AUBREY

David Gates of the soft rock group, Bread, wrote and sang this song. When I first heard the song many years ago in the early 70’s, I was drawn to the melancholy lyrics and pure vocals Gates is known for, but I had no idea what it would mean to me years later. Turns out I’m not alone. Search the internet for, Aubrey by Bread, and read how this song arouses powerful emotions in all who hear it. There are several interpretations of the lyrics, but they’re essentially about loss and what could have been.

The lyrics speak to many mothers of children lost to miscarriage. If you’ve never experienced the pain of miscarriage, it can be difficult to comprehend. The medical definition of miscarriage, according to Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia, is “the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy”. No matter how early in the pregnancy—it is the death of a loved one—a real person, and you must allow for a grieving process. These babies were members of the family. Their images were captured on ultrasound and their presence was made known. A nursery may have been prepared, names may have been bandied about, and a future envisioned. That child was theirs and now he or she is gone.

Miscarriage is a topic not much discussed as it occurs early in a pregnancy with little to no outward signs that a child existed. There is no preparation for the loss; one day your baby is alive and kicking, the next day he or she is not.  Having others try to minimize it makes it even worse. There are support groups for miscarriage.  However, I wonder how many parents who lose their babies in the 1st trimester attend? Possibly it’s because of the misconceptions of others. An actual “baby” never existed so why would there be anything to be that upset about? That is wrong and far from the truth. As Catholics, we believe life begins at conception. No matter the age of the fetus, he or she is a living human being.

A few years ago I was visiting with an elderly friend and her sister. That particular afternoon, she told me her sister wouldn’t be joining us because it was the anniversary of her miscarriage. She said her sister cried every year on this day. She then asked me how silly I thought it was for her to be depressed over a baby that never was.  I quietly informed her that I lost three children to miscarriage and the hurt is always there. I felt for her sister and wished she would talk to me—someone who understood.

When I experienced my miscarriages I asked if my babies would be baptized and what would happen to them. I can at least take comfort that my miscarriages happened at Catholic hospitals and I was assured they were baptized or prayed over, treated with respect, and buried in a Catholic cemetery. One of my miscarriages happened at home and my mother baptized the baby after consulting our parish priest over the phone. It didn’t seem so at the time, but I was blessed to have seen him. I was not able to have a liturgy or burial for any of my babies. Today you can ask for your child’s remains. There are cemeteries with special sites for miscarried babies. Your priest can also perform a ceremony for you. I would have loved to have something like this. It brings about closure that so many of us never received.

After an announced miscarriage or memorial service, you will hear an abundance of condolences from family and friends. While all are well-meaning, not all are suitable for parents grieving the loss of their child. ‘You’re young, you can always have another baby.’ Or if you already have living children, ‘Well you still have Dick and Jane’. Or ‘This is a blessing in disguise/God’s way to spare you from having a child that’s not quite right’.  Don’t offer any of these “sympathies”. One child can never replace another. Mom and Dad wanted that child. Loss never feels like a godsend and they would give anything to have this child. Some miscarriages have nothing to do with the health of the child and the parents may know this. Many women feel the miscarriage is their fault and live with misplaced guilt, so please, no.

Instead, be the shoulder to cry on and the hand to hold. Let them know how loved that child is—not was. Keep them in your prayers and provide the space for them to mourn. My mother, who lost both a living child as well as one to miscarriage, was a sought-out comforter to other moms in the same position. She provided the right amount of prayer, sympathy, counsel, understanding, and informed them that their child, who may have never lived in this world, was alive with God in His. She would go on to describe the celebration in heaven for the newest saint! How beautiful and uplifting.

Most moms are shocked to learn that their “baby” will be fully-grown in heaven. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, “All will rise in the condition of perfect age, which is thirty-two or thirty-three years. This is because all who were not yet arrived at this age, did not possess this perfect age, and the old had already lost it. Hence, youths and children will be given what they lack, and what the aged once had will be restored to them: “Until we all attain the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of fullness of Christ.”1

How to remember our lost children?  For my miscarried children, I have Masses said for all unborn babies on the anniversary of each miscarriage. I’ve donated to causes in their memory and fight for the repeal of Roe v. Wade in their name. Because I was able to actually see one of my babies—perfectly formed in every way—I know the lie of the clump of cells. I can’t tell you how many pro-abortionists I have silenced with that truth. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

 I cried while writing this as, yes, the pain lessens but it never goes away. The thought of what could have been…the children who would have lived, played, and grown into adulthood with their two living sisters…the love they would have brought to both me and my husband. They would have completed most of their schooling by now, maybe contemplating marriage, or even having children of their own. I look forward to meeting them when we’re reunited in heaven. Will I know them? Yes, instantly, I have no doubt. Until then, I will quietly celebrate them every April and January and know one day, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. These things of the past are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4.

If you have suffered the pain of miscarriage, know you are not alone. There are countless parents out there going through the same pain as you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your parish priest. Chances are he knows others within your parish who suffered the same loss and can put you in touch with them.

 

1 The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas – THE ELEVENTH ARTICLE “The Resurrection of the Body.” Qualities Of The Risen Bodies, paragraph (d)

 

 

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Going To the Chapel of Love

Everyone knows this song made famous by The Shirelles.  It’s iconic.  I don’t know how many countless brides have sung this song to themselves or have had it played at their rehearsal dinner or reception.

