Burying the Dead During Advent: Asking "How" & Not "Why"

“When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through… People said to me, ‘It would be better to never have had them.’ I couldn’t stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones up above again.”

St. Zellie Martin

After a very risky and complicated identical twin pregnancy, my family and loved ones buried my niece Isabella born to heaven at 25 weeks. There are no pictures or videos of her funeral, but the memories and emotions are seared forever in my heart and mind. There are few words to adequately describe witnessing your eldest brother carry a tiny white casket out of the Chapel after his daughter’s funeral Mass or watch him place her int he ground. Or hold your niece and godchild for minutes while she cries into your wool coat. Or tell your teary eyed and recovering sister-in-law, “I’m so grateful you’re here, and I don’t take that for granted.” We could have experienced a double to triple funeral. And there is still the hopeful but unknown future for her sister Sara.

We did this together as a family and faith community. Withing the sacraments, we commended and entrusted this beautiful, precious girl to God. I’ve learned through the years not to ask “why” anymore but “how.” How has this child transformed our lives? How has this child reflected God? How have I responded to this gift? How can I act with compassion? Am I grateful for this life? Am I open to this life? Am I open to love- the love of a child? Yes.

Dear, Isabella, Aunt Hannah loves you and misses you. Your entire family loves and misses you. I hope to join you in Heaven someday. Requiem Aeternam, baby girl.

Love, Babies, & Loss

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you…” -Jeremiah 1:5

I’ve kept mostly quiet about the TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome) pregnancy my brother & sister-in-law are navigating. After 2 emergency fetoscopic surgeries 4.5 hours away, dozens of local Maternal Fetal Medicine appointments, & hospital bed rest, my precious identical twin nieces were born via emergency extraction at 25 weeks Thursday, November 29th. Isabella was born to heaven, and Sara is in the NICU. Mom is struggling with complications, but she is beginning to show signs of improvement.

Both baby girls are so loved & cherished by their parents, siblings, & extended family. Our lives are forever transformed by their presence! They’re parents have fought hard for their girls health and wellness despite the many challenges and risks.

We’ve experienced extraordinary medical situations & miscarriages in our family, but our present situation is uncharted territory. The fragility of earthly life is inescapable, changing within a moment with minimal control or certainty. The prolonged reality unavoidable. Our holidays will be involved in the best and most challenging sense. The intensive, specialized NICU care of Sara will continue into the New Year and beyond. And eventually our family will gather to celebrate her life and mourn the loss of Isabella.

But the certainty of God’s merciful & unending love never changes. He has never abandoned us or the girls. Through the confusion, heartache, & stress, the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit sustains our weary spirits. The sacramental life of the Church brings purpose, perspective, meaning, & grace. The twins’ lives are a catalyst for entering into a deeper understanding of authentic love, trust, hope, & joy. The twins are bringing us closer to heaven if we chose to respond to them through the eyes of God. By love refined…

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Prayers are much appreciated! God bless. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

To My Nephew,

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi! Our entire family is overflowing with joy and gratitude with the grace and excitement of celebrating your First Holy Communion and Confirmation. This weekend that commemorates and celebrates the Most Holy Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ begins your full journey within the sacramental life of the Catholic faith.

How do I explain the gift & truth of the Eucharist in our modern times marked by relativism and skepticism of the divine? How do I impress upon you that your First Holy Communion and each instance you receive the Eucharist you receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (God and Man who walked the earth 2,000+ years ago) under the appearances of bread and wine? How do I express the mystery of this sacrament and the consummate relationship we enter into with God through the gift of the Eucharist? Ultimately, as you age, despite all the modeling, explanations, witnesses, and prayers of your family and loved ones, you will make a personal choice as a child of God and your relationship with the Holy Trinity.

As you learned, and by the grace of God and the gift of faith may come to know in your heart, mind, body, and soul, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. The Eucharist & the Eucharistic relationship is why we are Catholic- why we live, breath, suffer, die, and rise in the newness of eternal life. May the Eucharist, like the Church, become the source and summit of your life. Whatever happens in your life, cling to the Eucharist. There you will find: beauty, peace, life, love, hope, passion, purpose, and truth. All things lacking in our distracted and relativistic society. People, whether they know it or not, search their whole life seeking what your just received within you- Jesus Christ.

Tragically, the world, society, peers, authority figures, relatives, or romantic interests will try to beat the truth out and distract you from the truth of childlike faith- the acceptance that this is Jesus Christ fully present within the Eucharist. Their arguments will be convincing, popular, rational, interesting, and less confrontational veiled under the threat of stigmatization, ostracizing, intolerance, rationalization, and relativism. You will learn in due course, there is an earthly price to be paid as a Christian, especially a Catholic Christian. But Be Not Afraid for Christ has already overcome the world!

As you mature and develop from a boy of God into a man of God, always remember you are a Child of God. The measure of authentic manhood and masculinity, like our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Joseph or St. Francis of Assisi your confirmation saint, is our love for God- beginning with the most tangible metaphysical intangible in our earthly lives the Eucharist. This lifelong love will permeate all other aspects of your life: how and why you make decisions, your pull towards virtue or vice, your peace or turmoil in times of uncertainty or fear, how you live out your earthly vocation, and the narrow road which leads to heaven and eternal life. Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.

Since I know you appreciate an epic saga, I will quote a Doctor of the Church who experienced his own epic life saga. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, ” “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”

This weekend you were sealed with the Holy Spirit and may the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit be apart of your daily life, every moment from this day forward. Dominic, our family loves you dearly and that love will continue to grow and mature as we all mature and grow together in our wonderful earthly adventure of sainthood filled with moments of the agony and ecstasy. You are not alone in this journey. As you so eloquently explained, Christ is everywhere. He is also waiting for you in the tabernacle, monstrance, and paten. The Holy Spirit is your spiritual breath. And God the Father grants graces from above and eagerly awaits your homecoming. Our Lady will lead you closer to the Trinity as she herself entered into communion with the Holy Trinity. And all the angels and saints, including St. Francis of Assisi, will always be with you in this life & the next. As I will be, whether next to you or above.

With all my love and affection,

Aunt Hannah

A.M.D.G. JM+J

Dear Little One,

*Dedicated to Francis, Noel, & Karol*

With the news of your impending arrival, we rejoiced at the gift of your life and anticipated when we would interact with you in our surroundings. We marveled at the thought of another unique human being entering our family. We imagined the soft feel of a newborn paired with that uncanny bonding smell of a newborn. We could almost hear your soft content coo and infant cry. A baby is a gift.

love beads

The joyous shrieks and squeals of your cousins echo in my memory as the soft tears of your grandparents, aunts, and uncles remain etched on my heart. We instantly held you in our hearts. A place you will always remain.

Though we never experienced your uncanny newborn smell, the softness of your skin, or the glow of your unique personality, you are ours. The quality of love shared with my living nieces and nephews cannot be explained or quantified. Years of bonding, connecting, living, breathing, and feeling with them. I may not as acutely feel your death the same way as I would theirs, but that isn’t your fault, Little One. The limits of my human imagination and experience don’t diminish the reality of your existence and personhood.

I do believe you’re watching over us, praying for us, and keeping company with family from above. We grieved your loss. Your parents miss you. We miss your presence. Little One, please, pray for us. And we, in turn, pray and hope for the day in which we shall be reunited with you.

Someday, Little One, I’ll hold you in my arms. For now, I’ll hold you in my heart. Thank you for being a part of our family and for your prayers. Please, take good care of each other.

With All My Love,

Aunt Hannah