“This I command you: Love one another” – John 15:17
Kate Steigerwald, as I knew her, was one of those students with whom every educator would love to share life – generous, sparkling, totally comfortable in her own skin, full of questions to expand the boundaries of her faith, and ready to champion whatever cause or person was under-appreciated or misrepresented. My heart rejoiced when she landed in her vocation as a nurse and celebrated as she and Brandon Movitz made a lifetime commitment in marriage.
They were blessed first with the birth of their son Jude and just about a year ago, with baby Pierce.
In just 10 weeks, this family of love and faith moved through the paschal mystery from life to death with the loss of their infant son. From the joy of his birth to the indescribable pain of losing a child after 10 weeks, Kate and Brandon were desolate with grief, pivoting into the dark unknowing where answers are not always found and where the real test of life, of love and of who and what God is stood starkly in front of them.
On this first Friday of May, in a month when we celebrate Mary, a mother who grieved the loss of her son Jesus, as we begin a weekend honoring mothers of all kinds (those who bear children and those who nurture children born by others), and in this month when the Sacred Heart family honors Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, Kate and Brandon offer their story – the way that God enfolded them and the way that Pierce’s light refused to be extinguished and has instead become the shadow of love’s way.
Just days after Pierce died, Kate wrote:
“The days still certainly have their dark moments, but Brandon and I have come closer to God’s light and mercy more than ever before. Pierce’s passing has already changed so many lives and brought so many closer to Jesus. It’s absolutely breathtaking. I wanted to share a story that took place in the long hours of the day after he died.
I was sitting with a lot of family around us on the porch at my Nana’s house (she lives next door to us) and I was pleading to God out loud to please take Pierce to heaven. We had his baptism scheduled for the Sunday after Pierce died, and I was desperate to know that Pierce was in God’s arms.
Reeling and screaming up to God I finally yelled, ‘Please God let me know Pierce is safe with you.’ And in that moment a 20 foot branch from an old tree came crashing to the ground. We were all in awe with our mouths open in disbelief. We were able to laugh, and I thanked God repeatedly for such a clear sign that our boy was safe. Since that time, I haven’t for a second questioned where Pierce is. I know he is safely held in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We decided to have the branch turned into a bench (it was a HUGE branch) to always remember that life changing moment.
My dad’s best pal who loves wood working picked up the branch the next day and put it on his deck. The next morning, which was a week after Pierce passed away, he went outside to examine the branch, and the shadow the branch created on his birdhouse was unmistakably the image of Jesus and is a message of love to us.
We know that as we walk into the days ahead, Pierce’s light shines through us and the reflection cast can be seen in the heart of Jesus.”
May we be those who reflect the light of the heart of Jesus, keeping our eyes sharp and our hearts open for the mystery of love. And may we know healing in our broken spaces, that love is stronger than death and that faith moves mountains.
Reflection: Kate and Brandon Movitz in dialogue with Bridget Bearss, RSCJ. Kate Movitz is an alumna of Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Image: Photo by Kate Movitz