A couple learns of a new addition to their family. Parents eagerly await the birth of their child. Plans are made, dreams are dreamed, and names are chosen. For most people this story continues with the birth of a child, but for many it does not. In Sheboygan County 400 children die yearly, mainly through miscarriage.
After receiving a phone call from parents who had suffered the loss of their pre-term child, I began to search for resources to help them in their grief. I stumbled upon a program at St. Nicholas Hospital that was a blessing from above. A bereavement counselor specializing in this care went to the home of the parents. The child was entrusted to this person until the time when the child was reverently buried. A support group was made available. To parents that were facing financial limitations, all services were provided free of charge.
Since then I have gotten to know the director of the program, and have been to St. Nicholas for a complete overview of the program including seeing the place where the tiny children are kept until the time of burial. I also planned a study session for our circuit pastors last year on caring for those who have suffered the death of a child.
The family that had suffered the loss of their child was not aware of their options. In many hospitals families are told that the fetal remains of their child will be disposed of in medical waste or incinerated with other refuse. While many people assist with the birth of a healthy child, many do not know what to do in the case of a child that has died. Can I hold my child? May a funeral be held? Can I involve my family? Can my baby be buried? While state law mandates that children over twenty weeks who have died must be in the care of a licensed funeral director (many funeral directors offer their services free of charge in these cases), it is not often discussed with mothers what their opportunities are for children under that age. Pastors and caregivers can guide families through the circumstances of their difficulty.
Further work in this area led me to discover that a pregnancy center in Hartford (next to the Mineshaft Restaurant) wished to begin a similar program. They didn’t know how to proceed and were in need of burial plots. Several phone calls, emails, and hours of research later, I located a cemetery in the city that was willing to accommodate the needs of the program. St. Kilian Parish donated the burial plots for the project. The bodies of two children are presently in the care of the Hartford Pregnancy Center, and a memorial service and the first burial are being planned. The director had spoke about the “dream” that one day they would be able to provide this service for people in their community. Through the work of many people the care of mothers and fathers in their time of deepest grief is being met.
King David prayed to the Lord that his child might not die. John the Baptist leapt in the womb. Sarah and Rachel prayed that the Lord would give them a child. As Christians we celebrate the one who knew the womb and has redeemed life at every stage. The care of mothers and fathers and their children in such a time confesses our hope in the One who will raise all the dead to stand before Him. Every life is precious and is known by God, even in those cases when they are not known by us.
Lives entrusted to the Lord before birth are entrusted to the Lord in their death. “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” -- Matthew 19:14