2nd Annual Feast of the Holy Innocents Infant Loss Service

For some, Christmas is about the joy of having family and little ones around and for this reason, the holiday season can be difficult for those whose infants have died.  Last evening, grieving parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends braved the cold, rainy weather and gathered in the warm atmosphere at St. Ann’s Parish for their 2nd annual Infant Remembrance Mass in Abbotsford.

This candlelight service was offered just a few days after Christmas on Dec.28th for the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  Pastor James Hughes noted that it was not by mistake that this date was chosen for this special Mass. 

During the service, families were invited to honour their infants by lighting a candle and placing the votives on a table in front of the altar.  As more and more candles were set beside one another, the lights emitted a peaceful glow and dancing shadows were seen on the white table cloth during the Mass.  Close by, the Infant Jesus was displayed in a manger with His arms stretched out to welcome us.

Well over 100 people attended this solemn event traveling from as far away as Washington State, the Sunshine Coast as well as parts of the Greater Vancouver area.  Many people of various ages, backgrounds and faiths attended.  “I wish we had a service like this in my community” a grieving mother said to me.  ”It is nice for our children to meet others who understand what it is like to lose a sibling,” another mom and dad shared.   

In his homily, Father openly shared that he has grown to appreciate the need to reach out to families suffering from infant loss due to ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, fatal diagnosis, pregnancy complications, stillbirth, illness and sudden infant death.  “These children are also considered ‘Holy Innocents’ and have the important role of praying for us” he explained.  Father James went on to say that the pain of couples struggling with infertility also needs to be recognized.  He also praised and prayed for bereavement support workers and professionals dedicated to assisting these families.  

At the reception, families were invited to sign a Book of Life and choose a hand-decorated pot of forget-me-not flowers.  It is important to note that when Devan Greenhouses heard what the plants were for, they insisted that the pots were to be donated as a gift from the nursery to bereaved families.  The evening was kindly coordinated by Fr. James and a number of families at the Parish.  We are thankful for so many blessings! 

It was comforting to meet other bereaved parents and families at this event.  I was happy to greet familiar faces and meet some new friends too.  Thank you to the team of ladies led by Jody at St. Ann’s  for organizing such a wonderful remembrance service for our children.  Special thanks to Father Hughes for your amazing support. 

Click here for a description of the 2010 Service.

Please see events page for future Infant Loss Services and other related events.        

Welcome Baby Jesus…Merry Christmas Children!

At midnight Mass last night, about half-way through the celebration, we sang “Away in a Manger”.  This has been one of my favourite Christmas carols since early childhood.  As we sang it, the all-too-familiar words came back to me very easily.  

As I continued to sing, my mind drifted as I looked towards the Nativity scene in front of us.  What would it be like to peer in that manger to see Baby Jesus there?  Are all our heavenly children kneeling on the hay beside Him? 

As the hymn was ending, I became more conscious of the words that I had been singing all these years.  Away In A Manger is sung from the perspective of a young child at Christmas time, it is a little prayer.  For the first time, this timeless song came alive for me in a significant way… 

Away In A Manger

Away in a manger,
no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus
lay down his sweet head.

The stars in the bright sky
looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus,
asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing,
the poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus,
no crying He makes;

I love Thee, Lord Jesus,
look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle
till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever,
and love me, I pray!

Bless all the dear children
in Thy tender care
And take us to heaven,
to Live with Thee there.

If it must be Keaton, that you cannot be with us, we are thankful that you are blessed and being taken care of in heaven.  Merry Christmas sweetheart…

As we welcome the birth of baby Jesus this Christmas season, we ask Him to stay in our hearts forever, no matter what time of year it happens to be.

Have a very Merry Christmas Children!  We love you always…xoxo

A Father’s Love at Christmas

We rarely hear songs from St. Joseph’s perspective.  The song Joseph’s Lullaby by Mercy Me is a beautiful way to capture the moment when a father, after much anticipation, finally gets to hold his newborn baby. 

