Friday, November 2, 2012

All Saint's Day

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to a church service for All Saint's Day.  It was at a Methodist church.  The service was in a small chapel, not the main sanctuary.  It's a small room, but lovely, with a stained glass window and decorative wooden beams and rafters.  There aren't formal pews, so we sat in chairs which were in a kind of semi-circle.  My friend Laura came with me--she also lost her first baby and recently had a baby girl, so when we were having coffee earlier in the week I asked if she'd be interested in going to this service and (despite the fact that her baby girl is still figuring out her nights) she was up for it.

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.

After the reading of names, the minister came around and made the sign of the cross with healing oil on our wrist.  She said a short prayer as she stopped in front of each person.

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.


  1. Ah, it seems both so wonderful to know you're going to love and miss them 40 years from now- the impact of your love for them resonating... But at the same time, it's so daunting to think about missing someone for forty.freaking.years.

    I simultaneously love and hate it.

    I'm so happy you went and had time to think about your Eliza. Loving her and missing her with you

  2. We will do the same thing this Sunday - we have bell trees with long colorful ribbons with names on them and bells on the end. Last year I added too many, this year, thankfully, none.

    I'm partial to the way Methodists do a lot of things as well :). It's very inclusive, and sounds like the service was nice. What a beautiful prayer for those babies.

    We have a lovely chapel at our church as well, although now we're beginning a major renovation project so it's inaccessible for the duration. We have a Longest Night service on the solstice - so it's just a few days before Christmas. It's very similar to an All Saints service - it's really there for those who are having so much trouble with the Christmas season because of loss or sadness. I've always thought it was an important service to have because Christmas is not an easy or joyous time for everyone.

  3. It sounds beautiful and like a church I would like (still struggling with that. This whole post totally made me cry. It sounds perfect.

  4. The service sounds wonderful - beautiful and healing. I would love to attend something like it.

  5. This is something I would never do...and yet it is beautiful and wonderful and I love that it was so inclusive and that people spoke to you and you met another mother who had experienced this tragedy. I am glad you got to go with a friend too.

  6. 40 years later and we'll miss them still.

    Absolutely. I would've definitely gone with you if we were closer. With a child that is not quite the sleeping-in-church or anywhere that there is people type (anymore), it would be hard for B.

    But in 1 month when we attend a remembrance service for his older brother, he must be present. It's so important to me that we have a place to honor our babies.

    E grew up Methodist and that's more our way of Christian ideology. I'm the liberal Christian and E is a bit more conservative. We usually have a split household come election time... we shall see what the next week holds!

    Beautiful post. I don't mean to address my political interests on such a wonderfully written post about Eliza and our babies.

    Thank you for speaking Andrew's name and for lighting a candle.

  7. This is a beautiful post. It made me tear up several times and now I wish I'd gone to a service yesterday.

    My great aunt had a stillborn son 50-something years ago. Of course, I never knew about him and only learned about him after we had our own stillborn daughter. My aunt had to fight to see her son and he was buried by her husband and parents before she even left the hospital. She was told to forget about him and move on. She still thinks about him and remembers him silently on his birthday.

    We will always remember them. And always miss them.

  8. Of course I've heard of All Saints Day before but I had no clue what is was really about until this year. I'm just blown away by it all. Mainstream mourning of our lost babies? I just had no idea.
    This is beautiful, made me cry, made me consider possibly going somewhere for this next year. Thank you.

  9. That sounds beautiful. I wish I had been there.

  10. Aww, now I'm crying. I haven't been to church in a long time, but this makes me want to go back. I'm glad you found some peace.

  11. Wish I could have been there to sob through the service with you.

    Instead, I cried while reading this. I'm not sure who or what my tears are for these days. I guess a lot of combinations of who's and what's and it just makes me sad.

  12. This is so beautiful. I'm inspired to seek out a service like this next year, as I really needed some Elizabeth time and space this week and had a hard time finding it. Thank you for remembering all of our babies along with sweet Eliza.

  13. Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Souls Day have always helped me to remember those who are no longer here -- I love this post, your description moved me to tears (both happy and sad). I am so pleased you were able to find such a lovely place to celebrate this holiday ::HUGS:: and prayers for you and your family

  14. This is breathtakingly beautiful, Brooke. Thank you for going, for remembering Eliza and all of our babies. I wish I could've been there with you too. xoxox

  15. This is breathtakingly beautiful, Brooke. Thank you for going, for remembering Eliza and all of our babies. I wish I could've been there with you too. xoxox

  16. Oh Brooke. This post was beautiful. Really.

    I haven't been to church regularly since I was a child. I've gone here and there as an adult...but never enough. This post inspires me to seek something like this out for next year.

    Thank you for saying Alexander's name. I'm so very touched.

    If somehow we were in the same corner of the earth, I would have loved to be there with you.

    Remembering your Eliza. Now, and 40 years for now.

  17. Thought of you during our All Saints Day remembrance today. Your service sounds so moving.

  18. Perfectly perfect. We will remember 40 years from now, but why does it sound so scary when we say it? ~Missy

  19. I'm not sure if it's relevant, but this post inspired me to start looking for a christmas gift for my friend who suffered a few miscarriages last year. She already bought the necklace you mentioned you found at Target, so I was looking for something elsewhere and found this site. It customizes jewelry (necklaces, rings, etc), as well as birth stones. I thought you might like it.

  20. Wow. Just wow. Beautiful writing.

  21. The service sounds so lovely!! I'm so glad it gave you comfort. (((hugs)))