In our “go big or go home” culture, we too often forget how a single small kindness in a moment is what God may be asking us to do. Sometimes a kindness will grow into a huge apostolate or crusade, but imagine the small opportunities we might miss if we put our kindness on pause until we are sure it will be big.
I shared in a previous column about Kara, a woman I cared for who chose to do a private burial for her miscarried baby and hoped to develop a program to bury more. This is an update to tell you about the service she has provided thusfar. How many babies besides hers has she buried?
. . . one
First, however, some back story . . .
Kara came to hear of me from our city’s newspaper articles, and stories from her friends who suffered losses. She told me that she walked the hospital halls laboring with 3 different babies; each time going by my office thinking things like “Oh God bless her, I hear she does good work, please don’t ever lead me to meet her” as she moved to the other side of the hallway as she passed my office. She specifically asked God to never lead her to have to bury a baby. In early Sept 2014, she learned the baby she had fallen in love with (even though he was still very small) had died. Laying there in the doctor’s office, she submitted to God’s will and knew a burial would be in her near future. Yet, God spoke to her heart and lead her to recognize that she would be called to bury more than this baby.
She has since acquired a spot that will allow for 104 burials, but for now she has cared for . . .
. . . one.
Early in our conversations about her goal to start a whole program, she was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the need, and I told her to just stop and focus on the mom in front of her.
It requires obedience to follow through with all the work needed to bury a single baby – it is a tedious and difficult process.
I learned of a lady who was not eligible to participate in my program but she deeply wanted a burial. I introduced the two women and a plan was devised. After extensive initial discussions and plans, the hospital released the baby for burial and the mom hand-carried the baby to the cemetery. (Please know that all local and state laws were complied with in the course of this process). I coached them both through some of the logistic components of this process, since I have supervised the burial of hundreds (and hundreds) of babies. However, I didn’t do any of the work for this burial. I just told them what they needed to do.
The day came for the burial and Kara was being obedient to care for this one precious mom who would soon be in front of her. She was concerned that the hole which was prepared for the burial was not big enough, so she brought a shovel and enlarged it herself. She set the box in the ground and returned the soil to where it came from layering the dirt with “babies breath” flowers every few inches, and laying roses on top. Kara had asked the Priest what prayers a layperson could offer and asked the mom permission to speak the sacred words over the fresh grave site. This grave was right next to the one where Kara buried her Francis this past September.
Later, she told me that in that moment, where she had done the burial herself, and still had dirt all over her hands, her heart leapt with joy that was impossible to describe. She knew she had done exactly as she was instructed to do. She found peace that passed all understanding in caring for . . .
. . . one.
This story is not over. I expect I will tell more of it in the future. But, for now, I marvel at God’s ability to turn the heartbreak of 2 women into service and healing and joy. At Mass on Feb 2 of this year, Pope Francis told us that obedience to God brings wisdom, joy and hope. Kara and I have been abundantly blessed to know what that blessing feels like.
”God is more pleased to behold the lowest degree of obedience, for His sake, than all other good works which you can possibly offer to Him.”
–Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church