I recently attended a celebration of life for a baby boy who lived for one month. His name was Matthew. He had the genetic defect Trisomy 18, so it was actually a miracle he lived that long.
Before the funeral Mass, his mother, Maggie, got up and spoke in front of the church about her immense love for her son. She described their every favourite memory of him, from Matthew’s good appetite to his baptism by a priest friend of 24 years, his strong objection to bathing and his one walk in the sun in a stroller. Maggie mentioned the way this tiny, vulnerable child brought out the best in people, and inspired them to great generosity and kindness toward their family. She shared stories of his last day, the cuddles he had with his four older sisters, and the way he died peacefully in her arms, while she sang him lullabies.
Although Maggie briefly broke down, she continued to describe her gratitude for the gift of her son’s brief but full life—a life full of love and affection.
She told us it had strengthened her faith and her marriage to have him, and that she did not regret him. It was nothing short of heroic; I could not have spoken like this at my baby, Josephine’s funeral, five years ago. That day, as on this one, I was simply a silent fount of tears.
It was strange to attend a funeral in these times. Things with COVID-19 hadn’t escalated as much yet, but there were still far less people than I expected, and many sat far apart. A few even wore masks; I hadn’t seen that in a church yet. Now, there are no public Masses allowed, and the options for memorial services are very limited now.
This is a terrible hardship, because commemorating our loved ones lost is so important. But something I’ve learned, five years into the grieving process, is that doing so is not the work of a day, but of a lifetime.
There are various things our family does to honour Josephine. We bake a cake for her birthday, sing for her and plant fall bulbs. In the spring, it is Josephine who makes our garden burst into bloom. Her flowers gladden us each day. I write poetry and articles about love and loss, reach out to other babyloss mamas, and help them walk along the hard path to recovery, one better tread together. Every day, trying to be my best despite failures and mistakes, being grateful for the gift of life despite all its struggles, and trying to love others, I am striving to be a worthy mother to my little daughter in Heaven, trusting that she is helping lead me home.
So if you find yourself unable to honour your child with a large gathering right now, do not worry. You and your loved ones are united in grief and in love, even when you can’t be in the same room. Your baby has a special place in the temple of their hearts, and will be loved, honoured, and remembered not just for one special day, but forever.
Trust that your little one, now safe from all worry and distress, knows the inexpressible depth of your love, and is smiling down on you proudly each day.
Anna Eastland is a Canadian author, blogger and mother of 8. Her first book, “Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood,” is an anthology affirming the dignity and importance of motherhood. After losing her daughter Josephine in labour three years ago, she felt a passionate call to reach out and connect with other babyloss moms. One way she has expressed her own sorrow has been through poetry, and last year she published “unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope,” to share her experience with others.