Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mary Elizabeth Smith and a baby named Isaac

I went on a retreat last weekend and someone asked me to pray for a mom who was carrying a baby which she knew would not live long after birth. Baby Isaac was born today and lived 17 minutes. What a sad story, what a courageous and wise mom, to relish every second she had that child on earth, both in the womb and out of it. She spent the second half of her pregnancy knowing that her baby would not live long after he was born. I could not help thing of my sister born 49 years ago.....in the days before prenatal testing when these things were a surprise.

I think about my sister Mary Beth a lot....she was 5 years older than me. She was born with Turner's Syndrome and lived to the age of 25. Today they have tests to check pregnant women for chromosomal abnormalities - of which Turners is one. When my sister was born, she was VERY small and had a webbed neck which they fixed with surgery. She had no cartilage in her knees and had lots of issue with fluid in her ears for some reason all her life. The doctors told my parents they should put her in a home for special needs babies and children, but my mom ever faithful to the Blessed Mother prayed to her and told her she would name her daughter Mary to honor her and would dress her in blue for 7 years as a devotion - oh the things we Catholics do. Mary Beth did pretty well .....she was behind and a few years older than the kids in her classes , but she went to public school until 5th grade and then went to Christ the King. She never went to High School as her scholastic level had peaked and my parents and her teachers agreed that high school with its pressure to fit in were not the best place for her. So Mary Beth worked with my mom at the Church as a secretary. They loved her up there, she did data entry when they got the new computer, she did miscellaneous office tasks, and she loved working with my mom.

Mary Beth died in 1984........she had gotten very sick with a cold on a trip to St Augustine that summer, and she never shook the cold. She got VERY weak and ended up in the hospital, turns out the virus she had had gotten in her heart. Turner's kids can have heart issues and apparently Mary Beth had a hole in her heart valve we never knew about. She stopped breathing and they put her on a ventilator. When there was no brain activity, our family decided it was time to say goodbye and let her go home to be with Jesus and Mary the Queen of Heaven whom our whole family loves. Her funeral was a packed house as everyone at church loved Mary. She was so kind and such a joy to be around. She loved music, esp John Denver and the Carpenters - she was crushed when Karen Carpenter died. She was a HUGE Atlanta Flames Fan and she loved the Braves when few people did. I found the Eulogy that Msgr. John McDonough gave at her funeral and its so beautiful thought I would share.....

Homily Delivered by Monsignor John F McDonough at Funeral Mass of Mary Beth, Sept 14, 1984
Arise, my dove, my one and come-For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flower appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines in bloom give forth fragrance. Arise my love, my dove, my beautiful one and come.

These words from the Song of Songs are the words of Christ to his beloved Mary. Mary, who in her own simple way was one of Jesus chosen people: one from from birth, formed and fashioned by the love of Joan and Jack, of Jill and Julie and young Jack,of her grandparents and friends, lived completely the Christian life. Against unbelievable obstacles and pain, she was what Christ wants us all to be, His close and intimate friends.
The Gospel reading of today's liturgy tells the story of Mary in simple and plain language. She believed the words of Jesus - She was called to be joyous and she was, doing the right things putting up with her own special problems - singing at work - being kind.
She was called to be loving and she was, for her, if Jesus her Lord and master could love, so could she, and she loved her parents, and her family and her friends, her Church and her parish, with all the love she could in Christ, doing for others.

She was chosen to be a friend of Christ, not a slave, but a friend. She was called to be an intimate of Christ, like Peter and Paul and she was. There was never any doubt about her feeling for Christ.

She gave us all an example of how to meet the battles of life.

The store of Mary began almost 25 years ago. It is the story that almost had no beginning. Mary wasn't expected to live, but she did because of the love and care and the dedication of Joan and Jack and her family. Because God wanted to show us that if one little girl could do it, so can we.

Is there pain and heart ache at her loss? Of course there is, because one you kissed and touched is gone and now you can't in a physical way show that love. But what consolation can we give you - the consolation of a job well done, you have no regrets. The consolation of the many happy memories that you have had. The consolation that another soul has gone home to God, another soul has fulfilled its destiny.

Arise, my dove, my one and come-For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flower appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines in bloom give forth fragrance. Arise my love, my dove, my beautiful one and come.

Here are a few photos.....the one with my dad was taken in the summer about the time she got sick. It was a great trip! I love you my beautiful sister, I think Sarah has some of your features, your fair skin and your beautiful wavy hair. That's me with her and Santa...I think I was around 4yrs old in my winter western wear. Mary and I had so much fun together. My mom died just 8 months after Mary, I think she too fulfilled her destiny on earth and was sent to heaven. I can't imagine how hard it was for her to go into her office everyday after Mary died to an empty desk and a radio that didn't play songs Mary sang to. Then she left work and went home to an empty house. She is about my age now in that picture on the bottom left.

Today, baby Isaac spent just 17 minutes with his mom, and left this life. I hope others can see how precious life is from this. I know first hand that less than perfect humans can work miracles no matter how short the time on earth and any time we have with our children on earth is precious. Mom and Dad knew it, and Andy and I know it.


Lori said...

Julie, thank you so much for sharing the beautiful story of your sister! She sure sounds like a special person and a light in your family's life!

I was very touched by your post!
I admire your faith and love reading about it...thanks again!

Rachel said...


It was so neat to see pictures of your sister. Especially, after hearing part of her story within yours during CRHP.

As far as Cottage School goes, Ben has been place on 'medical leave' so he's not officially out...yet. We will know more after a meeting the folks at TCS on Friday. I pray we can work 'something' out because if not we will be out a TON of money!!!

Hopefully, I will see you at Adoration tomorrow. I told Carol I would do Adoration at 10 on Wed and she told me you signed up for it too. Cool eh?

Donna said...

Julie. Very beautiful words. I was moved by your love to your sister.

Kathleen said...

Beautiful post. Loved seeing pics of your sis, after hearing about her all this time.

Life is precious!

Lyn said...

Beautiful! Wonderful memories of Mary Beth. I was away at college and missed her funeral. Thanks for sharing Msgr.'s eulogy.

You can take comfort too in knowing Caleb's adoring auntie and grandma are loving him in Heaven.

Peace always....

Lori said...

I need to remind myself that I can't read your blog while I'm working because I always end up moved to tears.

Thank you for that story, Julie.

Kathleen said...

OMG!! Sister from another mother! I had that same cowgirl outfit!!! In fact, my sister Sheilah just pulled it out for her daughter Trish to play in--- we all joked that we were going to dig out the pictures of all 4 of us in it + Claire, now Trish.

Mine was a reward for my parents leaving me at grandma's when they went to Dallas on vacation.

Julie, this similarity is getting weird.

Mommy & Emma Bean said...

Julie...thank you for sharing this story and all that goes along with it . Life is a crazy thing..and learning how to cope with what you are given is often difficult. Your sister was beautiful and I know her time here was too short! Thank you for being a friend to me in my need as well. It is so appreciated.

Karen said...

What a beautiful and touching post. Your sister's life is still touching others through her story. Thank you for sharing it.

Michelle said...

Julie, your post is so touching. I am moved to tears. It is so warming to read the love you have for your sister.