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Fly a Little Higher: The story that keeps on giving

December 5, 2014

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Sobiech family

Sobiech family

I’ve been known to pitch a few books into the trash because they were rubbish. Many were forgotten as soon as I’d turned the last page. Some stories would hover over me for a while, but then drift away. Only a few have become my constant companions and Fly a Little Higher by Laura Sobiech is one such literary gem. It’s the story of hope; how God answered a mom’s small prayer in a big way.

As you might recall, Laura is the mother to Zach Sobiech, singer and songwriter of “Clouds.”  Zach wrote this song to say farewell to friends and family as he was suffering from terminal osteosarcoma. The iTunes and YouTube sensation hit the radio waves about this time two years ago, a few months before Zach succumbed to his bone cancer.

His mother’s lovely memoir profoundly changed my “mommy attitude” and taught me so much as it glided me through each chapter. It has helped me circumnavigate the difficult times I tend to encounter when a bulk of our nine kids is home for the summer. You see, for whatever reason June, July and August have been routinely challenging. We’ve dealt with my parents’ divorce, Aunt Angie’s brain surgery, Grandpa Dan’s aneurysm, the loss of dear friends, and nitpicking lice out of six little heads. The summer of 2013, one of our little twins suffered with Lyme disease. So, when we sailed into Memorial Day this year I started to get antsy and grouchy.

But then I picked up Laura’s book at the Stillwater bookstore and a better attitude took flight. Its message has stayed with me for over six months now, just like Zach’s legacy of hope has touched people from around the world. In her memoir, Laura beautifully writes:

“Through the eyes of Zach’s story, [people] were able to see things more clearly and gain perspective on their own lives. What seemed like a problem before hearing Zach’s story wasn’t such a big deal anymore.”

So very true.

Taking Flight

And now the family’s beautiful message of hope will reach the homes of many more. On December 2, Fly a Little Higher hit the shelves at Target as the Holiday, 2014, Club Pick. This edition offers exclusive bonus materials, including an in-depth Q&A with author Laura Sobiech and discussion questions for the reader. The Target website said that Fly a Little Higher is about how God used Zach to do something big.

I’m hoping Santa will do something big and stash bags full of this book into his sleigh before he jets out on Christmas Eve. Everyone on his list would benefit from Zach’s example of how to embrace the precious gift of life.

As Katie Couric stated:

“The fact that his mother, Laura, and entire family were able accompany him on his journey with such strength and courage (not to mention love and laughter) is a powerful lesson, not about dying, but about living.”

Laura told Dave Hrbacek of The Catholic Spirit:

“It’s a powerful thing to witness [death], especially, I think, in a child. I gave birth to that boy. I consider it to be such a privilege to see this child’s whole life, to be there when he entered [the world] and then to be there when he left.”

Hmmm…A vision of Jesus’ mother pops to mind–The Nativity and Pieta.

“We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer”

On Thursday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mall of America in Minnesota a giant choir will once again perform “Clouds” in conjunction with the annual KS95 for Kids Radiothon. This two-day event benefits the Children’s Cancer Research Fund and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. It has raised more than $13 million since it was started in 1999. Zach got his first big break during the radiothon two years ago when the studio first aired the song and played it in steady rotation during the whole event. Zach was interviewed live that same year. He told the DJ, “It’s not just about me, it’s about the kids who are lying in a hospital bed right now. Let’s work together to help them.”

The Sobeich family, of Lakeland, Minnesota, started the Zach Sobeich Osteosarcoma Research Fund, using proceeds from the sale of  the “Clouds” song. This fund has swelled to $9000,000 and has ignited four research projects to beat this type of cancer.

Last year, after the KS95 “Clouds” event,  Zach’s father, Rob Sobeich, was interviewed by The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mary Divine. He told her that the large crowd that arrived at the MOA for the tribute showed the kind of community we have in Minnesota. “Everybody came together, and it was for Zach, and it was for everyone in the room, and it was for other kids who have cancer,” he said.

