“The miracle we wanted was her healing, but the miracle God gave was changing people’s lives”
This Good Friday-Resurrection Sunday, Salt&Light brings you tales of faith, hope & love, unexpectedly born out of the ashes of death. Little Caitie's story is one of Life in Death.
Gracia Lee // April 20, 2019, 11:00 pm
As little Caitlin "Caitie" Lucas battled a rare childhood cancer, she held fast to Jesus. Whenever her mother told her: "I love you the most", Caitie would respond: "But Jesus loves me more than most!" Photo from www.facebook.com/courageouscaitie.
Most people pass on quietly, with friends and family by their side. But when three-year-old Caitlin “Caitie” Lucas lost her life to cancer, her story was shared with millions.
What had touched and inspired these people was her tenacity and simple faith in Jesus, which her parents, Feliz and Jay Jay, had shared on a Facebook page and in a video by Faith Out Loud, which went viral and chalked up more than five million views.
Three years on, Caitie’s brief, but well-lived life, as well as her parents’ faith, continue to inspire many to look to Jesus for hope in the darkest of tragedies.
Goodbye, little one
It was March 31, 2016.
As Caitie lay limply on her hospital bed, struggling to take breaths into her frail body, Feliz knew it was time.
Caitie continued to smile, play, and sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” as she endured numerous wires and needles.
Fighting back her tears, Feliz told her firstborn: “I love you, but Jesus loves you more. Of everyone in this room, Jesus is the one who wants you healed the most. More than Mummy. I love you so much and we will see each other soon.
“It’s okay, just run to Jesus and stay with Him.”
She climbed into her daughter’s bed and pulled her into one last embrace. In her arms, she felt Caitie’s chest rise and fall for the final time, ending her six-month battle with a rare childhood cancer that had ravaged her body.
Since that day, Feliz and her husband, Jay Jay, have struggled deeply with the pain of having had their beloved daughter torn from their lives. They still do today.
But death does not have victory over them. Since Caitie’s passing, the couple has started a non-profit organisation and shared their faith journey extensively in a book and online, proclaiming that the hope they have in Christ is far greater than their despair.
The family’s ordeal began in September 2015, when Caitlin, or Caitie as she is fondly known, started to develop skin lesions that looked like insect bites. This was followed by more serious symptoms like an enlarged spleen and liver, low platelet count and chronic diarrhoea.
Within two months, Caitie underwent innumerable tests and procedures in Manila, Philippines, where the family lives, yet doctors could not reach a conclusive diagnosis.
The family, shrouded in uncertainty and helplessness, found their faith being tested in the same way that Abraham’s had been in Genesis 22, when God instructed him to sacrifice his son Isaac.
“I guess that’s why God chose a place where it needed Abraham to travel for three days. It’s easy to trust if it’s the last two-minute game changer where you find out who wins.
“But when it takes you three days and a long hike up a mountain, you are given choices: To negotiate or be quick to obey; to run away or to continue walking; to question God or to trust Him; to dwell in the pain or to be quick to obey.
“Lord, help me to have the confidence that Abraham had when he trusted to sacrifice his only son,” Feliz wrote on her blog, where she pens reflections of her faith journey.
“We love her. But there is someone who loves her even more than us. And that’s Jesus.”
The family flew to Singapore in February 2016, where doctors from the National University Hospital finally diagnosed Caitie with juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML), a rare condition that affects only one in a million children in America.
JMML is a chronic blood disorder that causes abnormal blood cells to multiply in the bone marrow. This reduces the production of normal blood cells, hindering the body’s normal function.
Despite this, Caitie displayed tremendous strength and bravery, and continued to smile, play, and sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” as she endured numerous wires and needles.
Her parents chronicled her medical journey and grit on a Facebook page, aptly called Courageous Caitie, which moved many hearts and quickly garnered a following of more than 600,000 people around the world.
However, the disease had already begun to attack Caitie’s little body beyond the hope that medicine could offer. As she approached the last days of her life, her parents painfully surrendered her to the Lord.
In the interview with Faith Out Loud, Feliz recounted: “As a mother it was so difficult to say, ‘Lord, I love You more than Caitie, and if You want to take her home, okay.’ It was just so difficult, but you realise that Jesus is enough.”
Jay Jay added: “We love her. But there is someone who loves her even more than us. And that’s Jesus.”
After her death, Feliz and Jay Jay, who have two other children and are now expecting their fourth, realised that surrendering their daughter to God was not a one-time affair. It was to be a continuous and repeated choice.
