Are saints relevant to our contemporary lives in a time when secularism and doubt prevail? How do they act in our modern world of frenzied egos, money and power?
My wife, Dr. Amy Josephine Reed, passed on to eternal life on May 24 after close to four years of battling an aggressive cancer. Her funeral Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia and was attended by hundreds of family, friends and supporters, and presided over by Father Daniel Ruff, S.J.
Amy was a daughter of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, born in Bristol in 1973. She was the 1991 valedictorian graduate of Villa Joseph Marie High School, run by the Sisters of St. Casimir. Her portrait hangs in the school lobby on its “Wall of Fame,” hailed for saving countless women across the world from disaster and death.
Amy was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Penn State University and a member of the Golden Key Honor Society. She earned two doctorates, a MD and a PhD, from the University of Pennsylvania while she simultaneously bore three of our children. She was dual board certified in anesthesiology and critical care medicine.
She played a leadership role in the treatment of critically injured victims of the Boston Marathon bombing – and she also cared for one of the perpetrators.
But most important, she was the mother of our six beautiful children and a beloved wife, daughter and sister. Her final words to me on the morning of her passing were, “I love our children.” She was a modern woman and by all measures a miracle worker, as a mother, a doctor, a scientist, a friend, a daughter and a wife.
Amy’s cancer was diagnosed in October 2013. It was a bad cancer, known as leiomyosarcoma. But her prognosis was made radically worse because the cancer had been spread and upstaged in her body by a medical device called a power morcellator.
This device had been spreading uterine cancers in up to one in 300 unsuspecting women undergoing surgery for fibroids of the uterus – causing their premature or needless deaths for over 20 years.
Amy was the first to recognize this deadly hazard and report it to federal authorities at the Food and Drug Administration. What ensued was a large-scale and well-publicized public health battle with an entrenched gynecological establishment, which in defending and justifying the collateral damage the device caused to unsuspecting women used the slogans of “majority benefit” and “patient choice.”
As Amy’s public battle raged on in November 2013, her Catholic faith came fully to the surface of her consciousness. I know for a fact that the devotion to St. George, the Slayer of Dragons, became real and present to her, giving her an extraordinary power to fight.
I attest that St. George called on Amy as a knighted queen in the medical establishment, fighting a multi-headed dragon only she had the capacity to fight. An earthly monster of man’s creation — made and fed by ego, greed, ethical complacency, incorrect medical reasoning and corporate corruption — a dragon Amy has very certainly killed. I, and many of our friends and family, almost jokingly started calling her Georgina.
I write with certitude about what I, and many others, bore witness to in my wife’s battle on this earth. I attest that when a life begins to resonate specifically with the spirit of a saint, the Lord’s path and the Lord himself is not far – as was the case with Amy.
Amy’s fight with an earthly disease and with a corrupted establishment, in fact, led this beautiful woman — a worker of modern day miracles — to enormous bodily and mental suffering, and ultimately to her premature earthly death. She bore this anguish with the grace and stoicism of our Lord. And many stood witness to her passion.
But this brings me to Amy’s final days on God’s earth. What follows are the remarkable and verifiable temporal facts our family and friends all bore witness to.
Amy served the altar of the Lord at St. Andrew Church, Newtown, on April 1 as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion during the Saturday evening vigil Mass. That night the Gospel story was of Lazarus’ death and raising to life by Jesus. On Monday morning, April 3, Amy suffered cardiac arrest from a large bleeding tumor in her abdomen. By all modern medical measures Amy was dead.
A massive effort by friends, family and medical professionals — and many prayers for intercession — led her to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. On Easter weekend Amy woke up from a coma that many knew, with certainty, had caused brain death. But she was alive and awake, with us on Easter.
What followed her awakening was 40 days of grace for our family and all her friends and supporters. I and many others bore witness to this grace. During these 40 days she opened the doors to redemption and reconciliation for many. She brought love, hope, strength and peace to many.
Then on the eve of Ascension Thursday she passed away in our home in Yardley surrounded by our children, our family and friends.
So I go to the original question I started with: Are the saints relevant to our modern lives? Amy J. Reed MD, PhD, said “Yes” and gave us testimony.
St. George, a martyr who is depicted as the slayer of dragons, inspired Amy to kill a modern-day dragon. And as she did, she followed the Lord’s path to walk in his steps.
Because she lived and fought on this earth, countless women who will not even know her name, and their families, will be saved from disaster and death.
What is a modern-day saint? This question has been answered by this daughter of St. Casimir and St. George: Amy Josephine Reed MD, PhD – beloved mother, wife, physician, defender of women and faithful and imperfect servant of our Lord.
Georgina of Yardley — patron of mother-physicians and defender of women – pray for us.