Zach’s song and story are also for kids who have lost a parent to cancer. Shortly after the debut of “Clouds,” I was driving a car filled with children, listening to the radio. When Zach’s song played, I asked one of my passengers if the lyrics comforted her. Her daddy, author Vince Flynn, was dying from prostate cancer. She said that it did, so we turned up the dial and let the words soak in. Her dad passed away one month after Zach did, but she takes solace in the fact that Daddy is flying a little higher.

Cancer carried away Zach too soon, but his presence continues to soar; teaching us how to live life abundantly in God’s Grace. Thank you, Sobeich family, for the legacy of hope and joy. (And the “Mommy Attitude Adjustment.”)

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The Million-Dollar Babies

December 1, 2014

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Hunter and Kandi Mahan with Baby Zoe

Hunter and Kandi Mahan with Baby Zoe

Pro golfer Hunter Mahan, aged 31, was playing in the PGA Canadian Open on July 27, 2013. He was ahead of the championship by two strokes and more than one million dollars in winnings dangled within his grasp. And then he received one of the most important phone calls of his life.

His wife was in labor.

Mahan packed up everything and rushed to the airport. His first child–a daughter–arrived three weeks early in Dallas, 15 hours after that phone call. She was dubbed, The Million-Dollar Baby. He stated, “It happened when it did and I made it back. And gosh, I got to see it, which was the amazing thing.”

Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., Editor-in-Chief of the Magnificat wrote in the December, 2014 issue:

“It was the announcement of the coming of a baby that moved Mahan, without a second thought, to turn his back on riches, glory, fame. Something better was waiting for him. Someone. And for this stunning, virtuous act it seemed all the world applauded him in awe. For his action symbolized what life is all about–something we easily forget.”

Mahan and his wife Kandi, had prepared for this. If she went into labor during the tournament, Mahan wanted to be there for the delivery. When he heard during that phone call that Kandi’s water had broken, he knew the baby was coming…and soon. At 3:26 a.m., when Zoe Olivia Mahan was born, Daddy was there to hold their precious gift. There was much celebrating.

The word Advent is derived from the Latin advenio, “to come to.” Father Lenny Andrie, parochial vicar at the Church of Saint Joseph in West St. Paul, Minnesota, wrote: “As with anything in life, we must prepare well to celebrate well. Sadly, the season of Advent can get eaten alive by Christmas shopping and preparing for family gatherings.”

Father Andrie goes on to explain that the Father gives us His Son. In return, we give ourselves back to the Father in the Son. We respond to the Gift of Jesus with the gift of ourselves.

Coincidentally, the golfer who eventually won the tournament because of Mahan’s mad dash was Brandt Snedeker, who withdrew from the Honda Open in 2011 to be at the birth of his own firstborn–also a daughter. It is stated that Snedeker bought Zoe a very nice baby gift.

Snedeker agreed with Mahan’s decision. “It was the best decision I ever made. I’m sure Hunter would say the same thing.”

Father Cameron wrote in the Magnificat that when reporters asked Mahan what made him do something so drastic by leaving the championship, he replied, “Success comes and goes. Seeing your daughter every day, having a family–that is stuff that makes you happy to your core.”

How will you prepare for the coming of  Jesus this Advent? What sacrifices are you willing to make so that you are happy to your core on Christmas Day?

Our own Million-Dollar Baby will arrive soon.

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MOB IN PAKISTAN BURNS CHRISTIAN COUPLE ALIVE

November 7, 2014

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“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Jesus)

Shahzad Masih and Shamma Bibi  and child

Shamma Bibi, Shahzad Masih and child

Our dear friend, Fr. Benjamin Shazad, sent this email to us yesterday. Fr. Ben is running the major seminary in Karachi, Pakistan. He met my aunt and cousins in line to meet Pope Benedict years ago, and ever since then, he visits our family each summer while raising funds in America for his seminarians. Please pray!

 My dear friends,

With great pain, I would like to share with you the continues suffering of our people in Pakistan and ask for your prayerful support. A young Christian couple from Lahore, named Shahzad, 28 years old  and his wife Shama, 25 years were burnt alive to death by a mob of angry Muslims.

