world. She will impact generations to come through the stage of our lives and the microphone of our words, our actions and our love. Because she made us better.
Now because I, along with Nicky & Gina, were charged with the tremendous responsibility of choosing her best photos for today (you know the ones where she looked really good and slightly better than the person in the photo with her) we were able to spend hours and hours looking through THOUSANDS of her photos on Facebook.
I thought I knew Catina … I thought I knew how BIG that girl lived. I didn’t have a clue.
While she had no idea it was the final year of her life, she lived it as if it was. Allow me to tell you just a piece of all she did in her last year here. In one year she ….
Went on a cruise
Took a roadtrip to Chicago
Jumped in Lake Michigan fully clothed
Sailed on a sail boat
Voluteered at an orphanage
Changed the life of a child forever through adoption
Took a carriage ride
Went to 4 BIG Life Retreats
Camped on the beach
Camped at the lake
Starred in a flash mob
Had a paint fight
Went to the zoo
Rode the ferris wheel on Navy Pier
Went to the state fair every day
Danced at a wedding
Rode in a paddle boat
Swam in a river
Went to live concerts
Danced with strangers
Watched the sun set over the ocean
Went to the swim park
Jumped on the bed of every hotel
Went to Sea World
Rode go carts
Took family photos
Went to an 80’s party
Painted nails for the women at a shelter
She was in a parade
Worked her dream job on the carousel
Hosted epic themed birthday parties for all 4 of her children
Attended every family function
And …… Moved into her dream home
One thing is for sure. Catina did NOT die rusted out. She came skidding through the pearly gates sideways screaming “woooo-hoooo what a ride”. And just as I met her that first day she said “I’m HERE!!!!!!”
What a life she lived. What an example she was. Now we are charged with being her stage and microphone, sharing her story and living our lives BIG. Big like she did. Intentionally. On purpose with passion and zest.
She had 12,782 days of wonderful. Pure love. Pure joy. Pure light. And she lived well. Catina, we applaud you. We applaud the life you lived. We applaud the love you gave. We stand and applaud you and say BRAVO – Well lived sister, well lived.
(Catina received a standing ovation – The pastor said it was the first one he had ever witnessed at a funeral.)
Catina was a member of the BIG Life leadership team, helped host 8 BIG Life Adventure Retreats, and led the BIG Life Oklahoma Chapter. Oh how she will be so missed.