In the cemetery located in an upper middle class area of metropolitan Atlanta, there is a special section. It’s nestled near the bottom of a sloping hill, up against the boundary of the property. It’s called Babyland.
A drive wanders through the large acreage, meandering among the immaculately cared-for graves, in and out the massive trees. As one moves along the drive, coasting quietly down the slope toward Babyland, a modest but beautiful piece of statuary appears.
I stopped my car there the other day. Solitude was mine; no one was around. For a moment I stood looking toward the statuary, a winged cherub reaching toward the heavens. Beams of sun pinched their way through the branches forming a latticed awing over the place. The cherub’s foot rested upon a pedestal which is surrounded by neatly laid paving stones, many with names and dates carved into them.
I knelt there and placed a rose on a brick bearing the name of Lennon, another on the one reading Joy, another on Rose’s brick. These are the resting places of my never realized grandchildren, all of them died in their mother’s womb. A fourth rose was placed on the brick bearing their stillborn cousin, Isabella.
Rising, I stood, remembering the days I’d led a quiet worship service at Babyland, beside the ascending cherub. The services were to lay these precious children to rest. The services were momentous for many reasons.
These celebrations acknowledged the sacredness of life of these children who never knew the sweetness of life nor how they were loved. The celebrations affirmed their worth for we who were never blessed to hold them, to behold their smile or coo in contentment with them. We loved them mightily just the same. These were not blobs of undeveloped tissue. These were my child’s child, with beating hearts and unlimited potential, blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh. They were precious.
The parents of these children grieved then, and, amid the pitter, patter of the beautiful children who now occupy their lives, they still grieve. Here at Babyland, that grief was given a focus that day when the Service of Death and Resurrection for a Stillborn Child was celebrated.
Oh, Lennon, Joy, and Rose, objects of my love, with whom I never played neither hide-n-seek nor peek-a-boo, nor watched you fly far above my backyard on the rope swing, you were such a promise for me. Oh, Lennon, Joy and Rose, how I miss what might have been. But because we celebrated that day the unfulfilled life that was you, because the physical you was committed to the love of God and now lies among those other precious children of other parent’s love, there is a place I can come, as I have today, to honor you, to remember you, to love you. In that service of death and resurrection your worth, the sacredness of your life, was acknowledged. And you will always abide and be loved in my heart.
The morning had turned to midday as I left. Driving home I embraced the uniqueness of those celebrations. How wonderful they were. How rare they are.
If children are sacred from the moment of conception, as is maintained by many in the church, why are such celebrations not commonplace?