They had falsely  accused husband and wife under blasphemy law saying that the couple has burnt the pages of the Holy Book, Qur’an. The clerics made announcements through the mosque’s amplifiers and instigated the Muslims to kill the couple. They were able to gather a hug mob, who thrashed the couple before dragging them to the kiln where the owner and his companions, allegedly removed a lid from one of the openings of the furnace and threw the couple into it and were burnt alive.

For the Rest of the Story Continue Reading at: Fr. Ben: Mob Burns Christian Couple Alive in Brick Kiln: No Police Action – 3 Children Left Behind | NewsandFaith.com.

 

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A quote that hit home

October 27, 2014

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fall boys

As Respect Life Month wanes, I wanted to retell a beautiful quote which has been dancing in my thoughts like leaves twirling from the trees in October.

Last week, Fr. Lenny Andrie, parochial vicar at the Church of St. Joseph in West St. Paul and the high school chaplain at the Convent of the Visitation, reminded his congregation about something very paramount:

“A child is never a threat, but a cause for celebration.” And then he added, “Often unplanned surprises are the best gifts!”

Being parents to twins who were born to us in the autumn of our years (I was nearly 43 and my husband was 44), I can vouch for the truthfulness of Father’s lovely reminder. Little Michael and Peter–our eighth and ninth children– are now five, and we are so thankful they were born. Our “unplanned surprises” bring so much happiness, even to strangers, that we call their natural gift “Spreading the Joy.”

Here are some ways they have spread the joy:

  • They get people smiling in the grocery store and on neighborhood walks.
  • Wherever we go, passersby marvel at their matching faces.
  • A friend who was dying from prostrate cancer used to come over for enthusiastic hugs, which soothed his aching heart.
  • Once, at a swim meet, a college student asked if she could just sit by us and observe our boys as they spoke to each other in “Twin Talk”–their unique language that sounds like alien gibber-jabber.
  • When their siblings have a bad day, they reach out to the twins for a cuddle session.
  • By watching them play, ailing grandparents are comforted.
  • Recently, one twin received a kindergarten award  for making a classmate happy. (His buddy was crying in Library because he missed his mommy.)

And some people thought we were crazy having these bonus blessings! Don’t we all need more joy in our lives?

 

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Actress Lauren Roman speaks out for life

March 31, 2014

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LRoman

The other night, I was at the 12th annual Knights for Life Banquet which benefitted Wakota Life Care Center. It was held at St. Joseph’s Church in West St. Paul and was emceed by the “newest Knight of Columbus out there,” Matt Birk (who was knighted three hours before the event). Birk, a former all-pro football champion, thanked Wakota for the work it does saving lives since 1976. (Each year, over 800 individuals find the help they need through social and medical services.) Birk introduced the guest speaker of the night, Lauren Roman, who received a standing ovation when she was done telling her story. I wanted to share a little bit about her life:

All My Children star

Lauren Roman had a successful career in NYC starting at the young age of 19. She had a major role on ABC’s popular soap opera named All My Children for three yearsBefore all this, however, she was a freshman in college and pregnant with her high school boyfriend’s baby. Scared and alone, she turned to a confidant who led her to an abortion clinic. She told the full room, “If only I would have opened the phone book and found a number for a pregnancy help center! Maybe my baby would be here now if I had done so!”

For years following the abortion, Lauren grappled with depression and anorexia. Eventually, she found healing and forgiveness through a church in California and then a Pregnancy Resource Center.

Making a difference

Today, Lauren appears all across America giving her personal testimony. Using excellent public speaking skills she gives talks to pro-life organizations and events. With a lovely, polished voice, she even sings a song about losing a child–which delivers a powerful message.

As far as acting goes, Lauren was most recently seen in the Nicole Kidman thriller, Stoker, and the hit Christian film, Grace Unplugged.

What is her greatest joy?

According to Wakota’s literature, it’s the fulfillment found working with Pregnancy Centers, testifying to the life-changing impact of their ministry.

Quotes by Lauren Roman:

(From the Knights for Life Banquet)

  • “We have to do everything we can to fight this darkness!” (Referring to abortion)
  • “It’s spiritual warfare!” (Referring to abortion)
  • “We need to get a woman in crisis through the door…so she can choose life!”
  • “We can help her by supporting Wakota and other Pregnancy Resource Centers!”
  • “One out of three women will have an abortion by age 45!”
  • “I think Jesus is weeping over the millions of babies that have been aborted!”
  • “Every life is a gift from God!”

Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your story and working so hard to defend life! And thank you to Wakota Life Care Center and all the Pregnancy Resource Centers out there!

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9 Days for Life: Get your information here!

January 1, 2014

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9-days-header

Together, let’s build a culture of life.

On January 22, 2014 America will remember the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Since that tragic decision, more than 55 million children’s lives have been lost to abortion, and the lives of millions of their parents have been shattered. In prayerful recognition, “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage” will take place January 18-26, 2014 and is sponsored by the bishops. (Visit 9Days Resources for Leaders)

The heart of this prayer effort is a simple, youth-friendly novena. Here’s an example:

Day four: Tuesday, January 21

Intercession: For the doctors, nurses and counselors who now know they were wrong in cooperating with abortion: may God grant them the courage to renounce their involvement in the abortion industry and open their hearts to doing his will from now on.

Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be

Reflection: Today we honor the life of St. Agnes, a 12-year-old girl martyred in Rome in 304 AD, during the Diocletian persecution. Agnes never wavered in her commitment to remain a virgin and to give her whole life to the Lord, refusing proposals to marry. Her innocence and heroism facing death helped bring an end to the persecution of Christians in Rome. Following the example of St. Agnes, let us remain steadfast in recognizing Christ, who is Love Incarnate, as the source and summit of our lives. May his love give us the determination and courage to live for him and for others, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Acts of Reparation (choose one):

  • Go to an abortion clinic and pray, or set aside an hour today to pray for those who are struggling with a decision of life or death for their unborn child.
  • Pray the Rosary today for someone who has hurt or disappointed you, and ask for the grace to forgive that person.
  • Instead of donating “old clothes,” offer to buy a new piece of clothing or item a charity is seeking.

On your mark…Get set…Pray!

Would you like to subscribe to receive emails or text messages of this novena? If so, click here. It’s as easy as 1-2-3! (And for the tech-savvy–a free app is coming soon!)

Youth = Our hope for a new principle of life

Do you work with youth or young adult ministries? Perhaps you’d like ideas to help you incorporate the novena into your January programming?

And consider promoting Minnesota Youth for Life’s second annual conference (Information here):

Monday, January 20 from 9am-4pm

At Sacred Heart in Robinsdale

Bishop Cozzens will be the celebrant!

And the speakers are: Jason Evert, Dr. Mike Adams, Dave Sterrett and Lila Rose

Join the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-Saint Paul in Prayer

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 10:30 a.m.

MCCL Rally to follow Cathedral of Saint Paul

239 Selby Avenue, St. Paul

Information here: PrayerforLife_flyer (3)

Attend an all night prayer vigil sponsored by Project Rachel

Tuesday, January 21-Wednesday, January 22

7pm-7am

St. Mary’s Chapel at the University of St. Thomas

Information here:  HopeHealingMercy_flyer (2)

“Promote a new way of looking at human life.” (Gospel of Life #99) Thank you!

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Comic strip not funny

December 9, 2013

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pajama diaries

 What is the best gift parents can give their kids?

The answer is simple: siblings!

The Monday, December 2 Pajama Diaries comic strip rubbed me the wrong way. I waited a few days, hoping author, Terry Libenson, was going to run a another strip showcasing the pros of having a baby during a mother’s “Advanced Maternal Age,” but she didn’t.

It’s been a week and I’m still waiting.

Why does the media portray babies as burdens? When I was 42, my husband and I discovered I was “preggers” with twins. We already had seven children at home, and our youngest was eight. Of course we were a bit shocked to get the news, but feelings of excitement kicked in as quickly as my hormones. Our anticipation was contagious, in fact, many of our friends confided in us that they wished they would have had more children; that they were feeling sad about their fledgling chickadees and soon-to-be-empty nests.

During my pregnancy no one would have thought “Poor woman” for me, that’s for sure (except for my humongous twin belly!).

How is the world supposed to build a culture of life when the media makes pregnancy seem like a disease?

