Georgie’s story: Choosing life when the prognosis is death


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I wrote the following story for the Catholic Review. Treasa and I hope it will be of help to others facing similar circumstances. To see the original story, published Jan. 22, 2015, visit the Catholic Review.GeorgeTreasaGeorgie hands on belly

The ultrasound technician who gently swept a probe across my wife’s gel-covered belly spoke hardly a word as she collected flickering images of our wriggling 20-week-old unborn baby.

“The baby definitely doesn’t like fireworks,” I offered, recounting how just a few weeks earlier our little one had demonstrated his disdain for pyrotechnics by giving some forceful kicks during a Fourth of July show.

The technician remained quietly focused on the monitor, analyzing tiny hands and feet, measuring limbs and listening to the beating heart.

A few minutes went by.

Then another two or three.

Then maybe five more.

The silence was excruciating.

“Have you had genetic testing?” the woman finally asked, not looking away from the screen.

“No,” I said, my heart sinking.

The technician excused herself and was replaced by a fetal medicine doctor who stood at the foot of Treasa’s bed.

Our baby’s heart was not properly formed, the doctor said, and there were other anomalies. Trisomy 18, a genetic condition that occurs in one of every 2,500 pregnancies in the United States, was the suspected culprit. If the baby made it full term, the doctor said, he would likely live only a day or two after birth.

The weight of the pronouncement was crushing. I wept as I embraced Treasa, looked into her eyes, and repeated again and again a phrase I felt more intensely than ever: “I love you.”

My tears flowed not only for our baby, but in anticipation of the pain I knew would be Treasa’s constant companion in the months to come.

In a reference to abortion, the doctor told us we had to make a decision.

No further discussion was needed. Treasa and I knew that life is a gift from God – and that it begins at conception. We would go forward with the second half of the pregnancy despite the many challenges we would likely encounter. We were determined to give our son every opportunity at life and not extinguish it because others may have deemed it less-than-worthy.

In choosing life, we chose sorrow.

But we also chose joy.

Power of faith

GeorgeandTreasa2A few days after receiving the diagnosis, Treasa and I met with Monsignor Arthur Valenzano, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.

We knew that Monsignor Valenzano, a concelebrant at our 2012 wedding at the basilica, had faced difficult battles with cancer. We wanted to emulate his positive attitude and his trust in divine providence.

Monsignor Valenzano prayed with us and read the passage from Jeremiah, 1:4-8, that reminded us that God knew us before he knitted us in the womb. Never forget, Monsignor Valenzano said, that God chose us to be parents of this particular baby. Out of all the people in the world, he chose us.

The priest’s words were uplifting, and over the course of the next few months, we found strength in our faith.

Several priests offered prayers and encouragement, with Father T. Austin Murphy Jr., pastor of Our Lady of Hope in Dundalk and St. Luke in Edgemere, giving Treasa the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Many others prayed for us, too, showering us with love.

Each night, Treasa tenderly placed on her belly treasured relics of St. Francis Xavier, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Martin de Porres and St. Padre Pio, praying for the intercession of the saints.

Then, like a bolt from above, we received unexpected news. A blood test showed that our son did not have Trisomy 18. He still had significant cardiac issues and other anomalies, but he might at least have a fighting chance.

We transferred our care to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, whose world-renowned medical experts were best equipped to treat our son. They explained that our baby’s biggest issues were a rare heart condition called Double Outlet Right Ventricle (DORV) and a backflow of blood through the tricuspid valve.

It wouldn’t be easy, but if our son could make it to birth, the cardiac doctors at Hopkins were confident they could surgically repair his weakened heart.

Author of life

As we approached our son’s December due date, we became regulars at the hospital, visiting weekly and often twice a week. Doctors became increasingly concerned about what they saw during fetal monitoring in those latter days, keeping us overnight on one occasion as a precaution.

Dr. Irina Burd, a skilled Hopkins doctor who became our most trusted confidant, was with us throughout the many ups and downs.

