What is your relationship to the person whose death you are remembering?
March 12, 2020…We found out we were pregnant! After I took the test and it was positive, I told my two-year-old first! Of course, she didn’t fully understand, but together, we woke up Baba and told him that she was going to be a big sister! We were all so happy and excited. I figured out that I would be due November 15, 2020, and looked forward to welcoming our seventh child right after my 40th birthday.
I so enjoyed being pregnant this go around. Being the seventh, I started showing right away. My six other girls were ecstatic and we shared the news with family and close friends immediately. My five-year-old would tell any stranger that we passed by that “mommy has a baby in her tummy!”
I went for our first ultrasound and got to see our new baby’s tiny heartbeat. She was alive and moving on the ultrasound, but my doctor warned me that she was too small and things did not look good. We set an appointment to come back the following week. With this sad news hanging over us, my husband and I decided to name the baby Eden. We wanted to call her by name.
Were you able to be with this person during the process of dying? If you were not physically present, how were you connected in other ways during that time?
It was Holy Week, so I kept busy with my older girls doing crafts and preparing for Pascha, while in the back of my mind my prayers for Eden’s health and safety and a small miracle were constant. We had a beautiful Paschal weekend at home. Just our (not so) little family because of the Corona Virus Quarantine, but we had a big meal, colored eggs, and baked treats together. We were happy and the weather was gorgeous. I sat outside in the back yard and took a picture of my growing belly. I liked imagining who Eden might become. I was looking forward to having to drive the big white 15-passenger van all the time now with all these kids in tow.
I went for my follow-up appointment with my doctor the following Monday. Again, because of the quarantine, I had to go alone: No visitors were permitted and there was no one to leave the children with besides my husband. My dear friend came and waited outside the doctor’s office in her car to comfort me, come what may. It was a great kindness.
The ultrasound was the quietest that I have ever had. As soon as the wand went across my belly, I knew that Eden was too small. When she turned on the sound to listen for the heartbeat, only silence met my ears. Tears started falling down my cheeks as I tried to remain still for the rest of the ultrasound.
April 18, 2020….Eden’s body passed from mine, relatively painlessly at home. My husband, Zyad, and I sat with her, prayed for her and cried together. We read the psalms and we blessed her with Holy water and wrapped her body and set it in her tiny casket. The immense sadness that I felt that day is beyond anything I have ever experienced. I wanted Eden to stay with me, I did not want to leave her somewhere I couldn’t be.
How was faith present or absent during those days or moments? How did the death affect your faith?
For each of our children, we have always purchased a cross for them on their baptism day. As we prepared Eden’s coffin, I was suddenly filled with overwhelming sadness that I could not do the same for her. I looked through my belongings and found a tiny crucifix that was mine when I was a baby. We pinned it onto the fabric inside the casket for her.
I have never questioned the idea of a benevolent God so much as in this period of time after losing Eden, and in truth, another baby just five months later who we named Thomas John. It seems inordinately cruel to subject us to such misery and loss. And yet, if God so chose to spare my children this life of struggle and take them immediately unto Himself, how can I not rejoice for them and for the fact that I now have two advocates Above created in my own womb?
I found our faith extremely comforting in the death of my children. Since Eden was far enough along that we were able to bury her, our parish priest came and said the funeral prayers for us at the cemetery. Thomas was too soon and we were not able to do the same for him. Yet, we prayed the prayers provided for miscarriage together as a family. Our knowledge of life after death and our faith in God also gave our children a beautiful lens to process this situation through as well. They openly and lovingly speak of their siblings awaiting them in Heaven every night in family prayers.
What do you believe about our life after death?
St. Zelie Martin (Mother of St. Therese) lost four of her nine children. When those around her said it would have been better that they had never been born, she responded, “My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones again up above.”
I believe that we will live eternally with God in Heaven. I believe that souls already there can pray for us as we also pray for them. It is my deepest hope and desire that all my children be with me and my husband in Heaven someday. And these two need only wait for us to join them, resting in eternity already. And that is the greatest kindness – that this separation is not forever, but only until we meet again.
Beyond that, I’m not sure what to expect and leave that to God’s mercy.
What did you learn from this person’s death that informs your own practices and plans, or feelings, about the rest of your life?
I have mourned both of these children so deeply as to never be the same. It has made me realize that being open to life also means being open to death. We cannot risk the first without ensuring the latter. We cannot love without also experiencing loss. I do not understand all the ways of Our Lord. But I will continue to choose life and love as long as He allows.
In their short lives, Eden and Thomas have made me softer, as suffering always does. I am comforted in knowing that I will see their faces in Heaven someday and that they are Holy Innocents who can pray for their sisters, father, and I always. I am so glad I got to celebrate these little ones, even for a such a short time. May their memory be eternal.