Our identical boys, born when I was nearly 43 and my husband 44, have been just the medicine we’ve needed. Sure we lost loads of sleep and our sofas are smeared with God-knows-what, but quite honestly, they are a hoot and a half (as Minnesotans say). Now that they are four, we have experienced many blessings “caboose babies” bring to their families. Here are a few examples:

Why every couple should have “Bonus Blessings”:

1.  Unlike the comic strip shown above, the correct attitude should be “Lucky Kids!” not “Poor kids!” In all reality, children who welcome siblings into the home when they are pretty big themselves (through parents birthing them or adopting them) learn unconditional love better than anyone else! Last week I overheard one of our high school girls saying to her little brothers: “You’re my best friends!” She then chased them around the room and tickled them. Her friends love to come over and play with them, too. Does this sound like a kid who should be pitied?

2.  The big brothers and sisters learn to be the “bestest” future parents! (My husband used to ring out his caboose sister’s poopey diapers in the toilet, and braid her hair when she got older. I know this is one reason he’s such a great hands-on dad!) Of course not all couples are able to have more than one baby. Our third son is dating an only child. Her parents were married in their mid forties and welcomed their miracle girl a year later. Kelly loves to be with not only our cabooses, but our other kids, too. She feels like they are her own siblings. She brings them hand-me-down clothes and home-made cookies. Our little ones are the “sugar” she craves; the siblings she never had, and they are teaching her how to be a super mom!

3.  The old adage: “They keep you young” is spot on! My husband and I are pushing the double jogging stroller on runs when we could be lounging on a couch. We’re taking the tykes swimming when we could be sunbathing. We’re building snowmen when we could be inside sipping tea. We’re wrestling in the family room when we could be writing emails, and cleaning crumbs from the floor–on our knees–when we could have nearly spotless floors by now. Remember the saying: “Use ‘em or lose ‘em”?

4.  We meet younger couples at the park, church, preschool and the neighborhood. My in-laws claim that this is one of the best perks of having kids later in life. I now know people who are about 15 years younger than I am who give me lessons on hip fashion, travel pointers and activity ideas. These tips help me to be a better mom to all our children. In return, I answer myriad parenting questions for these younger parents and give them encouragement. (With nine kids, we don’t have all of the answers…but we DO have some!)

5.  What about the cabooses you may ask? Well, these bonus babies grow up secure in the fact that they are loved, because there are sooo many big people in the family who love them. Our oldest son was in college when the twins were born. When he is home for the summer and holidays, he can’t get enough of the twins. This weekend, he and his girlfriend took our twins and girls to see the animated movie “Frozen.” Why would he do this if he thought the cabooses were a cold burden?

6.  As grown-ups, these bonus babies help take care of their parents. I don’t mean this is a burden…but is in fact, something quite beautiful. The adult cabooses I know bring their little children to visit Grandma and Grandpa when their older siblings might be busy hauling kids to high school and college events. They are able to do this because their lives are in a different place than their older brothers and sisters. My aunt had her mother live with them. I’m sure it wasn’t all a bed of roses, but her mother helped with babysitting and household chores, and she told the grandkids the best stories ever! My sister-in-law helps her parents with their computer needs–something with which her older siblings are not as talented. My friend used to do her mother’s hair and buy her clothes. These adult cabooses look at the time they spend with their parents with much fondness, I never hear them say, “Oh poor me!”

And one thing is for sure…parents of bonus babies are never lonely! Now, isn’t that bonus a terrific blessing?

 

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A glimpse of what twins might be like in the womb

November 19, 2013

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As Thanksgiving nears, my husband and I reflect on how grateful we are for our nine children–including a set of twins that arrived when we were in our 40s. Because of these belated blessings we gobble up anything that has to do with twins (like the video at the end of this blog. But first…)

 On a personal note…

Our twins at age three. Picture taken by author Vince Flynn last year

Our twins at age three. Picture taken by author Vince Flynn last year

One thing is for sure: Our twins are not always as happy as they are in the above photo, but when they get chummy–it warms our hearts! When they were in their first “bed” (womb) they were not always as calm as the babies are in the video below. In fact, when they were born we could tell them apart by their “war wounds.” Each boy was decorated with bruises all over his face and body.

