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.

Advent Preparation, Anticipation, & Funerals

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist- Savannah, GA

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
– O, Antiphons

Advent a season of preparation- preparation for the gift of a child. While we prepare in joyful  anticipation for the Christ child’s birth, we also prepare to bury a child. During the 2nd week of Advent, my family & I will celebrate her life & mourn the loss of my 23 week old niece while her 26 week old sister fights to develop & grow in the NICU. Advent for us is a season of joy & sorrow & of loss & life. Mostly unwavering love.

This Advent heightens that the joyful birth of Christ is intertwined with the Cross of Christ & the Resurrection. One doesn’t exist separate from the other as with the Christian life. As a Catholic Christian, the crucifix & the manger bring me great comfort & perspective. The wood of the manger leads to the wood of the Cross, but neither is the final word. Because we look forward to the Resurrection of the Dead & the Life of the world to come.

Our family friend & priest that baptized me offered Mass for my family & for the repose of the soul of my niece Isabella at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. My best friend is travelling in the Philippines praying for our family. Two innocent little children deemed less than human by many have not only touched our hearts but people all over the world. In the Spirit of Advent, the season of preparation & anticipation of the birth of a child, we find the profound beauty & importance of the presence of a child- a child in utero.

Happy Advent!