It was a very early hour when I left Kate O’Beirne’s hospital room with some of her dearest friends in the world, as her family kept vigil. In their generosity, they shared her last hours with us. It was hard to leave because we knew we would never see her alive again.
Before I got there, one of the priests ministering to her remarked that it was the first time she didn’t have the perfect line, the witty comeback. Kate, who served as Washington editor for National Review and a CNN Capital Gang commentator, was a natural at saying the right thing at the right time. Our friend Ann Corkery would always invite Kate to anything she was doing because Kate would always make things better — if there was the potential for personality clashes or a wallflower who might otherwise blend in and not talk, Kate would smooth things over and draw people out of themselves.
We — all of us blessed to know her — went to Kate for every kind of advice, including the time I was going to meet Pope Benedict XVI, representing all the women of the world, as the letter from the Vatican put it. She told me to meet her at Nordstrom in 30 minutes to make sure I looked the part.
At some point, probably a decade or more ago now, I was depressed reading things on the internet about me.
“Why are you reading it?” she asked. “Don’t.” This went to deeper advice: Don’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t be self-obsessed. She didn’t have to lecture to me or preach. Because she modeled it. Go out to others. Draw them into Christ.
This is what she did. She saw things in people we couldn’t see on our own. Kate made people want more. She left people wanting the joy and confidence she had. Kate drew people closer to God. She made Catholicism seem like the smart thing to do because she loved it and believed it and tried to live it with all her heart, as a wife and mother and sister and policy strategist and commentator and friend.
I first met Kate when I was an intern my freshman year of college at the Heritage Foundation on Capitol Hill. My first real job would be answering phones in the Washington office of National Review — which I wasn’t very good at, but I put my heart into (probably to an absurd degree). But, gosh, I loved being around Kate. The sheer numbers of people who would call her for advice on a daily basis is probably unquantifiable. You learned a lot just being around her. As a 20-year-old and decades later, in her final hours, too.
I went to noon Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I remembered being there with Kate many times, including for Masses of Christian Burial, most recently for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — the father of another former intern of hers, now Father Paul Scalia — and years earlier for former White House press secretary for George W. Bush, Tony Snow. She died at noon, while I was at Mass there, with Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P., whom we both loved.
Archbishop DiNoia is usually at the Vatican, where he lives and works, which she once described to me as feeling like “home.” And all of the hymns and readings were about Christ’s victory over death he won for us. She died that hour, while we sang “Alleluia!” so many times. Kate ran the race St. Paul wrote about. And even in her final hours radiated peace, as if to say to us one last time: Do not be afraid. You’re beloved.
Kate O’Beirne sure was. And it was a gift to be loved by her. May we all live fueled with the kind of hope she did.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).