by Carolina Fernandez

When we got the call at 2 AM last Saturday, I hopped out of bed with the thought that anyone faced with a ring in the middle of the night would have: “Who in the world would be calling us at this hour?”

I looked at caller ID and, not recognizing the number and seeing that it was not Nick, our son away at college some thirteen hours from home I yawned and crawled back into bed, pulling the down covers way up over my head.

Forgetting all about that middle-of-the-night-call, I moved through Sunday morning as always: early morning tennis, cherub choir rehearsal, church. I felt particularly moved to go up to the altar that morning to lift up little Katie, our 3-year-old friend who has been in our hearts for the past couple of years. We met in the same clinic where our son was treated for leukemia. She was having a tough time and had been in our family’s near-constant thoughts and prayers. Barely leaving the altar, my daughter ran up and grabbed me, forcing her cell phone into my jaw: “Mom. It’s Daddy. He said it’s urgent.”

Heart pounding, I heard the news we had dreaded: Katie had passed away last night. It was her mother who had called us at 2 AM.

Last week was Super Bowl Sunday and it was my turn to write my annual “Playing Hurt” newsletter. But I couldn’t move. Couldn’t talk. Couldn’t think. Certainly couldn’t write. I was playing hurt. And was immobilized. Right in the middle of the field.

Monday took me to New York City to meet with the mom and dad. I told them I’d like to be with them. Help them do errands in preparation for the next couple of days ahead. Visitation. Cremation. Could I be their hands and feet? Walking eighteen blocks in the blazing cold of the northeast last week, arm in arm the three of us as we walked down First Avenue in search of the florist who had come highly recommended, we began the painful process of selecting the flowers for Katie’s casket.

Sometimes when we play hurt we understand what’s going on. We accept the hurt as part of the natural state of affairs. A grandparent dies and we are sad, certainly. But we look at his or her long life and we accept the end. Sometimes accidents happen and we agonize over the injuries sustained by a loved one. Yet we understand that healing will eventually occur and that bones will eventually mend.

And then sometimes we endure things that never make sense to us. Will never. Crib death. Death of a toddler. Childhood cancer.

Playing hurt this year finds many of us in the Katie Camp mourning her passing, something which none of us could have ever imagined as possible. The spunkiest, brightest, funniest, cutest kid one could envision had left us. We had all sensed that she would fight the leukemia and go on to live a very long and happy life. She brought each and every one who had ever come into contact with her unspeakable joy! She locked eyes with mine two years ago and crawled into my heart, only to stay there forever. The sadness I feel over her leaving us is, frankly, nearly unbearable.

I am trying to stay focused on Katie’s spirit, and my faith leads me to believe that she is in a better state. Watching us from above, I know that she has joined the heavenly realm and that she is dancing with the angels. Staying focused on eternity is the only way that I am able to get through the motions of these days.

Most of us are carrying around a burden or two every day. Illness. Separation. Prodigal children. Brokenness. It is not the playing hurt that separates you from me. We are all playing hurt. Daily, to one degree or another. Playing joyfully while playing hurt is the most difficult thing in the world to do. It is our ability to play hurt with some level of abiding joy that marks us as victorious in this daily thing called life. Being able to infuse joy into the patterns of living while playing hurt is one of our greatest earthly challenges.

I pray that you are well. And that if you are hurt like I am right now that you shall try to find joy in the morning, as shall I.

Carolina Fernandez earned an M.B.A. and worked at IBM and as a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch before coming home to work as a wife and mother of four. She totally re-invented herself along the way. Strong convictions were born about the role of the arts in child development; ten years of homeschooling and raising four kids provide fertile soil for devising creative parenting strategies. These are played out in ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies To Blast You Into Brilliance. She writes extensively for a variety of parenting resources and teaches other moms via seminars, workshops, keynotes and monthly meetings of the ROCKET MOM SOCIETY, a sisterhood group she launched toencourage, equip and empower moms for excellence. Please visit

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