Sunday, January 29, 2012

He calls them each by name.

 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. -Isaiah 40:26

While I know that my sons don't need forgiveness for their sins (they had no sins), I still wanted to have panikhidas for them. We had a panikhida the other night for someone and I had to sing because there were only a few of us there. I was paying very close attention to the words, thinking about Innocent and Andrew. Most of the prayers have to do with asking forgiveness for the person's sins and they would obviously not apply in their cases. I thought about why I wanted memorial services in church for them so much. The answer occurred to me tonight. I wanted to hear their names.

A whole cottage industry has sprung up for providing various means of seeing babies' names written out. Some are written in the sand and photographed, some are painted onto stones, some are tied to balloons and released. If your child has died before birth then you will not have the hand print on construction paper with the child's name and “Happy Mother's Day” to pin on your wall. You won't be signing permission forms for field trips, you won't be typing about the cute thing he said in your letter to Grandma. Parents of miscarried and stillborn children already suffer the feeling that everyone has either forgotten their children or refused to admit their existence in the first place. Hearing and seeing the child's name is validating. Your child lived even if they didn't draw breath. He or she is a person with an immortal soul.

I haven't had a big interest in seeing Innocent and Andrew's names written onto balloons, the beach, or stenciled onto stuffed angels. I want to hear their names in church with the rest of the departed. Given that we commemorate reposed catechumens and given that unborn babies of Orthodox parents are considered catechumens, you would think that they would be commemorated and included when Memory Eternal is sung in church, but they're not. I don't know what the solution is.

Even if I can't change the practice of the Church (and I don't know that in some churches they don't already do that), I can encourage people to do this: Say the names of the departed babies of your friends and family members. There is some sort of misconception that if you mention the babies by name you are hurting the parents even more. I'm not saying that for someone out there this won't be the case, but I haven't met them yet. Everyone I know wants to hear their baby's name, wants to know that someone else thinks about them and acknowledged their existence. The sound of your baby's name is no less beautiful for the child having departed this life.


  1. Thank you for sharing all these things for others walking a similar road. The photographs you shared of the babies at different gestational ages is very powerful. More people need to see it to understand this is LIFE, not a clump of cells.

    Hannah Rose

  2. Hannah, thank you for visiting and writing. May the memory of Luke and Lily be eternal!


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