Becoming Holy

October Memories~Memory #1

on October 11, 2014
  •  081

I’m missing a few people tonight…some I’ve known, some I knew for a brief while and some I’ve never met…and they all share October as the month of their Heavenly births.  One of them, Fr. Robb Keller, was my best friend in the world, outside of Prince Charming. Fr. Robb had a gift of love and a gift of JOY. We met him our first Sunday in Twin Falls, Idaho, at St. Edward’s parish. He was passionate, engaging, and a delight to meet! My soul was scarred and my heart was stony following the loss of little Jennifer just months before. He seemed to pick up on that and invited the Prince and I to dinner a few months after meeting us. We’d never been to such a nice restaurant nor had such engaging conversation as that night!

Our friendship grew from there. I began meeting with Fr. Robb for Spiritual Direction. He introduced me to amazing books and tapes (yes, cassettes!) from Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating and more. I delved into “The Fire Within” by Thomas Dubay and fell in love with St. Teresa of Avila. I was drawn to daily Mass and joined the Liturgy Committee, where I met even more delightful friends. We began to feel a part of our St. Edward’s family. Fr. Robb knew how broken I was and was a listening ear when I needed to be sad about losing Jennifer. He listened without judgment or without admonishment. His only words were those of love. His daily homilies were short and sweet messages of how to live more like Christ.

I could go on and on…our family became very involved in the parish and enjoyed everyone we worked with. Fr. Robb was a source of pure JOY when we announced to him that we were expecting Madison. He said he already knew…that he could see a glowing light from my womb when I’d gone to receive Communion. I was not surprised. He had seen this with other women in our parish and had a deep connection with all his future “parishioners in the womb.”  

Fr. Robb was not well…he had COPD, most likely from years of smoking.  He was on the list for a lung transplant and was not able to act as full time pastor. The night before I went into labor, he called in an almost panic-like state.  “Please come to the Rectory,” he asked, “I need to pray over you.” Joe and I went to see him after Saturday night Mass.  Despite his struggle to breathe, he prayed an intense prayer for quite awhile over me and our baby~that we might be delivered safely. It was unsettling at first and then a tremendous peace came over me.  How interesting that I would go into labor the next day~Father’s Day~and have baby Madison and a serious hemorrhage during delivery. I knew in my heart that Fr. Robb’s prayer had delivered us from evil. 

His health continued to decline and soon I was expecting little Nicole.  More prayers and more joy.  He was now in Denver healing from his lung transplant.  She was born in March and Fr. Robb miraculously returned home just in time to baptize her at our house on Divine Mercy Sunday. Between the four girls, Fr. Robb performed two First Reconciliations, two First Communions and two Baptisms. He was a conduit of grace for us. 

Following his lung transplant, Fr. Robb was transferred to a smaller parish not too far away.  We continued to enjoy Friday night gatherings, phone calls and visits. I continued with spiritual direction and when I shared with him news of another pregnancy, he told me, “The Blessed Mother and St. Elizabeth are very happy. They are both smiling.” I asked him why and he did not know. This image gave me hope and strength to cope with morning sickness. A few months later, it confused me when I went to my regular exam and there was not heart beat. Joe was out of town and the roads were terrible. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my dear friend. I will never forget how he ministered to me during that dark time of loss. We waited a week and scheduled another ultrasound and a D & C. I prayed for a miracle but did not get the one I was seeking. Everything went black. I had no hope. I simply could not cope with another loss after Jennifer’s death. Each night, around six o’clock, the phone would ring.  It was always Fr. Robb.  He would say, “Precious heart, don’t say a word. I want you to know what a beautiful mom you are…what a beautiful wife and friend you are…”  He would continue on with positive messages for two to three minutes, give me his love and gently hang up. I would GRIP the phone, totally mute, with tears streaming down my face and TRY to believe that any of what he said was true. It was one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever been given.

Sadly, there were rough days ahead for Fr. Robb and he was removed from active ministry. In October, he suffered from an embolism and went unconscious on October 10. He was life-flighted to a major medical center and put on life support. All week long, I joined with many others who love him and prayed and prayed and prayed. The family had decided to remove him from life-support. I prayed he would breathe on his own and come back to us. I listened to Josh Groban all week. I scrubbed floors and toilets and cabinets and anything I could reach. It was a week of the most intense suffering I’ve known. On Friday, he was removed from life-support. His brother and housekeeper were praying the Rosary. On the third Hail Mary of the Second Joyful Mystery, Fr. Robb, lifted his right hand up in the air to grasp an invisible hand and took his last breath. When I heard this, I could not help but realize the 2nd Joyful Mystery is the Visitation of Mary to St. Elizabeth. I feel, in my heart, that this was the time for the image of the two of them smiling. Smiling that their precious priest had come home. I also could not help but note that Fr. Robb’s entrance into Heaven occurred on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila~my favorite saint because of his influence. This week, I will listen to Josh Groban, scrub my floors, read from “The Fire Within” and pray my rosary for Fr. Robb.  I will smile and thank God for the gift of so true a friend.

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