Grieving loved ones — transforming pain into peace

This column, written by Chris Codden, was featured in the St. Cloud Visitor’s October 25th issue:

 

Observing the upcoming Feast of All Saints and All Souls Day are ways we remember the saints who were close to us, but we have other ways, too

Oct. 25, 2013, edition
By Chris Codden

My parents had a lovely family Bible located in a prominent place on a corner table in our living room.

It was the kind of Bible that had the beautiful pictures of the various Bible stories and, in the very front, contained our family’s genealogy.

I remember sitting down occasionally thumbing through this massive book admiring the striking pictures and reading the names of family members I had only met through the stories my aunt and uncles told around the table.

I also remember my mother explaining the meaning of the cross before several names, the names of her sister and brothers who had died in infancy.

When we were married, we received the same kind of Bible as a wedding present. I remember as a young bride, dutifully entering in the front of the Bible those names of our families and imagining what names I would add as our family began.

What I didn’t expect at that time were the names I would enter in with a cross.

Lives of all valued

It may be meant by design or grand plan that Respect Life Month is October just before we commemorate All Saints and All Souls days, Nov. 1 and 2. Those are the days we remember the saints, those named as saints by the church and those who are saints in our hearts who are now enjoying eternal glory with Christ.

Maybe remembering the gift of life for all God’s children, born and unborn, prepares us to celebrate the life of our loved ones who have passed, on All Souls Day.

Maybe it helps us grasp the precious gift that life truly is at all stages of development, from the moment of conception until a natural death.

And maybe it helps us put our lives in perspective as we meet the turmoil of the world around us and the need to stand up for that ultimate gift that we, by nature of our baptism, are called to defend.

As we meet this challenge, for many of us there is a sense of sorrow.

When our son died 33 years ago, my heart grieved his loss, and still does to this day.

We entered Clayton’s name in our family Bible when he was born, and added a cross before his name when he died. My husband and I go to the cemetery on his birthday and the anniversary of his death to remember him, to honor his life.

Yet, we have another child who never celebrated a birthday and does not have a gravestone. Her short life was only 6 to 7 weeks long and we lost her through an ectopic pregnancy.

Heart-rending hole

While we are not sure of the gender, several years after her passing, we decided to name our baby Emma Rose. I had felt such a hole in my heart, not able to grasp her memory, feeling I was not acknowledging this short beautiful life and that I had somehow turned my back on her.

Naming her helped me to grieve her loss, find peace and thank God for his abundant mercy and grace. Her name was added to our Bible with a blessed cross.

I am grateful to the Knights of Columbus for their contribution to Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud for the memorial marker for the unborn. While there are no names listed on the gravestone, when Rich and I go out to the cemetery, we spend time there reflecting, and it has become our memorial for Emma Rose.

Today, as I look through our same family Bible, full of beautiful pictures and the names of our wonderful family, I thank God for all his blessings, including the blessing of our family saints.

Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Reach her at ccodden@gw.stcdio.org.