It was a small turnout, as I had expected. Also as I had expected, everyone there was old. Well, middle-aged to old. Laura and I got there just as they were starting, so we shuffled into the second row with our babies sleeping in carseats and our diaper bags in tow.
I knew I would feel emotional, but I basically started crying from the moment I sat down and didn't stop until the service was over. I wasn't like wailing and sobbing or anything, but I was definitely sniffling and the tears were rolling down my cheeks. Fortunately, I had planned ahead and put a fresh pack of kleenex in my bag.
It was a lovely service in every way. The minister prayed for healing and remembrance. She read a list of names of church members who had passed away in the last year, ringing a bell after each name, then we were invited to speak aloud the names of those we were missing, whether they were recent losses or not.
Of course that really got me going. Most people said a name, and I said Eliza's name. She rang a bell after each person spoke.
I'd written down every name listed on the comments people left on my October 15th post, and few more babies I knew of, so I took that list with me, so I also whispered those names and said prayers for the babies and their families.
Then we were all invited to walk up to the alter and light a candle in honor of the person or people we were mourning, and kneel to pray for them. So I lit two candles--one for Eliza and one for all the babies on my list.
I really like how communion works in the Methodist church--it's not particular to any one faith, so everyone is invited. Today, the pastor specifically invited "those who are strong in their faith, and those who are struggling; those who see this sacrament as essential to their lives, and those who are still trying to make sense of it."
And at the very end of the service, she prayed for all the saints. Specifically, "babies who were carried but never held, babies who were born sleeping, babies who were cradled but never taken home, and babies who were home only for a short while." She also prayed for people who were in such pain they had taken their own lives, for people whose lives ended abruptly, for people who suffered with illness, for people who passed peacefully. The music was beautiful, and there was plenty of time for silence and reflection.
Zuzu slept through the entire service, but did manage to move her arm and gently squeak Sophie the giraffe during a moment of silence. I think I needed to smile at that point, so I appreciated it.
At the end of the service, a couple of ladies came over to say hello and admire the babies. One of them told us that she lost her husband this year and asked if our losses were recent. So we told that that we had each lost our first babies. (I, of course, started crying again and could barely talk.) She said she was very sorry, and then she sat down and her eyes filled with tears. And she told us that she had a stillborn baby 40 years ago. She said that she doesn't think about it much, but the prayer today of course made her remember. And she said that even though we have other blessings (gesturing toward the babies), it's still so hard.
And it is.
So it felt good to have that space, to honor Eliza and the grief I still feel. To feel connected with a dozen or so other people who were mourning their own losses, and to try to gain a sense of hope and healing. And, honestly, it felt good to cry just for Eliza. I literally cried everyday for a year after she died. Every. Single. Day. And there have been plenty of tears in the last few months, but they're hormonal or because I'm worried about day care or because I'm tired. Today's tears were just for my first baby girl, for the unfairness of her life cut short before it started, for the sadness of my life without her in it, and for all the other babies--carried but not held, born sleeping, cradled but not taken home, or taken home for just a short while. We remember. Forty years later, we'll remember. And we'll miss them still.