Despite our high hopes and our son’s fighting spirit, his heart couldn’t hold out. On Oct. 31, 2013, six weeks before his due date, our baby’s heart beat one final time in his mother’s womb. He was gone.

Treasa gave birth to George Paul Matysek III on Nov. 2, 2013, eight days before our first wedding anniversary. The images of the first moments of the arrival of the little boy who shared my name and the name of his grandfather will forever be seared in my memory.

His little jaw fell open, but there was no cry.

His feet and fingers were long like mine, but they did not wiggle.

His eyes were closed, and they would never open.

Treasa, the woman whose courage and unwavering devotion to our son inspired me every day, was the first to hold our handsome baby; then she gave him to me. We did not cry, but together marveled at the 18-inch long miracle that was the product of our love.

FOOTPRINTSWhat a gift it was to be able to see our son and feel the weight of his three pounds and two ounces in our arms. I later had the honor of carrying Georgie the final time on this earth when I lifted him in his tiny white casket to his burial spot at the cemetery.

“The gift of little Georgie’s life is something that will be part of you and everyone else for the rest of our lives because it didn’t go away,” Monsignor Valenzano said at Georgie’s memorial Mass at the basilica. “It just changed.”

The priest, who had blessed Georgie both in the womb and at the hospital after his birth, assured us that Georgie is our advocate in heaven. We have no doubt about that, knowing that he watches out for us and especially his beautiful baby sister who was born in October.

Though his life on earth was brief, Georgie’s legacy goes on.He drew Treasa and me more closely together than ever. He inspired his young cousins who never met him but who visit him frequently at the cemetery, speaking with him just like any other member of the family. He helped show the world that the value of life doesn’t derive from its utility or longevity, but from its very being.

The Author of Life blessed us with a child who would change our lives forever. How grateful we are to have been given that blessing.


Where to go for help

Photos (from top): Treasa and George Matysek rest their hands on their son, Georgie, while he was still in the womb; Treasa and George found joy in their son’s brief life; Georgie’s footprints are stamped on a hospital certificate on Nov. 2, 2013, the day he was delivered; One of Georgie’s cousins waters roses during a summer visit to the grave site.


What not to tell your wife in the middle of the night


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It had been a long but fun-filled Easter weekend, and George and I were completely wiped out. I think I was out cold as soon as my head hit the pillow. So when George woke me up about an hour and a half later, I was bleary, groggy, and still mostly asleep.

That didn’t last too long.

After all, when your husband wakes you up to inform you that he just saw a huge bug crawling up your wall, you wake up. Or at least I do.

And when he further informs you that he lost track of this bug and doesn’t know where it went, you suddenly become quite alert.

I don’t like bugs. Especially if they’re on my wall or ceiling or some other location from which they could potentially get to me. And especially if they are large enough that I can’t comfortably squash them with my bare hand. Or a Kleenex. Or a shoe. Or a flyswatter.


I generally like to think of myself as a gentle person. But there is something about creepy, crawly things that brings out my bloodthirsty side.

In fact, I have such an aversion to bugs that, in my parents’ house (where I lived until our wedding), when I walked into a room, I often looked up and did a quick scan of the ceiling, just to make sure all was safe. A lesson learned through experience.

It drove my mother crazy.

But I hadn’t been doing that as much in my new home.

Until now.

I don’t remember what George’s exact words were that evening. But what I remember from my mostly-asleep state is that he described the bug as “the size of a starfish.”

I have no idea how large a starfish George was talking about, but even a small one is bigger than any bug I would want crawling up the wall near my bed.

Starfish 1

I told him that he’d better turn on the light. After some insisting on my part and some struggling to plug the lamp in on George’s part, light flooded the room.

Neither of us saw anything crawling up the wall.

Eventually we both managed to go back to sleep, but my dreams that night featured a very large bug.

The next day, as we discussed the event, George had no recollection of comparing the bug to a starfish. So we suspect that he dreamed the whole thing and woke me up while he was still partially asleep himself. He probably had bugs on his mind after having squashed a two-inch centipede that made a brief appearance in our bathroom earlier that morning.

