By Monica Novak –
In the Christian traditions, churches all over the world set aside a day of celebrating and remembering our loved ones who have died. Depending on the particular denomination, this day is often referred to as All Souls Day or All Saints Day and is usually held on November 1st or 2nd, or on the 1st Sunday of November. It’s a quiet holiday in comparison to the more prominent events of Christmas and Easter. In some countries, families decorate gravesites with candles and flowers, some even leave food. Here in the United States, many people might not even be able to tell you when this day occurs or what it’s about-unless they attend church regularly or have had reason to honor it themselves following the death of a loved one. Every year, when this day approaches, I’m reminded of the first All Souls Day I experienced after Miranda died.
On the first Sunday in November, 1995, Al and I sat in church waiting for the service to begin. I held my breath and opened the bulletin. Listed in alphabetical order were the names of every member of our congregation who had died during the past year. Today we would remember them by lifting them up in prayer. Of course, I hadn’t forgotten Miranda. Our stillborn daughter had been on my mind every day since the night we held her in our arms and said goodbye more than four months earlier.
The church pianist played softly in the background, and Al put his arm around me while I scanned the bulletin insert. Halfway down I saw what I was looking for. Miranda Novak. I breathed a sigh of relief and regret-glad she hadn’t been accidentally omitted, but sorry that my baby was on this list. Most of these people lived long lives. Miranda and I had both been cheated–I as a mother, she as a human being.
When you lose a baby, you grab for whatever acknowledgement you can find, and reach far to fill the holes where the memories should have grown but never had a chance to take root. Today, we sat in a church to see our daughter’s name in print and hear her name spoken.
“Miranda Novak,” called out the reader during the service, continuing on with dozens more names. I smiled with a strange satisfaction and pride, as if Miranda had just graduated.
In the car driving home, our two-year-old daughter Alex proudly showed me the cross she made in Sunday School with the words “Jesus Loves Me.” The bulletin insert with Miranda’s name in print was a pitiful keepsake in comparison, but a keepsake nonetheless, and I carefully laid it in Miranda’s memory box when we got home.
Whether you have a cemetery to visit or not, or whether you have a church to attend or not, your heart can join in with all those around the world who will be lifting up the spirits of their loved ones in prayer and remembrance during this very special time of year.
Portions of this article were excerpted from The Good Grief Club: A True Story About the Power of Friendship and French Toast.
Monica Novak is the author of The Good Grief Club, the highly-praised memoir about her friendships with six other women that carried them through the ups and downs of grief and motherhood following the loss of their babies in miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. She also serves as editor of Open to Hope’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss blog page. For more information about her book, and for pregnancy loss and infant death resources, please visit her website at www.thegoodgriefclub.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: grief, hope