Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

A Memorial Service for Unborn Babies

Psalm 34:18-19 (ESV)

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

IMG_0301The following was taken off of another person’s blog page back in 2007 (with permission) in response to a memorial service we held at a church I was serving.  I have held this type of service several times in different churches and I am contemplating holding at my present church – First United Methodist Church of Laurel.

We held a memorial service complete with Scriptures – songs – testimonies – and a time of prayer and contemplation.  We encouraged folks who came to write letters to their lost children.  Some had not processed their grief and this was a powerful way to do so.  Some weren’t sure there were folks who could understand their pain until we gathered them together.  We provided a small box for the letters and we buried it in the churchyard.  Some years we planted special plants over the spot so that families had a place to return to grieve if they needed it.  Here is what this one person wrote on their blog page.

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My dearest friend invited my husband and me to a memorial service at her church tonight.

I just thought this was the sweetest thing. As her pastor mentioned this last week at their worship service, we were the first people that she thought of. It touches me that others would think of me – think of ways to help me move on through my bereavement and commemorate my lost babies. People who want to see my life for more than single acts of tragedy. You know how they say friends are a gift you give yourself? Well, this really makes me understand that statement.

I have written two letters, one for each of my angels. I wanted them each to have different letters because they are two distinct children. I didn’t want to lump them in one category simply because they both wound up in Heaven. While I wrote the letters, my tears flowed endlessly down my cheeks and onto my keyboard. With each keystroke, another tear would fall. My love and my anguish spilled out of me like lava. How I so miss my babies. I miss the faces I’ll never see. I miss the chubby cheeks I’ll never get to kiss. I miss the feathery hair I’ll never get to run against the pads of my fingertips. I miss the shriek of their laughter that I’ll never get to hear. I miss these things so intensely that they feel real. It’s as if I’ve seen it all before somewhere in another life. But I realize it is only in my dreams. They just seem so lifelike. And how I wish they were.

I go about my daily life and each day I grow closer to accepting their losses. I don’t cry every day. I can think of them without becoming a ball of fiery emotion. As a matter of fact, I often picture them happy and smiling, playing lovingly together – looking down on us, telling us not to be sad. But there will always be two pieces of my heart that are gone. Tonight, I hope I can fill those voids as I pray. If only temporarily.

My friend and her mom were there waiting for us as we arrived at the church, 20 minutes late. I felt so ashamed. I was late to my babies’ memorial service. How bad of a mother could I possibly be? I tried to put it out of my mind and focus on the pastor’s words.

Right after we arrived, they showed the video clip about miscarriage. They showed an ultrasound picture with a little baby in the womb. Little baby clothes. Making plans. And then finding out the heartbeat is gone. I just lost it, as this was my situation with our second loss. I could not hold in my tears anymore. I just burst out sobbing, uncontrollably. Snot running down my lips and chin. My husband was on my right and my dear friend was on my left, comforting me. I felt embarrassed to put on such a scene but at the same time, it is what I needed. I needed to let go of those memories. Let go of all the things I have been holding onto so tightly. Thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes. It is just so hard to think that my babies are up in Heaven and I can’t touch them or see them. I want that control and yet I have to relinquish it.

There were so many women there. Some got up in front of the group and shared their stories of grief. One woman, whose 2-day old son died from SIDS, talked about how things get harder as time goes on – not easier. She sees everyone else moving on but she is stuck in time. She will always remember his birthday, while everyone else forgets. She went on to have another son but her baby boy will always be a part of her. A second woman spoke about her miscarriages and stillbirth in late pregnancy. Her daughter was there that night and had lost twins at 6 weeks. She said that despite her losses, she knew God had a plan for her. She was blessed with her daughter and another child that she may not have had if not for her losses.

Again, I felt the guilt wash over me. I haven’t been to church in over a year – since my husband and I were married to be exact. I believe in God but I never believed I needed a church to pray or live my life in a Christian way. And yet, while I sat there in the pew, I felt as though I had let God down. I felt guilty for not coming to a house of worship until now to grieve and ask for help. When I lost my babies, I blamed Him rather than asked for His hand to guide me. I questioned His existence, and asked why He would take my babies from me. And here in church, I saw firsthand that I was not being punished. I had been wrong. And I felt ashamed that I had so easily cast aside my faith in my time of need.

The pastor spoke of the guilt involved with loss. He said guilt is the work of Satan. It made me think of how I was feeling right then. And it made me think about the guilt I’ve felt about my losses. Maybe I shouldn’t have walked around the mall that day, the day before. Maybe I shouldn’t have worked and should have been on bed rest. Maybe I shouldn’t have lifted that heavy box during that 2 week wait. All of those thoughts were knowingly wrong but I tortured myself by pondering my every act I performed during my pregnancies. And here I was being told I was absolved.

While it didn’t exactly erase all of my guilt, it certainly put me more at ease. I felt cleansed in a way. My losses will always be a part of me but I felt like it is okay to start over again. Like I am being given another chance.

As the service concluded, I asked my husband to walk the letters we had written up to the altar to put into a little wooden box, to be buried in the churchyard under a rose bush. The rose bush will be our memorial marker. I think that on the anniversaries of my babies’ premature birthdays, I will visit this rosebush and pay my respects. I never held them in my arms and I never buried them except for in my heart. Now, I feel like I have another physical, tangible piece of evidence that they were here with me. That brings me great comfort.

On the way home, my husband and I talked about what the service meant to us. We both mentioned that we thought we had now found a church we could belong to. A church that has recognized and repented for not being there for women who have experienced loss. A church that really spoke to us. We felt that was the most positive part of the experience. We also talked about how the service brought up feelings we thought we had conquered. We both admitted our vulnerabilities and talked about how regaining our faith could make the infertility battle a bit easier to manage.

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I am so thankful we went forward with this Memorial Service and others we have held. God used them and will so again.  The plan is to hold another such service in the fall.  This service is usually for anyone who has lost a child through miscarriage – SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) – abortion – or other forms of infant death.  If you would be willing to share your story – let me know.

Your thoughts and ideas are appreciated.  God wants to comfort our broken hearts.  Romans 8:18 – (ESV) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Just something to think about today as you go on your way.

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August 10, 2015 - Posted by | Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , ,

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