Being Open to Life Means Being Open to Loss

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Albert Edelfelt, “Conveying the Child’s Coffin/A Child’s Funeral”, 1879
Albert Edelfelt, “Conveying the Child’s Coffin/A Child’s Funeral”, 1879 (photo: Public Domain)

I walk through my house and every corner reminds me of the memories I will not have of my child. I change my toddler’s diaper and wonder where we will keep a changing table that we do not need once he is potty trained. I look to next June, and the harsh reality of the baby that will not be born then hits me.

The thoughts flit through my mind. I should be thankful for the ones that I have—the ones living and breathing in my home everyday. But my longing for this one who is gone does not take away from my love for them. They also mourn for the baby we will never meet.

We came home from the only ultrasound of this baby, pictures in hand, to tell them the news that this baby is gone. I knelt on the playroom floor as my toddler fought for my lap and the others clung all around us and we cried freely over our baby.

My 5-year-old’s long sonorous sobs repeated again and again as her wailing matched the feeling in my chest. This baby is gone from our earthly lives. We will never hold this baby alive. I only daydreamed about this baby for three weeks, but the three weeks fill my memory and they filled my heart with the hopes, dreams, and plans.

We were going to get another bunk bed. The toddler was going to move out of his crib, but now when he does, who will use it? How long will it stand empty?

Three miscarriages does not necessitate that we will have no more babies, but it does make the idea of being open again to a new baby slightly terrifying. They remind us that when we are open to life we are also open to death. We are open to this heartbreak again. Every time we choose to hope for a baby we know that it is a real possibility. But we also know the joy of a newborn, and long for those sleepless nights, the sweet smell of the warm head, and weight of a sleeping baby in our arms.

Each of these babies has an eternal soul—each of these babies is incomprehensibly good even if they are never born. And, perhaps, that is why the pain is so deep.

I am reminded of the movie The Tree of Life by the director Terence Malick. It tells the story of a family that loses a grown son to an untimely death with poignant images and music reflecting the very depths of their relationship with God and this son.

A comforting friend tells the mourning mother, “The pain will pass in time.” She whispers in return, “I don’t want it too.” And I relate to her feeling—while the sharp, deep pain of loss is so hard to bear—I want to feel it longer and harder. I don’t want to forget how much we loved this child during the short time he or she lived.

The pastor in The Tree of Life tells the mother, “He is in God’s hands now.” And as she reflects on his words, she remarks to herself, “He was in God’s hands the whole time, wasn’t he.”

That is where our children are always—living or passed on. They are always in God’s hands.

Whenever I meditate on the Fourth Joyful mystery of the Rosary, the Presentation of Our Lord, I picture all of my children, dead and alive being offered up by Our Lady with the Infant Jesus to God. They are not my own. They are his. As a mother, as a parent, my heart will be pierced because our children will all have to experience suffering and die, some of them too soon.  And who better understands than the Blessed Mother whose baby was born to die? She knows the pain, and she embraces these children of ours as her own.

Our pastor reminded us as we buried our child that being open to life includes being open to God’s will, whatever it may contain.

I cling to the Blessed Mother’s Fiat when I think about having another baby, when I think that a loss like this will be too much to bear again. Her acceptance of being a mother meant her acceptance of great pain. And while I tremble at the thought of being in this much pain again—the pain of losing a child—her trust in God leads me down the path of being open to new life in my family. Her trust in God lead to the salvation of all of our souls if we just say yes to him as well. My trust in God is all he asks of me—my simple trust in his will for me. And I will choose to be open to new life with hope and trust, if it is God’s will, knowing that his providence cares for us all.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)