Nevertheless, I told George that the next time he sees a starfish-sized bug crawling up our wall while I’m asleep, not to wake me up to tell me he lost track of it.

He can tell me about it once the bug has been slaughtered.

In the meantime, I’m getting to know our ceilings pretty well.

Waiting for God


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Ever since our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced his resignation, the Catholic Church has been waiting. Waiting and praying and wondering: How would this unexpected transition transpire? Who would be the new pope? What would this all mean for our Church? When will smoke come out of that chimney?


Nobody likes it.

But we have all experienced it.

On Tuesday, the first day of the conclave, I waited excitedly to see the smoke come out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Nobody really expected it to be white, but I was eager to see the smoke anyway. So I kept a tiny live streaming video of the smokestack open in a corner of my computer screen as I did my work.

The smoke still hadn’t appeared (although it seemed long past when it should have) when I was called away to assist my manager. As I helped answer his question, my mind, half occupied by the chimney I could no longer see, turned suddenly and unexpectedly to the years, months, and days before George and I were married.

Photo from

Photo from

I had waited what seemed a long time before finding George (but he waited even longer to find me, so I can’t complain). If waiting meant I got to marry George, it was definitely worth it – and, looking back, the wait was quite necessary. George and I found each other at the perfect time.

We didn’t have to wait all that long to get married, but a day can seem like a year to two people who are ready to begin their new life together. Some days the wedding seemed an eternity away.

In the months before the wedding, I had often told myself just to be patient – the wedding would arrive eventually. And it did.

In the blink of an eye, months had passed, and I was walking down the aisle with my father toward the man I will spend my life with.

Photo by AppleTree Studios

Photo by AppleTree Studios

The wait was necessary, as we prepared ourselves for the step we were about to take. But in that moment, the wait was forgotten.

As I yearned to be back at my computer watching the smokestack, wishing smoke would come out already, and as I wished a pope had been chosen so that we would be done with the suspense that comes with not knowing who the new Vicar of Christ would be, I thought of our wedding and all the waiting that led up to it.

Waiting isn’t fun.

But I know that things happen in God’s time (although I have to remind myself of that a lot). And I knew that eventually we would have a new pope, whether that would be in a few minutes or a few days; I just had to be patient and wait.

And I knew that once our new pope was announced, the wait would be forgotten – all we would feel would be joy.

And I was right.

Last night as I drove home from work, all I could think of was the joyousness of the day and the love I felt already for our Holy Father.

The wait is over.

A few months ago, I felt like shouting to the world, “Habeo maritum Georgium!”

But yesterday it was all about Pope Francis.

Habemus Papam!

Pope Francis1

Photo from

Resistance is Futile


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When I agreed almost a year ago to marry George, I had no idea what I was getting into.

He seemed like such a nice, normal guy. He liked to dance. He went to Mass every Sunday. He had won a house. What wasn’t to like?

Little did I know what lay beneath the surface.

It wasn’t until after the wedding that the truth came out:

I am married to a Trekkie.

USS Enterprise(Photo from Wikipedia)

USS Enterprise
(Photo from Wikipedia)

Before the wedding, he probably mentioned that he liked Star Trek. But I just added it to my mental list of his likes and dislikes. When he said he liked Star Trek, it never occurred to me that he really liked Star Trek.

But when I saw his excitement over the upcoming Star Trek movie, I began to realize that this was more than a passing fancy.

So I tried to play along, tried to be supportive (or at least tolerant) of something my husband enjoys.

Shortly before Christmas, when I spotted a Star Trek Pez dispenser collection at a nearby store, I snapped it up. What better way to combine two of our hobbies? I figured we’d put the Pez on display somewhere and that would be the end of it.


How wrong I was.

George seemed startled that I didn’t know the names of the Pez characters. To his dismay, my understanding of Star Trek didn’t go much beyond “Beam me up, Scotty,” which until a few months ago I would have imagined being spoken by a Patrick Stewart with pointy ears.

Now I know better.

Now I know that Jean-Luc Picard and Scotty are from completely different generations and that Spock is the one with the pointy ears.

