My 4-year old ran up to me with a big hug yesterday and said, "Mommy, I can't wait to go to Heaven! I want to go to Heaven right now!" Her face was shining with a huge smile and as she squeezed me even harder she continued, "I want to see my baby brother right now and hold him and kiss him!"
Me too, Sweetie.
Last week, when I was 12 weeks along in my pregnancy, we lost our precious baby. We delivered him at home and were able to see and hold his tiny 2" body. We named him Matthew Athanasius and look forward eagerly to the day when we will be reunited with him in Heaven.
This is the first time I have experienced the loss of a child during pregnancy and I was not prepared for the intensity of the sorrow. I suppose I assumed that the smaller the baby, the smaller the grief. I do believe that the experience of grief would have been different, probably more intense, had I more time to grow in love and knowledge of this little one....But the bond was still very strong physically, emotionally and spiritually even though I was never able to feel his tiny kicks.
The sadness comes at odd times; sometimes it's a gentle wistfulness and sometimes it's a surprisingly sharp and heavy grief.
But the biggest surprise is that God has used this time of sorrow to bless me with a companion period of intense joy and consolation. He has shown me how intimately the suffering and joy of an abiding and true love are linked...Like the inseparable reality of Good Friday and Easter. I'm sure He has used this time to remind me of how much He loves me and maybe even bring my understanding of that love to a new level.
During the memorial Mass for Matthew and his cousin Caeli (whom my Sister-in-Law lost shortly before we lost Matthew), Father, in his homily, reminded us that each one of us is God's child. Some of us get to go home a little sooner than others but not one soul is lost to His love. His reminder that we are all just grown up children helped me, once again, to put my heart (which is still so much as it was when I was a little girl) into the hands of my heavenly Father. He was the one who breathed my name and called me into existence. He "knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139). He followed me through my first days and has never left my side. I am still His baby, His little girl, His princess.
I know it is not common in our culture to honor the lives of such very tiny children. Hospitals usually just throw the little bodies away and death certificates are not even issued until the 20th week of pregnancy. It takes a bit of courage and support to stand up to celebrate the life and grieve the loss of one whom so many find it uncomfortable to acknowledge. After all, death is hard to face and in many ways it would be easier to ignore the hidden and "tiny" losses that we suffer.
The greatest healing for me and my family came with the naming of Matthew. A miscarriage is a loss...An empty womb. The claiming of the life and name of the child is a GAIN. I strongly encourage anyone who has lost a baby at any age, no matter how long ago, to consider naming the child. If the sex is unknown, just pray about it and take a leap. Don't be afraid of the tears...And rejoice in your gain.
After my husband named Matthew, I wept tears of joy. I had gained a son! I have a son! And someday, I will see him again and know what it is like to hold him and kiss his sweet little brow. In the meantime, I entrust him to the arms of Jesus.
The ultimate consolation is that I can do no better than that. There is nothing greater that I want for him!
Matthew's death has brought me closer to heaven. In the business of life, it is easy to relegate the idea of heaven to a lovely cartoon place in my wildest dreams. But I know that Matthew is real and I absolutely believe that we are created for eternal life.
When we lost Matthew, my 4-year old was largely unaffected. She had not know "the baby" and had not seen him. She never felt the loss and didn't cry or question. On the day that we named Matthew, she completely changed. She suddenly understood that she had a little brother and talks about him all the time. Her heart and mind have been fixated on that little boy and his heavenly home. She still does not feel a loss...Only the great news that she has a little brother named Matthew who is alive and well with Jesus. Her only frustration is that she cannot go to see him right now!
I have learned so much from my 4-year old. I am so blessed. I am so humbled. I am overcome with a sublime experience of sorrow and joy.
Every single life is created for a purpose and the age of the person is of no consequence. We may wonder what that purpose is and why these little ones must leave us so soon. But I believe that I have been given a glimpse of Matthew's purpose in my own life and the life of my family. In just one week's time, I have loved a little deeper, understood the love God has for me a little more, seen and felt the blessing of my family and community....and gained a son who is safe from all suffering and pain forever more. That is only my limited understanding of the purpose of Matthew's short life and only how it affects me personally. God is good. I have a feeling my knowledge only touches on the tip of the iceberg.