By Laura Keener
At 22 weeks gestation William was stillborn. He had suffered from a condition known as hydrops syndrome — a condition that causes fluid buildup and William’s heart to stop. As he entered the world, family surrounded him, including his grandmother, Jackie Vezina, who held her third grandchild in her hand. Her heart was aching
Mrs. Vezina’s son and daughter-in-law were trying to start a family. The first two grandchildren were miscarried. Mrs. Vezina knows neither their name nor their sex. The couple went on to conceive and give birth to a baby girl who is now 18 months old. Mrs. Vezina is thankful to God for the gift of her granddaughter. She is also grateful for the gift of William and the other two babies in heaven. And, last year when she saw the notice for the Memorial Mass for the Loss of a Child in the St. Timothy Church bulletin, she knew she and her husband needed to go.
“I went specifically for William but the other two were also in my heart,” said Mrs. Vezina. “I think it brought me peace and made me feel closer to them. I didn’t get to know these children but they are dear to me.”
This year the diocesan Pro-Life Office is once again sponsoring a Memorial Mass for the Loss of a Child. The Mass will be held Thursday, March 15, 7 p.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington. Father Jeffrey VonLehmen, pastor, St. Patrick Parish, Taylor Mill, will be the celebrant. The Mass is for parents, grandparents, family members and friends of those who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, early infant death, illness, suicide, accident or any other reason.
Faye Roch, director, Pro-Life Office, said that the Mass has a two-fold purpose — to seek God’s healing embrace and to ask God to relieve the burden of grief for those who are suffering.
“It’s a beautiful Mass,” said Mrs. Roch. “It does touch people in different ways. I hope people feel they are welcome to come to be with others who are also suffering grief and that they will feel embraced by God.”
Feeling God’s embrace and the comfort of being in community with other people who share the same loss is exactly what Mrs. Vezina experienced.
“There were so many people there. You think its only affecting you, but its not. We were all together like a family,” said Mrs. Vezina. “I may not know what sex the babies were but they are my grandchildren. Being at the Mass is time set aside to be with them. I know they are in God’s hands and I felt his hands were there at the Mass holding all of us.”
At the Mass, participants are invited to enroll the name, if known, of the child that they lost into the book of the dead. The book is kept from year to year. Participants are also welcome to take a lighted candle and place it before the statue of the Pietà — an image of Mary holding the body of her dead son.
“That’s symbolic of Mary suffering great grief at Jesus’ death,” said Mrs. Roch. Mrs. Roch acknowledged that the Mass is taking place during the season of Lent — leading to the time when Mary was suffering the great loss of her son. “So, we look at Mary, our mother,” she said.
Mrs. Vezina said she was glad she attended last year’s Mass and is looking forward to attending the Mass again this year. “I felt peace and I felt closeness; it was an emotional and moving experience, but not in a bad way,” she said.
She also has found another way to keep her first three grandchildren close to her. “I wear three little precious feet pins, they are always with me, near my heart,” she said.
Memorial Mass for the Loss of a Child
Thursday, March 15, 7 p.m., Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington
Father Jeffrey VonLehmen will be the celebrant.
The Mass is for parents, grandparents, family members and friends of those who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, early infant death, illness, suicide, accident or any other reason.
No registration required.
Sponsored by the diocesan Pro-Life Office.