Last summer, I received a phone call from a lady who was new to our parish and wanted to see if we would be interested in starting a ministry for parents who have lost children. We talked for a while and then decided to meet with our pastor to discuss the idea further. During our meeting, Father suggested we start by having a Mass in memory of the children lost and in support of their parents while celebrating their lives on this earth, however short or long.
We entered the planning stages with a small group to work out the details of the Mass we would celebrate in October. I went into it not completely knowing how I would feel. I have lost three babies throughout my motherhood years. I also have six wonderful, active children who help ease my sorrow.
We didn’t ask for people to let us know ahead of time if they were coming, so we really weren’t sure what to expect as far as how many would be attending. We planned for a small group for our first Mass.
The Mass was held on October 7th, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. We had candles and hearts to memorialize names of children lost. The music was beautiful. Father’s homily focused on the importance of the Rosary as our lifeline, praying to God and Jesus through Mary, who had also lost her only child. The emotion in the church was palpable. Mothers and fathers attended. Some had lost children as long ago as 55 years, but the pain was still there. One couple had lost twins two weeks ago. They were not from our parish. They had heard about the Mass and came seeking the comfort only God and our Blessed Mother can give. I pray they found some peace to get them through the next moment.
After Mass, we processed to our Garden of Hope, which is next to our church. Each person carried a luminary to the garden, where Father gave the final blessing.
The evening was beautiful, a wonderful memorial to all of our lost children and also a celebration of life, the life and love each of those children brought to the world, no matter how short or long they were on this earth.
The emotions at Mass were so much more than I expected. The air was heavy, but at the same time, there was an air of camaraderie. Everyone there could empathize with loss.
My oldest three children were three of our altar servers. After Mass, the four of us gathered in front of the altar. My oldest was upset. He realized the due date of the first baby I lost was very close to his birthday. He commented that he would not be here if that baby had not died. While that is true, it is not what happened.
His comment sparked a discussion that last all the way home. Each and every life God gives has a purpose. While our three babies died very early in pregnancy, each and every one of them changed our perspective on life a little, each one brought us closer together and taught us a little more about love and self-giving. Each one of my children on this earth has a specific purpose as well. I believe whole-heartedly that God’s plan for this world involves each of us. How we fit is revealed step-by-step and moment-by-moment as we open ourselves daily to Him.
Each morning we pray as a family that God will inspire us to be the best “us” that we can be on that given day, that He will lead us through His will for our lives for that day, filling us with His grace to accomplish His purpose for our lives in this moment and on this day. I pray that my children will continue that prayer for all their lives, becoming the people that God created each of them to be.