Cat's Story

Catherine was truly a beautiful person inside and out. She was the very best parts of us.  We loved her zest for life, her huge heart, her determination, her loyalty, her desire and ability to make everyone comfortable and at ease, her generosity, her brilliant smile, her quick wit and her amazing singing voice. Catherine was very dedicated to her faith and was a first grade CCD teacher at St. Agnes. She was Student Council President, captain of the field hockey team, rowed crew, sang in the Madrigals and acted in the high school plays.  We are so proud of Catherine and the way, at 16, she handled her Stage IV cancer diagnosis with such maturity, grace, optimism and hope. Never will we meet a stronger or braver person. Catherine leaves behind an incredible spirit and legacy.  Catherine is our warrior. Our hero. Our angel.
"Who lives?  Who dies?  Who tells your story?"
      ~Hamilton, The Musical

Oftentimes it is middle aged adults who start to contemplate how and with whom they want to live their lives so as to create a lasting legacy after they pass. Catherine was too young to consider what her legacy would look like or be after she died.  With a bright and promising future Catherine rarely needed to stop and take stock of her life's accomplishments and disappointments.  Legacy is about life and living.  In Hamilton the Musical, Hamilton sings, "It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see."  And so, unbeknowst to her, Catherine created wonderful meaning in her life by the way she lived and shared her heart.  She left a legacy so as to have what she did and thought live on after her, to be remembered in a meaningful way.  Catherine planted many seeds.

How do we remember Catherine's life?  What life experiences and wisdom did she pass on to us?

Catherine's name means "pure" and "joyful noise".  Clearly we picked the perfect name.  Catherine's heart and soul were so pure.  So good.  So unscathed.  So innocent.  When she was little she was the last of her friends to realize that Santa was her parents.  Every year she would gather a small parcel of her clothes and toys, write Santa a note and ask him to take these extra items to little girls and boys who may not be receiving as many presents as she.  When Catherine was in fifth grade she wrote an essay about what she would do if she won the lottery.  One of the causes she preferred to donate her winnings to is The Children's Room in Arlington because, "I want to make people feel better who have lost someone special in their life."  How prophetic.

After Catherine died we received many notes, emails and facebook messages from her peers at Arlingon High School (AHS).  Not her close friends but other kids upon whom Catherine had made quite an impression.  One boy wrote and told us how he had moved to Arlington as a freshman.  He knew nobody.  In his history class when they first broke into groups he looked around feeling terrified and alone.  Catherine must have seen him looking around longingly and so immediately called him over and asked him to join her group.  From that day forward he was always in Catherine's group, never alone in that class.  He shared that she made an unbearable situation bearable, an intolerable situation tolerable and that he will never, ever forget Catherine and that act of kindness.  We recently heard another story of a frightened freshman who was lost in the labyrinth of hallways at AHS.  In a sea of blank faces passing by the girl, Catherine suddenly emerged, asked if she was okay and if she could help her find her way to her class.  The girl never knew who this rescuer was until after Catherine died.  She bought a Malatesta 16 t-shirt so she could proudly honor Catherine's memory.  As a friend recently wrote, "Catherine understood from a very early age the importance of kindness."

Even when Catherine was sick she continued to inspire those around her.  Every Saturday, two days after chemo, she would show up on time for play practice and rehearse harder than anyone else inspiring the other actors to stop complaining and carry on.  The simple acts of attending school, making college visits and taking her AP exams left her peers in awe.  Catherine wrote in her journal of how it was her nature to want to make a difference but that it was so difficult to make that difference and be inspirational when she didn't even feel like getting out of bed some days.  Catherine wrote, "I'm going to get out of bed and put my wig or hat on even if I'm feeling sick as a dog with a smile on my face hoping and praying that I'm inspiring someone else to get out of bed on a tough day and hopefully we can both find happiness in something even if it is just the taste of the air."  Being sick changed Catherine's plans for her future.  One day in the hospital Catherine told Gregg that when she recovered she wanted to take a gap year before college and go to Haiti to the Be Like Brit Orphange to help with the children orphaned after the great earthquake.  Even before she was diagnosed with cancer, Catherine was impacted by Britney Gengel's death at age 19 and Britney's desire to help the children of Haiti.

Catherine leaves behind the purest of hearts, always wanting to help and include.  Late in elementary school and at the beginning of middle school Catherine suffered some heartache at the hands of "mean girls" and I think that made her more resilient and stronger.  Although she never said it aloud,  I believe she never wanted anyone to suffer as she had.  Catherine deeply cared for others.  She was extremely loyal to her friends.  She was quick with a compliment.  She was everyone's biggest cheerleader.  Catherine was always the first one to welcome someone.  She was always the first to go first, to break the ice. Catherine always had just the right thing to say.  She always made time for a friend in need.  She would be self-deprecating to put someone at ease.  Her generous smile melted hearts, reeling you in. 

Catherine was also THE biggest goofball.  The loudest person ever.  "Joyful noise" is a wonderful way to describe and remember Catherine.  She loved to have fun.  To laugh.  To be crazy.  She adored her friends.  Catherine once wrote, "...I really love spending time with my friends because I feel they always bring out the best Catherine."  Catherine's light always shined so brightly.  One friend wrote how much she admired Catherine for Catherine's ability to always be herself in any given moment.  Catherine died a rich girl for that is a rare gift, especially in a teenager.  

​I think we realized the true strength of Catherine's character after her diagnosis with epithelioid sarcoma.  Within a few hours of learning she had cancer and that her life would be immeasurably changed, Catherine emerged from her room and told Gregg, "God has a plan for me. I"ve got this."  Catherine's cancer was amongst the worst we have ever witnessed.  She underwent grueling bouts of three day in-hospital infusions. She spent countless days in the hospital.  Catherine rarely complained.  Amazingly, she remained hopeful, determined and faifthful.  She continued to live life as fully as she could, continuing to plan for her future.  During this time Catherine often found herself comforting others.  Catherine showed true grace and a warrior's spirit despite being in incredible pain and being so sick.  I feel we will never meet a stronger person in our lives. 

Even though Catherine's life ended at age 16, she lived quite a life prior to her cancer diagnosis.  if ever there was a person to show us how to live, it was Catherine Malatesta. Our brave, beautiful, confident and zany girl. It is our mission to try to lead lives that would make Catherine proud.  We strive to do good deeds for others in Catherine's memory.  In this way, we will honor Catherine's determination to make a difference, to show kindness and to be inclusive for the rest of our lives.  We will continue to plant the seeds in her garden and we will all enjoy the fruits.  We will continue to tell her story.