From the first day Seth Lardy entered the world just 26 weeks into his mother’s pregnancy, weighing in at 1 pound, 13 ounces, he would begin fighting for life.
Seth, now 27, and his twin brother Cord both survived the early arrival. Seth long believed God spared his life so he could serve the Lord as a priest. After high school, Seth entered the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona.
Facing another tough battle against academic challenges, he later discerned out of the seminary and moved back home near Alexandria. Lardy was still seeking answers about his vocational call and working with his spiritual director.
“After about two years, we finally came to the conclusion that God was calling me to married life and that I could start dating,” Seth recalled.
He signed up for a month of Catholic Match, an online dating site for Catholic singles.
“I prayed that if God wanted me to get married, he would make it happen soon because I only had four days left of my subscription,” he said. “On the last day, I saw Ashley and messaged her. She gave me her phone number and we talked for awhile.”
Seth first met Ashley Walz while she was studying at St. Mary’s University in Winona, the same college Seth attended while in seminary. Although they had only met briefly there, they had some of the same friends. So when he recognized her on Catholic Match, he reached out to her.
They formed an almost instant connection and started dating in October 2014. Ashley was in her senior year at the college while Seth was working in Alexandria. The next challenge they faced was the long-distance relationship.
“It was difficult at times,” Ashley said. “We were over five hours apart.”
But their relationship blossomed and the day before Ashley graduated from St. Mary’s, Seth proposed to her at her favorite spot on campus — in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother overlooking a pond, with her family watching from a distance.
“It was so beautiful, in a place that was so special to both of us, with my family there meant the world to me,” Ashley said.
The next day she graduated and soon after began a job in Monticello, still more than two hours away from Seth.
“It was a trying time for us. That June my grandma got really sick,” Ashley said. “In August, Seth’s grandpa, who was his best friend, died unexpectedly. In September, Father Roger Thoennes, who was a close friend and mentor of Seth’s, died. There was a lot of grief and emotion as well as living so far apart and trying to figure out how to navigate through all of that.
“We started to notice that Seth was really worn down and experiencing some depression. That’s when we got the diagnosis that Seth had cancer.”
They began seeing doctors and learned that Seth had chronic myeloid leukemia.
“I learned I would have to take oral chemo every day for the rest of my life to manage it, to basically survive,” he said. “That added to the anxiety and depression, and I became really irritable and crabby. That was a strain on our relationship. I didn’t want to burden Ashley with it.”
Their steadfast faith is what they relied on most over the next few months. They both adopted the saying, “Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be,” which is still displayed on a post-it note on their fridge.
The wedding planning took a pretty big pause, Ashley remembered, but she “never once [believed] that the love we had could be shaken by cancer.”
And in August 2016, the two tied the knot.
“It was not only a celebration of us, it was a celebration of everything we had gone through,” Seth said.
A month before their wedding, Seth bought his grandparents’ house in which they had lived for 43 years in Alexandria. After the wedding, Ashley moved to Alexandria, where they both work at Bethany on the Lake, a care facility.
The couple began trying to conceive a child right away knowing there was a potential for infertility because of the chemo medications Seth was taking.
“We were opposed to IUI [intrauterine insemination] or IVF [in vitro fertilization] because it was not in line with the church’s teachings,” Ashley said. “But we wanted to know what else we could do.”
They saw numerous specialists and went through referral after referral. They both knew they were open to adoption and had decided that they would begin looking into the process in early 2018.
A sign at church
On Mother’s Day last May, while still struggling with infertility, Ashley attended their church, Our Lady of the Runestone in Kensington. Confirmation students passed out roses to all of the mothers. Ashley’s heart was hurting until a woman, who knew of their struggle, gave her the last rose from the vase and said, “God told me that it was for you.”
Just a few months later on Sept. 5, Ashley received a Facebook message from a college classmate asking if they were interested in adopting anytime soon. Her boyfriend’s younger sister was expecting a baby and was already 29 weeks into her pregnancy.
“Our minds were reeling. We hadn’t done anything yet,” Ashley said. “We didn’t have a lawyer. We didn’t know the adoption laws. We knew there would be expenses we weren’t prepared for.”
That night they connected with the birth mother.
“The three of us talked for about an hour,” Ashley said. “She had talked to other couples but said she never felt comfortable until she talked with us. I think in our hearts and we all knew.”
The baby’s due date was Thanksgiving Day — just weeks away.
Seth and Ashley recall thinking, “We can’t do this. We haven’t had a home study. We have nothing ready.”
“What most people have nine months to prepare for, we had nine weeks,” Seth said.
They began calling their family and friends to start praying. Right away, Ashley posted on her blog and Facebook page about the news.
“Some people thought it was too early to post anything but we just knew we needed as many people praying as possible, not only for us, but for the birth parents, too,” Seth said.
Two weeks later, Seth and Ashley met with the birth parents and again, it was a safe and comfortable feeling. All involved felt it was a good fit. People in Seth’s and Ashley’s lives began to rally around them, donating things they would need, while Ashley and Seth waded through the legal process.
On Nov. 13, Ashley received a text that the birth mom had gone into labor. Seth and Ashley drove to Monticello, where Ashley’s mom continued to drive them the rest of the way to Winona — where the Lardys got engaged and where their son was about to be born.
“Since it was a five-hour drive, we received text updates along the way from the birth dad. When he texted me their room number at the hospital, that’s when it was real for me that this was really happening,” Ashley said.
They arrived in plenty of time to witness the birth of Declan Ryan Lardy.
“Everything was just so wonderful. Sometimes the hospitals have seen adoption families not have such a good experience. We know it wouldn’t have been like it was if God hadn’t been involved every step of the way. We have so much respect and love for the birth parents,” Ashley said.
The Lardys have been bombarded with love and support from friends and family, even people that they don’t know or know very well, they said, and from their parish communities — Our Lady of the Runestone, and the parish where Ashley was raised, St. Henry’s in Monticello.
“We are definitely a pro-life family,” Ashley said, “with Seth fighting for his life and building our life together and then welcoming this new life. We can’t stress enough the importance of adoption, the love the birth parents had for our son, it is a very selfless and wonderful decision.”
About this year’s poster
This year’s pro-life poster in the center of this issue of The Visitor features Ashley Lardy with her son, Declan Ryan Lardy. Readers are encouraged to display the posters in windows or on doors to remind people about how precious life is. If you would like additional copies of the poster, please contact the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family at 320-252-4721.