It describes the Holy Family in a way that we can easily relate to — in a very ordinary and human way.  We envision a first-time father in complete awe as he gently holds his brand new son and we witness him asking The Lord for the protection of his innocent child.  Joseph, knowing that there are great plans for his infant son one day, humbly prays;

I ask that He for just this moment

Simply be my child

The tenderness that is shown towards Baby Jesus by His father is a peaceful scene of pure and unconditional love.  I have faith that this is just a glimpse of the immense love that Jesus has for each and every one of us.  It can be overwhelming to know that someone can love us beyond comprehension.  How do we return that kind of love?   

I hope this song brings a bit of comfort to the daddy’s out there who are missing their children this Christmas.  Know that your children also love and miss you..and can’t wait to greet you in heaven one day. 

 

Mercy MeJoseph’s Lullaby  

Go to sleep my Son

This manger for your bed

You have a long road before You

Rest Your little head

 

Can You feel the weight of Your glory?

Do You understand the price?

Or does the Father guard Your heart for now

So You can sleep tonight?

 

Go to sleep my Son

Go and chase Your dreams

This world can wait for one more moment

Go and sleep in peace

 

I believe the glory of Heaven

Is lying in my arms tonight

But Lord, I ask that He for just this moment

Simply be my child

 

Go to sleep my Son

Baby, close Your eyes

Soon enough You’ll save the day

But for now, dear Child of mine

Oh my Jesus, Sleep tight

Merry Christmas my love!  You are the best father Keaton could ever have…

Coping Through A Blue Christmas

Denis Boyd, R. Psych. is an author and therapist specializing in grief, marriage and stress.  He was recently invited on CTV Morning Live to talk about “Beating the Holiday Blues”.  Denis shares simple ideas about how to cope after a loss and how to ease stress during the holiday season.  In this interview, Denis suggests;

~ Making time to rest

~ Taking it easy

~ Writing down past memories

~ Accepting anniversary grief

~ Giving the gift of time

Here are a more detailed articles by Denis called “Christmas Blues” and “Post Holiday Blues” that talk about coping through the holiday season.  I hope that you are able to find moments of peace this busy Christmas…

Christmas In Heaven

Aside

Are you part of that glorious holy night?
I wonder . . . .what Christmas in Heaven is like

~ “Christmas In Heaven” lyrics

I began seeing a Grief Counsellor a month after Keaton died.  She listened to me with compassion, looked at my son’s photos and mementos and also took the time to read my poems and articles. 

It was a relief to get things off my mind for that short hour.  During my appointments, I could express my sadness and pain in a raw and honest way and never felt the pressure to “be strong” or pretend like everything was ok; I was allowed to just “be”.  Thankfully, she never seemed to get tired of hearing about my son.  What a blessing it was to be able to talk to someone who understood that my grief needed to be expressed rather than supressed, especially during the holiday season.

As our first Christmas without Keaton approached, I got an email from my counsellor saying that she had a little Christmas gift for us.  It turns out she had ordered a CD with a single song on it called “Christmas In Heaven” by Sarah Schieber.  I was touched by her kindness and after reading the lyrics, the song began to mean a lot to me. 

The story behind this song is full of hope and healing at Christmas time after losing a loved one.  Sarah is a bereaved wife and in this song, she fondly thinks about what Christmas in heaven must be like - something I’ve often wondered myself.  I thought I would share this beautiful music with you…

Christmas In Heaven

Sung by Sarah Schieber

2008 words and music by Jeremy Johnson and Paul Marino

December hasn’t changed
This town looks the same
They still light that tree in the city square
There’s red, white, and green shining everywhere
And I wish you were here
And I wonder . . .

CHORUS:
Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold?
Are the mansions all covered in white?
Are you singing with angels Silent Night?
I wonder . . . what Christmas in Heaven is like

There’s a little manger scene
Down on Third and Main
I must have walked right by it a thousand times
But I see it now in a different light
Cause I know you are there
And I wonder . . .

Are you kneeling with shepherds before Him now?
Can you reach out and touch His face?
Are you part of that glorious holy night?
I wonder . . . .what Christmas in Heaven is like

 

A Christmas Lullaby

Recently, I discovered a new Christmas song, Hallelujah (Light Has Come) by a group of talented sisters.  The band is called BarlowGirl.  The title brought back memories of when we saw Keaton for the last time and I sung “Hallelujah” to him.  I wanted to sing a lullaby for him before saying goodbye, and these were the only words I could remember at the time. 

