The Church is experiencing turbulent times, writes Lawrence Grayson. Priests are questioning their vocations. The…
Finding the small blessings amid the pain of losing a child
I was scrolling through my phone recently — probably on Facebook or one of the myriad sports websites that I like to read when I have the time. I don’t get to watch many actual games — the kids generally control the televisions during normal hours of operation — so I stay informed as best I can by reading about what I missed.
An unexpected and awful headline caught my attention: “Colts center Ryan Kelly missed the Patriots game after death of his daughter.”
Despite living in Indiana nearly all my life, I don’t have much rooting interest in the Colts, and I’d never heard of Ryan Kelly (or his wife, Emma) until recently. The more I read about their story, though, the more my heart broke for this young couple.
In an Instagram post a week before Christmas, Emma Kelly wrote: “There is no easy way for us to say what we’re about to say … but we lost our sweet baby, Mary Katherine Kelly, aka Mary Kate, this week. I was 19 weeks along. … After learning she wasn’t with us anymore, I was told there was no other choice but to deliver our baby next. Ryan and I spent almost 48 hours in the hospital. I labored for 24 hours with her before she made her entrance on December 17th. I was so angry at first that I had to deliver her, only for it to become the biggest blessing out of this nightmare. It gave Ryan and I the opportunity to hold our little Saint, Mary Kate, before officially saying goodbye to her. … I don’t think we’ll ever understand why God decided to call her home when he did but our faith is unshaken. He knows better than we & she was needed back home, in Heaven.”
After having read that, tears began trickling down my face. Then I read what Ryan Kelly shared on his own Instagram page, and the floodgates opened. He wrote: “Nothing made me happier than being your Dad. You gave your Mom and I that gift. You were simply a miracle and always will be. I’m sorry you never got to open those sweet eyes and see us or take your first steps but you have angel wings now. You left this world too soon but we know God had a bigger purpose for you. Your mom and I find comfort knowing you’re being loved on by your great grandparents. Thank you for watching over us and your future siblings. I’ll forever wonder who you’d be today. Until we meet again my sweet girl, I love you.”
Despite having never met Ryan and Emma Kelly, I couldn’t admire them any more than I do. The strength and courage it took for them to open their hearts in such a public way while grieving the loss of their infant daughter is extraordinary. Mostly, I admire their faith. The grief of losing a child is incomparable, and it’s natural to ask God why he would allow so much suffering.
At least, it was natural to me.
This past fall, we found out that my wife was pregnant. To call it a surprise would be an understatement. It didn’t take long, though, for the shock to fade and excitement and joy to take hold. About six or seven weeks in, though, there were signs of trouble. The ultrasound technician broke the news to us: She couldn’t find a heartbeat. When she left the room, I hugged my wife, and we cried for the baby whose milestones we would never see — her first smile, first steps, first day of school. So many others. We cried for her three brothers and three sisters who would have adored her as much as we did.
Of course, we couldn’t be sure that the baby was a girl, but my wife and I both felt it — a whisper from the Holy Spirit, perhaps. We named her Agnes Catherine. St. Agnes is the patroness of girls, and St. Catherine of Sweden is the patroness of miscarriages.
Going through such a trauma certainly brought my wife and me closer together. My prayer is that the same will be true for Ryan and Emma Kelly, whom God has abundantly blessed.
In your mercy, God, grant your peace to all those who have suffered the loss of a child, as well as those who struggle with infertility. Mary and Joseph, pray for us! Saints Gerard Majella and Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!
Saints Mary Kate and Agnes Catherine, whom we love dearly, pray for us!
Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.