There is rarely anything uplifting about young death. Young death is a tragedy, a heartbreaking result of our fallen world, and God our Father only knows the reasons behind it.
Over this year’s Christmas holiday, young death most unfortunately visited a family near Charlottesville, Virginia. Dan and his wife, Kirsten, have two small children, ages 3 and 10 months. The couple struggled to conceive, even taking a visit to the St. Gerard Majella Shrine in Italy. Following the pilgrimage, God blessed them with two beautiful children, and the couple firmly believed St. Gerard watched over them throughout both pregnancies.
In the fall of last year, Dan and Kirsten knew something was wrong. Kirsten, 34, had been suffering unusual and persistent symptoms. She went through numerous tests, and by mid-November, a brain tumor was discovered. She underwent surgery two days before Thanksgiving, after which her headaches were much relieved. Within weeks, however, the symptoms returned, and she was transferred by ambulance, with her husband at her side, from Virginia to Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. With its experienced surgical team, this was the place that gave them the most hope. The goal of Kirsten’s physicians was to get her back to work.
Surgery was scheduled for the morning of Christmas Eve, but, after increasingly worsening symptoms, she was rushed into emergency surgery on Dec. 23. It took many hours, and Kirsten never regained consciousness. She suffered massive brain swelling during recovery. The doctors declared her brain dead on Dec. 26, and she passed away Dec. 27.
My heart breaks for Kirsten’s family, especially Dan, and I pray that they may find comfort. And I pray that Kirsten has found peace with the Father. Yet despite this difficult time, Dan and Kirsten continued to be people of strong faith, putting others before themselves and God before all.
“I cannot thank you all enough for your love, support, and countless prayers. They carried us both through this hellish last two months,” Dan wrote Dec. 25 in a Facebook group created to support the family. “A miracle made more sense to me, but one day we will all know why this was the best.
“If you were a first-time or infrequent prayer before becoming a Kirsten Crusader, please don’t stop. God is so in love with you and wants to keep that relationship going. If Kirsten’s illness helped improve people’s relationship with God, that will be a blessing.
“Kirsten would say, ‘thank them so much. Let them know I will be praying so hard for all of those who prayed for me.'”
There is rarely anything uplifting about young death. But these words are. Through intense suffering, a focus on Christ. Amid agony, a giving of self. May God reward Kirsten for her faithfulness, and may he hold Dan and their children tightly in his arms.