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Honoring miscarried children

When I was a bit younger (and stupider) I had little regard for commemorative events. These events seemed unnecessary and perfunctory. They seemed to me to be forgotten before they even started, and at best served the purpose of making people feel good for ever so slight a moment. As I’ve grown older (and reality has knocked some sense into me), I’ve recognized the foolishness in these immature thoughts.

A little over a year ago, at the Memorial Day Mass at Calvary Cemetery, Bishop Conley preached about memory. He recited a definition of memory he learned from a former seminary professor. The definition went like this: Memory is a faculty that forgets.

I found the definition to be wildly odd. After all, isn’t the memory about remembering and recalling what you already know? Nevertheless, the definition has stuck with me.

The point of recalling that definition of memory as “the faculty that forgets” was to remind us of why we were there at that Memorial Day Mass. As human beings, we are not so much prone to remember, but we are prone to forget. As somebody who has never considered himself as having much of an ability to memorize, this reality of human life as “constantly forgetting” people, events, and things resonates deeply with me. Our memories too often fail us. It’s a faculty that forgets!

As we enter the month of October, there are many commemorations that are taking place, both secular and religious. For Catholics, the October liturgical calendar is chock full of incredible saints to celebrate, starting with a favorite of mine, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who I named my firstborn daughter after—not to mention John Paul II, Faustina, Margaret Mary Alacoque (shout out to the Sacred Heart of Jesus!), Bruno, Teresa of Ávila, Our Lady of the Rosary.... I think you see the point.

As well, October includes many secular commemorations. One of those is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. For the last several years, my wife, Makayla, and I have attended an event to commemorate Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day each Oct. 15. This has been an important day for our family to honor the loss of our first born daughter, Thérèse, who we lost two weeks after she was born. And while I have so much joy knowing she is a saint in Heaven, that knowledge does very little to stop the grief of missing her here on earth, especially when I envision her playing alongside her identical twin sister, Monica.

Since the loss of Thérèse, I’ve realized that we are not alone in our grief and loss. The data tells us 1 in 4 women experience the pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant loss. This is no small number!

In 2018, the Nebraska Catholic Conference, along with our other pro-life partner organizations, and with the legislative leadership of State Senator Joni Albrecht, helped to pass into law LB1040. This legislation provides for commemorative certificates for nonviable birth.

LB1040 was a first-in-the-nation law to provide certificates to not only mothers and families who experienced a miscarriage at a later point in the pregnancy, but also to those who experienced a miscarriage at any point in their pregnancy—even in the earliest weeks of pregnancy.

The legislation also provides for retroactive certificates, to help mothers and families who experienced a miscarriage prior to the enactment of the law.

So, what exactly is the point of these certificates? The answer is simple: to have a formal way to commemorate and memorialize the life of those tiny little babies who have gone before us to the Lord Jesus.

And why is this important? If you ask the younger (more foolish) me, I would have given you a poor answer. But if you ask me now, a man who has been seasoned by the joys and sufferings of life, I would tell you that these little acts of memory help you feel the great love God has bestowed upon you, even if the love has been accompanied by suffering.

If you are a person who experienced a miscarriage or know somebody who has, I would encourage you to look into the State of Nebraska’s commemorative nonviable birth certificates ( I pray that this certificate provides you healing, grace, and comfort as you recall the life of the little loved one you walked with for even a few moments in this great “vale of tears” on the journey toward Heaven.

St. Gerard (feast day on Oct. 16!), pray for us!

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