The arms of Mary and Don Kellett are aching for their son Peter these days because on August 20 their sweet child, age six and a half, was called home. He is now wrapped in the arms of the Holy Family. This disabled boy was somehow able to sprinkle lessons and blessings to people all over the world–even though he couldn’t walk or talk. Fr. Jim Livingston, who has known the Kellets since Peter was born, told me, “I’ve talked to people who have held him and they felt God’s presence. When I was blessing him once, I felt like I was reaching my hand into a pool of living water, and that I was the one receiving the blessing.”
When he was born, Peter’s doctors said he wouldn’t live two weeks; he was born with a chromosomal defect called Trisomy 18. Frustratingly, his parents were encouraged to abort him. Some people even had the gall to say, “Just wrap him in a blanket and let him die.”
From the beginning, Peter was a fighter and object of many prayers. He gained strength during his five weeks of neonatal intensive care. “I just dreamed of the day when I could hold him. I joked to the nurses that I was going to Superglue him to me,” said Mary to The Catholic Spirit, which in 2005 and 2006, featured their family’s journey.
During the years that Peter’s siblings had with him, they were great helpers and smothered him with kisses galore. And I’m told that Don is the St. Joseph-figure for the family; a very patient and loving man who would probably have to pry Peter out of Mary’s arms in order to have a turn holding him.
Prenatal Partners for Life is born
Peter’s family predicted that when his time came he would leave a lasting legacy–and he has. His life inspired his family, members of St. Raphael in Crystal, to found a website called Prenatal Partners for Life (www.prenatalpartnersforlife.org) which matches families who receive an adverse diagnosis with families who’ve given birth to a child with a similar condition. The experienced parents help the others embrace life and offer accurate information, support and encouragement. Mary stated:
There is a place in the world for children with special needs. We all are ‘differently-abled,’ with flaws and gifts. These children are teachers of our souls, and society desperately needs the lessons and blessings they bring.
Peter the Teacher
Like the child Jesus instructing the elders in the temple, so did tender Peter teach the young and old. “He achieved much in his life–he gave his family and those who knew him many teachable and touchable moments. That was his vocation,” said Deacon Sean Curtan, who along with his wife, Joan, is the coordinator of the Archdiocesan Outreach for Persons with DisAbilities. “God reaped a rich harvest from Peter’s life, not a drop of it was wasted. We can be sure he is surrounded by love as he was on Earth. Peter’s legacy lives on.”
His legacy is seen in a pamphlet Mary wrote for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2007 titled: Peter’s Story: Discovering Hope and Love after an Adverse Prenatal Diagnosis (To read, click here). This work is distributed to Catholics nation-wide and has helped many families. In it, Mary States so beautifully:
We are grateful for Peter, whom we call our “little teacher.” Even though he may never speak a word, he has taught us many important lessons about love, sacrifice, compassion, patience, hope and faith. He has transformed the way we look at life and has broadened our view on the deeper meaning of the sacredness of all human life made in the image of God. Peter is teaching us what Jesus taught, and he is a tremendous source of grace. He is a sweet, happy little boy who knows and loves his family. In many ways he is my easiest child out of the eleven.
Fr. Livingston said that the most important thing about Peter is that he was the face of meekness. “Often we are so proud and strong that we don’t appreciate the blessedness of this gift Peter taught us. We live in a fast-paced, high-powered world. We have super-charged engines and he taught us to yield.”
Deacon Sean said, “We know he walked right into heaven.”
And I have a feeling that as soon as he got there, everyone lined up to hold him!