“Medically, there’s nothing more I can do for you,” my doctor, Mary Jo, said to my husband and me. “You just have to go home to rest and heal,” she gently explained.
“But you must be able to do something!” I implored her as the tears poured down my face.
“I’m sorry, Julianne,” she said, “there are some things that not even we doctors know how to fix.”
My husband’s face was gray and ashy as he held my hand. We left the hospital and headed home.
My husband and I were expecting our second child, and I was entering my second trimester. Our pregnancy seemed to have been progressing normally until one day I woke up and knew that I had to get to the hospital. Our kind and compassionate doctor confirmed that we were losing our son. No medical procedure could stop this from happening, we were told. We prayed and prayed for a miracle. Through this process, our kind and gentle parish priest was by our side both physically and spiritually, offering the gifts of prayer, his presence, and the strength of Jesus in the Eucharist.
As Catholics, we hold that all truth flows from the Eucharist, our source and summit—especially the inherent dignity of each person from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reminds us, “As Christians, we bear the responsibility to promote the life and dignity of the human person, and to love and to protect the most vulnerable in our midst: the unborn, migrants and refugees, victims of racial injustice, the sick and the elderly” (The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, 38).
On the day our son was born, he passed into eternal life. Yet his life was, and still is, full of meaning and dignity. My husband cradled his tiny body—our child, our son—who fit so perfectly in the palm of his father’s hand. Christopher Joseph’s burial was simple and carried out by our priest with great care and compassion.
Throughout this painful time, I began to see miracles of grace that carried us through the worst of days. Flowers from a friend, a comforting note from a family member overseas, and our parish family inviting my husband and me to an infant loss and memorial service were just a few of those timely graces. Mass took on a new meaning for us. We knew we are joined in eternity to Jesus Christ through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The words of the embolism at Mass resonated as if I was hearing them for the first time, especially as the priest prayed: “Graciously grant peace in our day that by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” In our own distress, we waited in hope to see our son again.
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). How has the experience of loss in your own life been an opportunity to draw nearer to Jesus and others? How have you struggled to seek help and comfort in your grief and sorrow? How can the ritual of burying the dead help bring consolation and closure during the grieving process?
“My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the Lord. But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope: The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul; Therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:17-18, 21-24)
Consider praying each day in a special way for someone you know who has lost a loved one. Reach out to that person and invite him/her for coffee or a walk—spend time with them as a gift of comfort in their time of grief.