Brendan Had Three Babies

A boy with Down Syndrome and leukemia who died at the age of 16 has left an amazing legacy.

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Every year on the anniversary of his passing, Brendan Kelly gives a little gift to a woman who was close with him. It has never been great big things, but always a kind of wink that Brendan is there, and that he loves her. This past May was the 10th anniversary of this 16-year-old boy’s passing, a boy with Down syndrome and a lifelong struggle with leukemia that eventually took his life. 

This year she waited and waited for the little gift that she expected. At the last minute, she was invited to a fundraising dinner for a local school here in Northern Virginia, and she thought that was a lovely little present from Brendan. It was bigger than that, though. That night, she sat at the table and struck up a conversation with a couple sitting near her, Joe and Roxanne Miller. Over the course of the evening, they realized that their little girl, Megan, also with Down syndrome, also with leukemia, had been on the cancer ward with Brendan nearly 16 years ago, when she was 11 months old. Megan was one of “Brendan’s Babies.”

Megan’s mom remembers vividly the day that Brendan and his team—family, doctors, priest—arrived with a flurry of activity onto the cancer floor at Inova Hospital in Fairfax County Virginia. She said there was an enormous bustle of activity and a kind of urgent sadness. Brendan would’ve only been six years old at the time. Megan’s mother remembers vividly to this day when they met: Brendan looked at her right in the eye and said, “I am going to offer up all of my suffering for your baby Megan.” 

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Megan was 11 months old at the time; today she is 16 and thriving, and the Miller family gives Brendan Kelly at least some of the credit. It should be noted that Megan had a much more aggressive, and even fatal form of leukemia than what Brendan had; yet she survived, and Brendan passed.

Brendan’s father, Frank, tells the story of another of Brendan’s Babies. Brendan was in the emergency care center at Boston Children’s Hospital; he noticed that there was a baby in the next room. The rooms were divided by windows with blinds that could open or close. Brendan noticed the baby never had any visitors. The nurses told him that the baby’s parents lived two hours away in New Hampshire, were not wealthy, and therefore could only visit the baby in the evening, and only for a short period of time. 

Brendan asked the nurse if he could move into the room with the baby. Of course, the nurse said that’s not possible. Brendan then asked if the blinds separating the two rooms could always be open so that he could keep the baby company and so that the baby would know that she was not alone. Brendan spent his days with his hand raised up to the window, holding the baby’s hand. When the baby’s parents came, Brendan could sleep. 

And then there is the story of Brendan’s third baby, a little girl named Bella, who was born with Trisomy 18, an almost always fatal condition. The doctors told Senator Rick Santorum and his wife, Karen, that their daughter would not survive childbirth, and they advised an abortion. Faithful Catholics, they declined. They gave birth to Bella and little did they know that their friend and neighbor, Brendan Kelly, was having his bone marrow transplant up at Boston Children’s Hospital. 

This is something of a brutal affair: poor little boy isolated in a sterile room with no human contact except through a hazy window and a scratchy intercom. And yet, the doctors and nurses could clearly hear Brendan offering his suffering for Bella Santorum. “Bella, I love you,” they could hear him say. To this day, the Santorums credit Brendan with the fact that Bella lived. She recently turned 14 years old.

Brendan Kelly died at the age of 16. He suffered greatly, died young, and brought many people to the faith. He was not a shepherd child living in poverty. He was the son of affluence and influence. His father was the head of government relations for many years for Deutsche Bank, now with private corporate clients all over the world. Before that he was a spokesman at the Justice Department and worked in the Bush White House.  Brendan Kelly died at the age of 16. He suffered greatly, died young, and brought many people to the faith. Tweet This

God sent Brendan a community that is almost like a desert, a community of vast power and fabulous wealth. He was sent to show that all lives are worth living. I believe Brendan is a canonizable saint, that he will become the patron saint of those with intellectual disabilities. There are many stories to tell about Brendan and his almost mystical faith. 

I get the feeling that Brendan right now is on the move. Six weeks ago, the priest giving the televised Mass at EWTN, from out of nowhere, started telling stories about Brendan’s life. Just a few weeks ago, a TikToker in Great Britain, a guy with 20,000 subscribers, did a three-part series about Brendan’s life. 

Brendan Kelly had three babies. Not bad for a 16-year-old boy with Down syndrome and leukemia.  

You would do well to offer your suffering for others, like Brendan teaches us to do. You would do well to ask Brendan for his prayers. Any favors you receive should be sent to me for his cause. Brendan Kelly, pray for us.

[Photo: Brendan Kelly, courtesy of the Kelly family]


tagged as: Catholic Living Saints

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