Sunday, February 24, 2008

A mother's grief over time

This was Stewardship weekend at my parish. All of the organizations in our parish had a little display on a table and encouraged people to come and sign up with the various organizations.

Mr. Pete teaches PSR and cantors. With his business and family as well as keeping this old house (and our old cars!) in good repair, he has enough on his plate.

I wanted to sign up for something a little different however. I have felt for some time that my experience with delivering a stillborn son at 23 weeks came with a purpose. I always believed that little Raphael's life, regardless of how short or long it was, was part of God's plan. As his mom, I have often contemplated how to make meaning out of Raphael's little part of the plan. I have always felt in my heart that for the full meaning of Raphael's life to be realized, we (Mr. Pete and I as well as perhaps his siblings) would have to be the instruments for that fulfillment.

I posted this article yesterday because I found it be a beautiful explanation of why people of faith grieve after the loss of a loved one.

When he calls Abraham, God begins to awaken sin-slumbering humanity. We are created for fellowship with him, not for the grave, and inevitably what had been accepted as a fact of life becomes a brutal, unnecessary blow. Thus the psychological paradox of faith: a belief in God’s promises heightens rather than softens the existential pain of death.

Therefore, it is not a weak faith that feels the pain of death’s enduring power, anymore than grief over one’s sins is a sign of lack of confidence in God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the victory of Christ on the cross intensifies our sense of death’s wrongful hold on life, and faith in the resurrection of the dead sharpens rather than blunts the loss. The scroll swallowed by John in his visions is sweet to the mouth and bitter in the stomach (Rev. 10:9–10).


Simply put, we grieve because people aren't supposed to die. God didn't design us for death and it is a terrible wrong that we experience whenever a loved one dies. If this is true, then the death of a baby, child and maybe the greatest paradox of all, the unborn child is certainly cause for grief and sadness.

Of course I speak now as a mom with five years of coming to terms with this behind me! When the wound was fresh and new I don't know if I was even capable of such lines of reasoning. Just breathing sometimes was difficult. In that light I have wondered if there wasn't something that I could do with this experience that could be helpful to others going through the experience of stillbirth, loss of a child and even miscarriage.

Last month Frankie's mom put into words similar thoughts.


As I sat in the surgery waiting room with other parents, I flashed back to the hours of waiting when Francesca was in surgery. Although none of them were having open hearts. Nonetheless, the uncertainty and apprehension were evident. It further ingrained my desire to help others. I pray that my role will take more focus as the year unfolds.


What I am hoping is that my role as a mother of a stillborn child takes more focus,as Frankie's mom mentioned. To that end I signed up to help, in a limited way, with the grief ministry at church. There is a group of ladies at church who attend funerals, particularly small funerals where perhaps only a handful of mourners might be present. I would like to help with that, but of course, with homeschooling I don't think I could possibly do every funeral. So I specified that I would be particularly interested in attending funerals for children and babies, particularly stillborn children. My role for now would be just one of being present, singing the hymns, saying the responses, helping the other ladies represent the parish. For this season in my own life this would be enough, and hopefully my children (with the exception of Rosie for now) would also go with me.

Perhaps as time goes on I'll see different ways that I can use this "gift" (as I have come to see Raphael's life and death) in a different way. But for now, I feel very good about doing this.


Cemetery Angel





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