While in the maternity ward, I used to swaddle our babies together. I knew that they needed human touch more than a “singleton” did. This calmed them down even after they were circumcised and in pain. The surgeon for this procedure stood in amazement after each circumcision because she had never witnessed this “cuddling-calming” phenomenon before with multiples.

At age four, our twins still give each other comfort with their touch. Yesterday I heard a mewing sound coming from our boys. When I looked at them they were sitting at the table with their heads touching and arms draped over the other. Each had a thumb in his mouth and blankie in hand–humming with contentment.

Last week our second oldest and I took the twins to Target. The boys were in separate grocery carts and did not like being separated. When we rolled them out of the store, they held their hands to each other until they grasped. Then they started making that mewing sound again like they always do when they are cuddling. Our older son was flabbergasted, and other people smiled as they saw what the boys were doing. What a double blessing they have been to all of us!

The video

I wanted to share with you a moving video that  family and friends sent our way. It shows what multiples might be like in the womb. (But these babies are actually in a bath after being born.) As you watch this video that went viral, be thankful for the gift of life! Happy Thanksgiving!

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To learn more about this video and baby bathing technique, watch this Today video:

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Why does this FBI agent run with his daughter with Down syndrome?

November 7, 2013

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If you haven’t seen this ESPN video, here’s your chance.

It’s about  how a man with “genetically superior genes” reacted when he discovered he and his wife were expecting a child with Down syndrome. “I felt like I was getting a broken baby,” he tells the journalist. His wife was afraid he’d run away–quite literally. But he now knows that this little girl is his “light in the darkness,” and what a privilege it is to be her daddy.

  • What was the turning point that made Heath White respect Paisley’s life?
  • Why does he write her letters and run marathons with her?

Watch and find out.

I’m flabbergasted, and thrilled, that such a popular sports news channel produced this pro-life story!

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‘Til death do us part

October 2, 2013

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How great is the love the Father has lavished on us! (1 John 3:1)

kirsch2

Marriage isn’t merely about the husband and wife, it’s also about the people around the couple as they live this holy sacrament.  Eugene and Mary Kirsch’s 58-year-marriage was a source of blessing to many others because of the beautiful witness they gave.

And they continued to teach about married love–until the very end.

“Family and faith is what’s important!”

Eugene (Gene) and Mary met on a blind date. Since both were very active, they went bowling for this first outing together. Their love seemed a perfect strike from the beginning, and they married in 1955. Five years later, they moved to a home in Roseville and joined Maternity of Mary Church in St. Paul. They raised four daughters–Vicki, Lori, Kathy and Karen. All of the girls went to grade school at Maternity of Mary, and got married there.

Gene and Mary had a home business together–Gene was an accountant and mainly worked out of their basement, while Mary typed forms for him upstairs. Mary was also a part-time sales associate at the JCPenney store in Roseville for 13 years. Their daughter, Vicki Flannigan, said, “Gaining wealth was never important to our parents, but family and faith was important.”

The Kirschs were devout Catholics. In fact, Mary attended daily Mass until she married at age 21, and resumed doing so when she retired from JCPenney. They were active parishioners for 53 years at Maternity of Mary. They were extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, went to Eucharistic Adoration together each week, and helped plan the Cana dinners. “We teased Dad because his pants always had holes in the knees from praying all the Rosaries,” their daughter, Karen Cossack, wrote.

“They always struck me as a couple very much in love,” the Kirschs’ pastor, Father Peter Williams, said. “They were faithful, devoted, and possessed a good sense of humor. I appreciated how they lived their vows, and the manner in which they raised their daughters.”

What’s the secret to a long marriage?

Their daughter Vicki said, “Our parents had a beautiful, married life. The perfect marriage, really. I cannot recall any disrespect or quarreling among those two.”

What was their secret to marital bliss?

Their children think it was a combination of a many things. They only had one plain TV set and seemed to somehow agree on the channel. Perhaps the simple life of one TV and two recliners aided in their success? As they aged, they continued to be active–in their faith, and with other things.  They took walks around the block together all year round, never walking without the other.  They played tennis and golf almost daily and went on 38 cruises together. Yep, 38! Gene would often get up on the ship’s stage and play the piano for people. He liked to sing, too–real loudly; at church, and at other places as well. Once, during a relative’s wedding reception, Gene took the microphone from the DJ and serenaded Mary with the song It had to be you.  Their daughter, Karen, wrote: “When the DJ asked them to reveal the secret of their long marriage, Mom just responded, “Love.”