With all the disturbing stories out there I had to write something uplifting and I think I found it.  Last week I visited the campus of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana in the hopes of touring the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  However, two weddings were scheduled that day so all tours were canceled.  As we were leaving the campus, the bridal party from the first wedding was just starting to leave the basilica.  Instinctively my girlfriend and I walked back to get a look at the bride.

As a mom, I’m patiently waiting for one of my daughters to get married.  There is just something about a wedding.  Every bride is radiant in her gown.  Some have long trains.  Some wear a veil while others do not.  The groom, always handsome in a tux or suit, and the bridal party is also equally beautiful in the color of choice.  Flowers are everywhere and the priest is forever waiting for them at the front of the church.  I never miss an episode of TLC’s Say Yes To The Dress.  I know exactly what kind of wedding gown each of my daughter’s would choose.  We all remember our own wedding.  It’s the one day we look like and are treated like royalty.  For the record—I cry at every wedding.

They say you can’t stop love.  Well this story proves it.  Nothing could stop Fadi and Rana from getting married at their local church.  I wish you could see the pictures.  The bride is gorgeous in her pure white, beaded, ball gown.  Her white rose bouquet is cradled in the crook of her left arm and with her right she holds on to her tall, dark and handsome groom in his dark suit.  The church is packed with guests (standing room only) and white flowers dot each aisle.  The maid of honor is striking in hot pink.  It was a traditional Orthodox Christian wedding, complete with crowns for the bride and groom.  The priest’s garments were robin egg blue and trimmed in gold and he donned the traditional tall, gold, domed crown in the orthodox style.

Sounds like any wedding.  So what is so special about this one?  I said nothing can stop love and nothing could stop this bride and groom from getting married in their local church.  Not a 4-year civil war.  Not the fact that they are a Christian couple in the Christian community of Hamidiyah in Homs, Syria, under attack by Islamist fighters.  Not that they were forced to flee their home town, but returned to get married in their church. Not even the fact that their church was destroyed.  Ah, now I have your attention.

St. George Church in Hamidieh Homs, Syria was among 10 churches destroyed in May 2014.  The church was reduced to rubble after countless airstrikes had destroyed it.  Although there is no longer a roof, there are partial walls and an intact foundation.  A folding table with a white tablecloth substitutes for an altar and that was good enough for Fadi and Rana.

Their wedding photos were featured on the church’s website and later picked up by several people on Twitter and shared around the world as a sign of strength and resilience.  One tweet from Bassem states, “U can destroy their church but u won’t destroy their spirit.  First wedding at St. George church Hamidieh Homs #Syria.”  Several people from around the world tweeted back, including The Christian Yahwist who tweeted “The church buildings might have been destroyed but it was in Syria that home churches were born 2,000 years ago.”  I’m sure this story is very inspirational for those Christians still living in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.  It’s also heartening for Christians in the US where religious persecution has not yet begun.

Love is indeed astounding.  Especially the love God has for us.  There is no doubt He was present at that wedding and for that matter, all of our weddings.  Many couples today choose 1 Corinthians 13 read at their wedding.  I also know that spousal love is not the same love that St. Paul speaks of.  For that we need to go to the root of the word.  The original word is the Greek – agape.  It was translated into Latin and kind of came out charity, but it doesn’t mean charity either.  Agape has no equal word in the English language, in fact it was a word that was not used much in Greek-speaking communities, however it is used 320 in the New Testament.  That tells you something right there.  This love is more like the love of God.  Think John 3:16.

Today while you’re sorting through all the evil and gut wrenching stories in the news, remember that God loves us like no other.  No matter what comes our way He will always be there.  They can destroy our churches, burn our homes, ridicule and ban our traditions and beliefs, even take our lives, but they can never take Him away.  They can never conquer the Spirit.  And one other thing—I’ve read the book, including the last page.  I know how it ends.

Congratulations Fadi and Rana on your wedding.  I hope you have a blessed and glorious life together that includes several children.  Thank you for sharing your joy with the rest of the world.  You prove God cannot be confined to one place.  He cannot be compartmentalized.   He is the great I AM.  He is everywhere and everything.  You also prove as Christians we don’t need decorative domes, roofs, or ornate walls.  All we need is a solid, intact foundation of faith—just like St. George Church.

From the USA to Syria with love.

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If you’d like to view some of the pictures from the wedding go to:  http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/07/19/syrian-combatants-may-have-thought-a-churchs-destruction-would-stop-christian-worship-these-newlyweds-proved-them-so-wrong/

Sources:

Albawaba, The Loop, A Couple in Syria’s Homs Got Married In A Church Turned To Rubble.

Daily Mail UK by Caroline McGuire for MailOnLine, ‘Life Continues Despite Destruction and Death’ July 30, 2015

The Blaze, Syrian Combatants May Have Thought a Church’s Destruction Would Stop Christian Worship. These Newleyweds Proved Them So Wrong, by Sharona Schwartz, July 19, 2015

Patheos Christian Crier, What is Agape Love by Jack Wellman, May 2, 2014

Catholic Answers to Explain & Defend The Faith, 1 Corinthians13: Charity or Love? February 17, 2013