When I found this particular music video, it was still early November.  Christmas songs already?  Wasn’t it Halloween just a few days ago?  I stared at the title on BarlowGirl’s site and debated whether or not to press play.  I suspect I was resisting the thought of Christmas coming up so quickly.  Last year, I still wasn’t in the mood to listen to many Christmas songs at all. 

But as I sat there with my finger hanging over the mouse, something inside urged me to go ahead and listen.  When the melody started and the first few notes were played, the music seemed to start out like a sad, but beautiful love ballad which was a bit unexpected. 

H-m-m-m my baby…heaven sent You to me

The words drew me in and instinctively, I took a deep breath and braced myself as I continued to watch the video.  Uh oh, here we go…do I really want to experience this right now?  By the second verse, I was completely captivated and there was no turning back.  I gave myself no choice but to listen to the entire song. 

If you are a babylost parent, I have to warn you, the following lines were especially touching.  I pretty much held it together until I heard these words:

Do you hear the Angels
Sing for You my baby 

As the song ended, I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction.  I wiped the mist in my eyes with the back of my hand, and promptly clicked “replay” brave enough to hum along quietly this time.  “What a beautiful Christmas Lullaby”, I thought to myself. 

As I turned the volume up and began to absorb the music, I realized that something had changed since last year. I felt noticeably different and was finally able to “let go” of the need to protect myself and avoid Christmas music.

On one level, the song could merely stand as a timeless lullaby.  It could have been sung by any mother in awe of her newborn cuddled peacefully in her arms.  But this was a Christmas song and when you pay attention to the words, they describe how Blessed Mary must have felt holding Baby Jesus the night He was born. 

I can imagine how she tenderly held her baby boy close to her heart, grateful for this gift.  This child is the long awaited Messiah, sent from heaven?  It must have been an overwhelming experience for this humble young mother to welcome kings and shepherds and seeing them bow to her boy. 

Alyssa, Rebecca and Lauren, the three sisters that make up the praise band BarlowGirl, croon in perfect harmony with one another.  It is evident that they have a lot of passion for their Christian faith.  Hallelujah (Light Has Come) is a song full of hope and promise, and yet, there is an unmistakable element to this Christmas song that is soulful and sad. 

Perhaps it is a way of hinting that the Blessed Mother knew to cherish these early moments with Baby Jesus knowing that one day, she would have to give her beloved Son up.

This Christmas lullaby is for you Keaton…

Hallelujah (Light Has Come) Lyrics

By BarlowGirl

Hmmm my baby
Heaven sent You to me
All the world’s been praying
Who will Save?

But who am I
That here tonight
I hold the One
Who’ll bring us life

Hallelujah,
We’ve been found
A child is born
To save us now, Jesus

Hallelujah light has come
A Saviour who will set us free
A promise for those who believe

Do you hear the Angels
Sing for You my baby
Men and kings have come to
Bow to You
But here in my arms

So close to me
The son of God
Now all can see

Hallelujah, we’ve been found
A child is born to save us now
Jesus

Hallelujah light has come
A Saviour set us free

So praise to God on high
He has heard our cry

Hmmm my baby

He Will Gather the Lambs in His Arms…

We usually like to attend evening Mass at our Parish.  Faith-filled young adults from the local Catholic college also come to this service which is really nice to see.  We love singing the mixture of traditional and contemporary music led by the talented and upbeat youth choir.

Yesterday, we decided to go to morning Mass which is popular with younger families and thus the pews are filled with adults and children of all ages.  Sometimes the choir sings hymns which are appealing to the younger children as they can easily follow along and sing the melody.  A good example was the entrance song that we sung, a beautiful repetition of one simple phrase;

Prepare ye the way of the Lord…

Before lighting the Advent candles, Father called God’s “little people” aged 3 yrs. – 7 yrs., up to the front to gather for the Children’s Liturgy.  I was busy craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the excited children as they scurried towards the Advent wreath, when it suddenly dawned on me — Keaton will be 3 yrs. old next month. 

“Keaton should be there with all of them too” I whispered to my husband who sat beside me; I tilted my head slightly towards the group of children.  He looked at me knowingly, squeezed my hand and nodded.  I did my best to hide my emotions and quickly wiped the few unexpected tears away as Mass continued.