My Star Trek knowledge still leaves much to be desired (at least according to George). And so somehow I have agreed to watch the shows, starting with Season 1 of the original series. The DVD has arrived at the library for me; we just have to go pick it up.

I feel as though I am facing the Borg.

I am going to be assimilated.

A Wedding Novena


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“Maybe it’s time to start a novena or something,” my matron of honor emailed me last week. We had been discussing some of the last-minute stress related to the wedding.

Her suggestion struck me.

Say a novena in the nine days leading up to the wedding? What a wonderful idea!

So I did some searching online for an appropriate novena. I found that there had been a few other brides and grooms out there who had had the same idea. But there didn’t seem to be any novena written specifically to say in the nine days leading up to a wedding.

No big deal. One of the many wonderful things about novenas is that you get to mention your own intention, so whatever novena I chose would therefore become a novena for our marriage.

One bride had posted on an online forum that she had used a novena to St. Joseph. I checked it out and loved it. St. Joseph is the patron of married people and one of the saints I prayed to for years to help me find a good Catholic husband. He seemed like a good choice.

I suggested to George that we invite our families and the Catholic members of our wedding party to join us in the novena. It didn’t seem too demanding to ask them to spend a few minutes in prayer throughout the nine days before the wedding, starting on November 1 and ending November 9.

George readily agreed, of course.

But maybe we have some other friends out there who would like to join us in this prayer, too? We know that we already have quite a few people praying for us, and that means so much to us. Knowing that we are surrounded by the prayers of our family and friends as we begin our new life together makes us feel incredibly loved and supported.

If anyone would like to join us in our novena to St. Joseph, we would be so grateful.

The house that George won


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It was a couple hours since George had gotten down on one knee and asked me to marry him. After wandering DC looking for some food, we had finally taken the Metro to Chinatown and, completely famished, had gotten a table at the first restaurant we saw.

As we waited for our food, we happily discussed our future life together.

But then George said, “At some point we should discuss where we’re going to live after we get married.”

I stared blankly at him.

“George, you own a house,” I finally managed to get out.

“Yes,” he said. “But I don’t want you to feel that you have to live there if you don’t want to. We can start in a new house if you’d like. We can talk about it.”

There were two facts I knew about George long before I met him: 1) he is an amazing swing dancer,

and 2) he won a house. Yes, you read that right. He won a house. He bought a $10 raffle ticket one day at the grocery store – a raffle that benefited a charity in support of the homeless – and won a house more than a decade ago. Sure he had to pay taxes on it and all that. But he still won a house.

The idea that we would live anywhere else had never crossed my mind.

“Ok, let’s just have this discussion now,” I replied. “This is an easy discussion. You own a house. You have no mortgage. Are you crazy? We’re living there.”

And so the decision was made.

And along with that decision, in an attempt to make sure I will feel perfectly at home, George gave me free rein to do whatever I want with the house.

On November 10th, George’s house will become my home, too.

I won’t be able to say I won it the way George can.

But I won the owner of the house, which, in my opinion, is even better.

A mile to go



I have heard it said that love makes people do crazy things.

I am living proof of that.

I haven’t jumped off a building or dived into shark-infested water. No. Nothing like that.

I’ve started going running.

And once I even ran a whole mile all the way through. Without stopping.

Anyone who has known me since high school can tell you that this is a sign that I must have gone crazy.

In high school, we were required to run a timed mile each year. Or, I guess I should say that we were required to get ourselves the distance of a mile in whatever way we could by the power of our legs, be that running, walking, skipping, or hopping on one foot. I would start out running, which probably lasted for the first 1/8 of the mile. And then I walked. Maybe I ran a little bit more here and there, and I always ran to the finish line. But there was definitely a lot of walking in that mile.

I have never run for fun. Because it wasn’t fun.

But then I started dating George. Shortly after we started doing things together, George ran the 5K in the Baltimore Running Festival. A week or so after that, he ran in another race sponsored by a Catholic church in Baltimore. I quickly realized that I was dating someone who found running fun.

