I would like to share with you a meditation I wrote for the memorial service for a child lost to a couple in my church through miscarriage. Holding such a memorial service was a new experience for me, and probably many others. There are few resources available to churches, especially ones that are not caught up in the pro-life/pro-choice debate. Wherever one falls on that issue, one cannot deny that when a child is lost to a family, they feel a genuine loss. One reason why there are few resources, including in mainline Protestant worship books, is that until recently women would keep word of such a loss to a small circle of people, usually a few family members and friends. But that is changing. Grief is real and needs to be shared if healing is to occur. I'm sharing this with permission from Kate and Tim, in the hope that it will encourage others to break the silence and provide the kind of care and support families require in a moment such as this. The name Starbit is the nickname that Kate and Tim chose for this child whose life they envisioned sharing with as a family. I invite you to read and meditate upon the nature of loss, and the ways in which we can become more aware of and supportive of those who experience loss.
When God called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry, God said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” These words speak to us today as we stand with Kate and Tim in their moment of grief. Their loss of a child through miscarriage is deeply felt and in many ways inexpressible with words.
A life had begun to take form within the womb. A family began to imagine what the future held for them as their number increased from three to four. Although the pregnancy was still in a relatively early stage, bonding had already begun to take place. Then, in the twinkling of an eye this emerging life came to an abrupt end. As a family they entered a valley of darkness. Grief set in.
We come today to lift up a family and remember a life that began and ended in the womb. In this moment of remembrance, we’re also reminded that life is fragile and needs to be treasured.
In earlier days, news of a miscarriage was usually kept private. But in recent years, as technology advances, families begin to bond with this emerging life within the womb much earlier. The imagination is set free and plans are made. As the child grows in the womb, space is made in the house and in the heart to welcome this new addition to the family. Appointments with the doctor fill the calendar. The expected birth date is marked. Perhaps a name is chosen, even if it’s not the final name. Even S was getting prepared to take on her new role as a big sister. And then word came from the doctor. No heartbeat could be found. A life had come to an end. So it is appropriate that we gather today to remember the life of a child whom we never met, but whose life had taken hold in the hearts of this family.
For those of us who have never experienced this kind of loss it may be difficult to imagine. We may struggle to find words to share. But we needn’t say anything. We just need to be present and lift up our loved ones in prayer.
The word from the Gospel of Mark is a good one to hear at this moment. Jesus said to his disciples: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:13-16). This child whose life came to an end within the womb is counted among those little children whom Jesus welcomes into the realm of God. This word gives us hope, though it does not diminish the loss that is felt by the family.
As we ponder the meaning of our gathering, it is good to hear this word of comfort from the Psalmist. It is a Psalm we often share at funerals and memorial services, because it gives comfort and strength:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . . even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear now evil, for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23)
This is the promise that we take hold of at this moment in time. Yes, God is with us. Like a shepherd, the Spirit of God leads us to still waters and green pastures, so that we might find peace and wholeness. It doesn’t happen overnight. The journey can be long, but by coming here today we declare that even as the Spirit is moving in and amongst this family, the Spirit draws us into their lives to stand with them in the hope of the resurrection.