“Surrendering is not necessarily wanting Him to answer your prayer, but trusting His plan and saying that’s what you would rather have,” she wrote in a blog post.
“God will commit to His promise that everything will be made perfect and complete when we get Home.”
Some days Feliz is overcome by the grief of missing out on her daughter’s life. In these despondent moments, she questions God’s presence, goodness and love.
In an emotional Instagram post earlier this month, she admitted that she was feeling defeated and lost with the passing of Caitie’s third death anniversary.
“How come she died, how come it wasn’t detected earlier? Couldn’t we serve with her alive? Maybe I didn’t have real faith? Maybe I was fooling myself with what I thought were miracles? Did I cause her to die? Was I suppose to do something that I didn’t?” she wrote.
But after processing each emotion, she chose once again to surrender her daughter’s life, and her own, to the Almighty who is sovereign (Isaiah 46:9-10).
That day, God spoke to her through a huge crowd that had gathered outside a mall to worship Him.
“Surrendering is not wanting Him to answer your prayer, but trusting His plan and saying that’s what you would rather have.”
In the same post, she continued: “So powerful to see this many people worship God … Here, God made everything fall into place; He let me see that He is real, spoke to me through the song and assured me that He was there throughout the journey. And we are where we’re supposed to be and that hope is real. He isn’t weak and His grace changes everything.”
In her moments of weakness, she looks to Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He displayed complete trust and faith in the Father’s sovereignty and goodness.
“Jesus asked His Father (to take His impending death away), not just once, but three times! (Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42; Matthew 26:44) But He also said that if it is His will, if it needs to happen, then let it happen.
“If God said ‘no’ to His Son, then I need to trust that it was painful for Him to say “no” to Caitie too, but that He is sovereign and sees bigger things than I can see,” she said in an interview with Salt&Light.
More than most
Feliz, a stay-home mum who homeschools her children, also reminds herself that suffering is not the end, and that there is new hope in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
She looks forward to the day when she will be reunited with Caitie in heaven, which she believes will bring a joy that far surpasses the present heartache (2 Corinthians 4:17).
“God will commit to His promise that everything will be made perfect and complete when we get home (Revelation 21:4),” she said.
God assured me that He was there throughout the journey and we are where we’re supposed to be and that hope is real.
Until then, she will wait. And while she waits, she wants to point others to the same hope that they can have in Christ.
A few months after Caitie’s passing in 2016, in celebration of their daughter’s would-be fourth birthday on August 6, Feliz and Jay Jay, a wedding photographer, launched Courageous Light, a non-profit organisation that aims to help paediatric patients and their families find God’s hope and purpose.
Courageous Light arranges child-friendly hospital visits, where volunteers dress up as Stormtroopers, lightsaber-wielding Jedis from Star Wars, or princesses, to brighten children’s ward stays. The organisation also lends families emotional and spiritual support, and carries out fundraising to offset their hefty medical costs.
They have also written a book, More than Most, about their journey from grief to healing, and lead weekly grief and depression support groups grounded in God’s Word.
“If I focus on being filled with the fullness of God and loving and serving others, it makes me complete.”
Feliz shares: “We wanted to pass on what was poured out to us. I believe the community played a big role in helping us not turn our back on the Lord.”
During the months that Caitie was in the hospital, relatives, friends and strangers had rallied around the family to render financial, emotional and practical support.
In a blog post, Feliz wrote: “(God) brings in strangers to donate blood … mummy groups coming together to pull in buckets of fresh breastmilk … Strangers have been offering us homes to stay in, some offer to do our laundry, our hospital room has been overflowing with toys for Caitie, some also come to share in our tears and just offer a shoulder to cry on or a warm embrace.”
Now, she hopes to provide the same support to others. It is also a way she has realised she can find joy again: “If I focus on myself and my pain, I can’t really move forward and be joyful. But if I focus on being filled with the fullness of God and loving and serving others, it makes me complete.”
Since Caitie’s death, many have approached the couple to share how Caitie’s journey has inspired, changed and moved them.
In one of the couple’s video testimonies, Feliz shared: “Whenever we hear testimonies like that, it assures us that the Lord is faithful because He didn’t allow our child’s death to go to waste.”
Jay Jay agreed. “We were thinking that when she died … no one would believe in prayer, or believe that God can heal. (But) this was the miracle that we did not expect.
“The miracle that we wanted was her healing, but the miracle that God gave was changing people’s lives.”
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