The Friendly Fogey
May 25, 2020
My first child would have been born today, on May 25, 2020. He died in miscarriage on October 15. The pain and grief of miscarriage have been unlike anything I have ever experienced. There have been so many emotions and revelation that I have not wanted to forget, many of which I have already forgotten.
We made it home around 4 o'clock in the morning after spending all night in the hospital. The doctors had finally told us they could not find a heartbeat, and told us to go home and prepare for a miscarriage to occur imminently. It happened sometime later that morning. I fished the remains of my first child out of the toilet, carefully wrapped him in tissue, and put him in the freezer, not really know what to do next. Though I am an Anglican, I knew if anyone had any answer, it would be the Catholics. I googled the word salad "Miscarriage remains burial Catholic," hoping that something would turn up. One of the first results was a news article about an organization based in Virginia, not far from where my wife and I live, called A Mom's Peace. The woman on the phone had thought of everything, and told us their organization would provide a casket, marker, and burial plot. The plot had been donated by the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, who for some time now have allowed children who die in miscarriage to be buried alongside them.
The school run by the Sisters was a military school from the 1920s to the 1980s. A Catholic military school run by nuns, sitting just south of a Civil War battlefield, seems like the kind of thing that you could only find in Virginia. Behind the school is the cemetery, and in a back corner of the graveyard, beyond most of the graves of the nuns, are rows of little markers where the children are buried. My wife and I stood there with our priest, attempting to say the Book of Common Prayer's Order for the Burial of a Child through our tears. One of the Psalms appointed to be read at the service is Psalm 90. The service ends the reading at verse 12's "So teach us to number our days." I thought it a shame that, for this service especially, it didn't continue to verse 16: "Show thy servants thy work, and their children thy glory."
We have been back to the monastery twice since the burial. Once at All Soul's Day, and once more on his due date. Each time we've visited, the little rows have grown. There have been at least 40 more deaths since our miscarriage in October. On each visit I have stood there, looking at the new grave markers and asking myself that question from Choruses from the Rock:
Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws? She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget. She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they would like to be soft.
Each new marker is a new reminder that when the Church asks us to be open to life, she is also asking that we be open to death. She tells us what we would forget: we may love and lose. Some of the markers feature the same surname placed just a few months apart. I looked at them and knew that we were lucky to be standing here as my wife is six months pregnant. Some of us will love and lose more than others.
Since the burial I've not really been troubled by any theoretical questions about the fate of children who die in miscarriage. I've experience other odd emotions. It is surely hard to describe the experience of missing someone you have never met. But for the most part I have been at peace because I can say (without being too hyperbolic) that the Sisters will be praying for him till Kingdom come.
You can support A Mom's Peace here.
You can support the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia here.