George running in the 2012 Baltimore Running Festival 5K.

I found this fascinating. How could anyone enjoy running? I decided I must be missing something.

So sometime last spring, when he was starting to prepare for another upcoming race, I asked if I could go running with him.

And then I asked again not long after that. And again.

I still have a long way to go to be able to run in a 5K with George, but I’ve made a lot of progress.

My goal is to run in a race with George sometime in 2013. And to be able to keep up with him. (I hear there are some mile-long races out there, which sounds quite doable. I can’t believe I just said that.)

I still don’t know that I would call running itself “fun,” but running with George is pretty enjoyable.

He would never force me to go running or to run more than I feel able to. But he pushes and encourages me just enough. And I push myself the rest of the way.

When my father heard that we were going running one evening, he looked shocked. “Wow,” he said. “I guess this really must be love.”

I think he just might be right.

Picture time


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On a sunny, cloudless Sunday afternoon in September, Treasa and I participated in an engagement photo shoot at the Inner Harbor – one of our favorite spots in Baltimore. Shane Cleminson of Apple Tree Studios was excited to use a new camera during the session, and he posed us at various sites ranging from the Power Plant to foot bridges.

At the end of the shoot, Shane asked if there was anything special we’d like to do.  For us, that was an open invitation to lindy hop. Needless to say, it was pretty fun.

Here are just a few of our favorite shots. Thank you, Shane, for doing a great job!

I did say “Yes,” didn’t I?


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I knew George was going to propose.

I didn’t know when. I didn’t know how. But I knew it was coming.

We had been talking about marriage for months, and we both knew that we were headed in that direction. I had told George that I didn’t need an elaborate proposal or an expensive ring. (And I dropped some not-so-subtle hints that I would not appreciate a proposal in front of a lot of people.) But I also knew him well enough to know that telling him that wasn’t going to change his desire to get down on one knee to ask me to marry him while holding out a diamond ring.

Every time we went on an outing in a semi-romantic setting, it would be in the back of my mind that it could possibly be the day George would propose.

And March 31st was no different.

As we walked around the Tidal Basin, it crossed my mind that it might happen. And then we sat down on a bench. And George started saying how much he loved me. And then… nothing happened. We got up from the bench and kept on walking.

“Ok,” I thought. “Obviously this is not going to be the day.” And I forgot about the possibility of a proposal and continued to enjoy the beautiful day with George.

Less than 10 minutes later, George asked to sit down again.

You would think that this would have made me suspicious. But, instead, it made me worried. Anyone who knows George knows he is not the type to get tired after a few minutes of leisurely strolling. This is a man whose polka is the equivalent of running a marathon. Proposals were far from my mind, and I was genuinely concerned that George was already tired again after our rest just a few minutes ago.

View of Washington Monument from our bench

So we sat. And I took some photos of the view of the Washington Monument from our bench in between watching a man fishing as he walked along the Tidal Basin.

And then George started telling me again how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, as he has already detailed in his account of the proposal.

I remember him saying that. In fact, I could have quoted that part of the proposal word for word for you.

I also remember that after he said that, I almost jokingly said to him, “Is that a proposal?”

But then he kept going, with tears in his eyes, and suddenly I realized that it was a proposal. And that’s when my memory fails me. I have no idea what he said after that. I assume at some point he asked me to marry him. I am pretty sure I said “Yes.” I seem to recall saying “Oh my goodness” a few times. And I definitely remember at one point saying, “I did say, ‘Yes,’ didn’t I?”

I’m glad George was able to savor the moment. Because I can’t say I was.

To say I was stunned is pretty accurate.

I wasn’t stunned that George wanted to marry me. As I said, we had talked about it, and I knew it was coming eventually.

It was the fact that it was actually happening. Right then.

Even months later, I am still amazed that George was able to catch me completely by surprise – he should be grateful for that mucky water in front of the first bench we sat on.

And I will never forget that day – or at least the parts that I remember. It was a perfect day with the perfect proposal – perfect because George asked me to marry him.