I couldn’t help but think about the little milestones that would have been celebrated in our family.  Next month, our son would have been old enough to be to be a part of the Children’s Liturgy and listen to the Gospel in kid-friendly language.  He would be one of those sweet boys and girls who would come running back to the pews, with a brightly coloured picture or craft in his hand eager to show us what he learned from the teachers.  We would be the ones to look over our shoulders to make sure Keaton found his way back to us, kiss him on the head upon his return and admire the beautiful, messy artwork that he proudly would have presented…

As I thought of my son, I wondered what he must be doing in heaven.  Do they have Children’s Liturgy there?  Jesus must teach our children Himself, right?  Does Keaton already know all he needs to know?  What if-

And almost mid-thought, I was no longer distracted.  I felt the Holy Spirit re-directing my attention to the readings as they were being spoken out loud.  I was keenly aware of the following words as I listened;

*Isaiah 40: 1 – 5, 9 – 11

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God…. He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

*Peter 3: 8 – 14

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day…. But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

*Mark 1: 1 – 8

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way;…John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

*From EWTN for Dec.4, 2011.  Note bold emphasis is my own.

Fittingly, the first Communion Hymn that was sung was “Like A Shepherd

Like a Shepherd He feeds His flock

and gathers the lambs in His arms

Holding them carefully close to His heart,

leading them home….

Let’s just say, the scripture readings and Communion Hymn spoke for themselves and I no longer felt a need to wonder and try to figure out what Keaton was doing.  My son was in the arms of Jesus and at the same time, our son was also very much with us as well.       

____

**Name changed

Celebrating Our Infants: The Feast of The Holy Innocents

December 28 2011 - Infant Loss Memorial Service at St. Ann’s Parish, Abbotsford

For the second year, St Ann’s Parish (33333 Mayfair Ave Abbotsford) will host a special remembrance on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28th. Mass is at 7pm, reception to follow.

This service is for parents and loved ones of all babies lost to miscarriage, pre-term birth, stillbirth, and infant death.  Anyone who is grieving due to post abortion trauma is also welcome.

Bereaved parents, friends and other family members are invited to come and celebrate the all-too-brief lives of their dearly loved and missed babies. Please visit St. Ann’s Parish website for future bulletins and more details as the feast day draws nearer.

2010 Program and white angel memento given to families

Here is an account of what I experienced at this service last year:

Celebration of Life Remembrance Service Dec. 28th

Bereaved parents, family members and friends were invited to the Celebration of Life Remembrance Service at St. Ann’s Parish in Abbotsford to honour infants and babies who have died during pregnancy, at birth and shortly after birth.  On this day, the Feast of the Holy Innocents has been set aside in some Christian traditions to remember little ones who have died much too soon.

In the program, a number of quotes and scriptures were included, but the one that struck me the most was the following by Mother M. Angelica.  When I started reading this quote, the words resonated deep within and my eyes got teary even before the service started:

My Lord, the baby is dead!

 Why, my Lord—dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face—it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?

 “Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why.

 You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”

                                                                                        Mother M. Angelica

St. Ann's Book of Life

I cried quite a few tears that evening, but they were healing tears rather than bitter tears of despair that I cried in the many months immediately after my son’s death. 

During the service Father James Hughes, Pastor at St. Ann’s acknowledged that the Christmas season may not be a joyful time of celebration for all families, especially those mourning the loss of a child.  It was his hope that remembrance Masses like these would help bring hope and healing to grieving parents and family members.    

What I found particularly touching was the part of the remembrance celebration when parents and siblings were invited to light a candle in memory of our little one(s).  We all gathered at the entrance way and one by one, about 30 of us lit a candle carefully cradling our tiny light and carrying it up to the table.  It was a beautiful sight to see all of the votives placed together creating a soft flickering glow for the remainder of the Mass.   

Thank you Jody and Karen for requesting this special service.  To Father James and St. Ann’s Parish, we appreciate you setting aside this time for us to gather together to love, remember and honour our children especially during the holidays. 

Pls. note:  An Elizabeth Minister will be at this event, email:  info(at)littlelightofheaven(dot) com if you would like to meet at this event.