sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: Kathryn Wales
When my husband and I suffered the loss of our second child at sixteen weeks, we had never heard a story of miscarriage. We did not know what to expect. One day I felt the first quickening flutters, and the next day we heard no heartbeat. Because we would be traveling to see our families for Christmas the following week, induction rather than waiting seemed to be the better choice. My husband and I arranged for my two-year-old son to stay with friends, settled in at the hospital, and clung to each other through the storm. After eleven hours, I was holding my daughter in the palm of my hand. Her shining red face looked like us.
In the midst of that excruciating grief, a nurse told me that the local funeral home was ready to help. My beloved mother-in-law several states away had been preparing for us what would be a life-changing grace. She had called Cedar Grove Cemetery at the University of Notre Dame (where my husband was a in grad school) and learned that they had recently begun allowing students to bury their deceased children as a special privilege. My in-laws then gifted us with the burial plot and headstone.
All of this was ahead, however, because we had decided to have genetic testing done to determine the cause of death, and that process would be delayed through the holiday vacation. Our daughter’s remains stayed in the care of Palmer Funeral Home, which performs all services for miscarried babies free of charge. The Palmer family had suffered many losses themselves and so offered this as an act of mercy—such mercy.
After spending Christmas with our families on the east coast, we returned home to bury our child. A priest friend of ours performed the ceremony with only ourselves and our toddler present. Palmer had provided a white ceramic coffin on which we placed a peacock feather as a symbol of the resurrection of the body and a holy card of our daughter’s namesake. We sang as we huddled in the snowy cold. Later, a rose-colored headstone was placed there. It reads Theodora Nicodemus Wales, 2011. My family has moved away but not too far. Whenever one or all of us are in town, we visit and pray. We show our three sons and remind them that they have a sister who someday they will meet. We know that she intercedes for us, and especially me.
In the year following our loss, three of my friends suffered the same sadness. They buried their babies alongside mine. I recently learned that Cedar Grove Cemetery now holds a poinsettia/wreath fundraiser each Christmas to cover all burial expenses including headstones for Notre Dame families who lose children. It is my sincere hope that more opportunities like this will become available for families who miscarry all over the country. Knowing where my daughter’s remains are kept and with what care is a consolation beyond words.