‘We’ve got a most important date to zet’


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There were several ways I thought of asking Treasa to marry me. Since we were nearing the Easter season when I was ready to propose, I initially thought of writing the question in invisible ink on an egg, and then scheduling a day of dying Easter eggs together.

That didn’t seem romantic enough, and there was no guarantee the ink would work.

I could have done it at one of the Irish ceili dances we often attend or at an Orioles’ game, but I may not have gotten the answer I wanted had I put Treasa in the spotlight at such a public event.

Treasa’s birthday was approaching, but that would have been too obvious – plus it would have meant waiting more than a month when I was eager to propose as soon as I could.

I settled on Washington, D.C.

We had long talked about strolling along the tidal basin when the cherry trees were in bloom. Why not do it there?

On the morning of March 31, I picked up Treasa for the trip to the nation’s capital. As I stood on her doorstep when I arrived at her home, I paused before ringing the bell.

She was playing the piano – “Zing a Little Zong,” made famous by Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman in the movie, “Just for You.” I stood there silently admiring her talent – smiling in the knowledge that this wonderful person would likely become my wife one day soon. I later looked up the lyrics and discovered that they couldn’t have been more appropriate to the occasion.

Oh! Zing, zing, zing, it’s getting late my pet

We’ve got a most important date to zet

I’m sure that we will make a great duet

And we can zing a little love zong all night long.

Our first stop in Washington was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In a nod to the Polish heritage of my mother’s side of the family, we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa and said some prayers before hopping on the Metro.

For several days, I had worried about rain ruining the day. Forecasters warned of a 40 percent chance of showers. The skies were cloudy and there was a slight chill in the air, but no rain appeared. Instead, kites soared above the Washington Monument on the National Mall.

I hadn’t scouted out a spot to make the proposal, but I knew I wanted to do it somewhere along the tidal basin. My plan was to wait until there was a good moment when there weren’t too many people around.

I saw my opportunity as we approached an empty bench with a nice view of the monument.

“That bench has our name on it,” I said, turning toward Treasa.

We sat, and I was ready to ask the question before I realized that right in front of us was a patch of mucky water. It suddenly seemed a less-than-ideal site, so I put the brakes on unleashing the question.

After a few minutes, we resumed our stroll along the basin. I was wearing the same Ravens shirt I wore the day I invited Treasa to a Ravens party at my house – the fateful day that brought us together. Over top the Ravens’ shirt, I sported a green hoodie emblazoned with one word: “Irish.” Treasa had given it to me for a St. Patrick’s Day present. I wasn’t taking any chances. Wearing those two shirts would give me some extra insurance.

Most of the cherry blossoms had already fallen off the branches, but there were a few trees still in bloom, their delicate petals withstanding a slight breeze.

Before long, we approached another empty bench, and I asked to sit down again. Treasa seemed a bit surprised that I asked to sit down only a few minutes after we had rested on the first bench, but she agreed.

I waited a few minutes for a man who was fishing in front of us to move along. Then, I put my arm around Treasa and felt myself filling with emotion. This was the moment.

I began telling her how much she meant to me before I knelt on one knee.

“I love you more than anything in the world,” I said, unable to stop a few tears from rolling down my cheeks. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

I pulled out the ring I had been carrying in my pocket, and waited for her response.

Treasa seemed somewhat stunned.

“Yes,” she said, simply.

I remained on my knees – savoring one of the most important moments of our lives and oblivious to passersby. Noticing that I was in an almost-paralyzed state, Treasa finally said, “You can sit down.”

We embraced and Treasa put on the ring. My plan worked!

After dinner in Chinatown, we returned to the National Basilica and the Our Lady of Czestochowa shrine. Kneeling in the chapel, hand-in-hand, we began our engagement by saying a Hail Mary together and lighting a candle. As we were leaving the basilica, Treasa noticed that one of the readings that was being proclaimed during a Mass in the main church just happened to be her favorite. We stopped to listen on the vigil of Palm Sunday.

“At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend,” the lector said.

Treasa is the woman I want to be my wife.

And she said yes.

–Photos by Treasa Beyer and willing strangers.


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