Vicki wrote in an email:

“The key word for their successful marriage is ‘compliment.’ In my entire childhood and adult life, I can vividly recall both of them complimenting each other all the time! Dad complimented on every meal, nearly every bite! I believe that sometimes the food wasn’t all that delicious but dad still found the part of the meal that he would compliment her on — maybe just the fact that the food was served warm! She would compliment him on all his talents — piano playing, singing, being such a great conversationalist, speaking German, etc.”

In sickness and in health

Five years ago, Mary was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and it progressed fairly quickly, especially the type of dementia which is linked with this disease. Gene had a pace maker, but was still doing well. When their parents’ health first started this decline, their daughters turned their childhood home into a care facility. They organized meals for them and brought them to Mass at Maternity of Mary each week. Every day, the daughters made sure that one of them was there to check on their parents and visit with them. They had an excellent system in place.

All eight of the Kirsch grandchildren helped take care of Grandma and Grandpa, too. For example, Bridget Flannigan (age 29), a professional stylist, did Grandma’s hair and nails regularly. Katie King, age 23, a nurse at the Amplatz Children’s Hospital, checked her grandparents’ blood pressure and monitored their other medical needs–she also prayed with them.

On March 14 of this year, Mary fell in her home and fractured her tail bone. She was brought to the hospital and it was decided that she needed transitional care just long enough to recuperate. She was there for two weeks, and each morning the daughters brought their dad to the facility to visit and recite the Rosary. But Mary failed to thrive, and was not eating much.

Easter was on March 31st of this year (2013). While Mary was at the healthcare facility, twenty or so members from the Kirsch family accompanied Gene to Mass at Maternity of Mary. After Masses at their church, it is a tradition that the congregation prays an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be for the next parishioner to pass away. Little did the Kirsch family know that they were all praying for Eugene–he was to meet his heavenly reward later that week.

However, before he passed on, Gene continued to visit his wife. In fact, the whole family piled into their cars after Easter Mass and paid Mary a joyful visit. “My mom and dad kissed on Easter and had a wonderful day surrounded by children and grandchildren,” wrote Karen. But Gene wasn’t quite himself while his bride was in the facility. It was so sad for him to see the love of his life suffering. Two days after Easter–while Gene was sitting beside his wife–she slumped forward into his lap, unresponsive. His beloved wife never spoke or opened her eyes again. The family was called together to pray the Rosary at Mary’s bedside. They knew the end was near, and prayed that it would be peaceful.

The next day, the family made the decision to move both Mary and Gene into the Shoreview Senior Living Center with the intention of having them together. Mary received hospice care while their daughters began the difficult task of planning for her funeral. “In the nursing home, when I was reading Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscover Catholicism, to my parents, we all cried together. I felt both of their hearts were open and ready for God’s will,” said Karen.

A happy ending

Two days later, on the night of April 5, Gene and Mary were at the care center in their new beds–which were right next to each other. Some of their daughters were in sleeping bags on the floor. During the night, Gene got up to get a glass of water. In mid stride, he passed on–gently sinking to the ground as if he were carried in the arms of Jesus. “We thought God would take our mother first,” Vicki said, “and we knew that would be too hard on Dad.”

But God works in mysterious ways, and the Kirsch daughters now know that it was best that their father went first. They told their mother to look for Dad’s hand and go to heaven.

Two days later, Mary passed away peacefully. She had been anointed by Fr. Williams who had just returned from Italy. Mary and Gene–who loved to do everything together—were laid to rest on the same day. The Maternity of Mary altar was still decorated with the lovely Easter flowers that Mary admired each season. “They were a wonderful couple, something of a fixture at Maternity of Mary for decades,” Fr. Williams said. “They were likable and endearing. It was an honor for me to preside over their double funeral Mass – the first time such a thing has occurred for me in my nine years of serving as a priest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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