We were walking out of the old funeral home, which once stood stately and welcoming on Main Street of our small town, now dilapidated after years of neglect. As the auctioneer moved on to the next item up for bid, I stopped. In the center of the items, right in front of me, sat an empty, worn, dirty bassinet used for viewing infants. Immediately I felt the history, the longing of each mother heart who once carefully chose the clothing her baby would be dressed in, before being laid ever so gently into the tiny viewing bed. The tentative ache, as she stepped into the funeral home to see her baby one last time. To bury dreams. To lean into whoever stood beside her…her husband…her partner…her own mama…holding her up.
Images of mothers brushing the cheeks of little ones, tenderly kissing sweet foreheads.
I thought of the tears caught on the edge of the bassinet. The tears so sacred to our Father, that He holds each one in a bottle. The stories and dreams, carried within the hearts and minds of the mothers and fathers, the grandparents and siblings, who once walked passed this bassinet. Stories of babies who had once lain in the dirty bassinet with the rickety legs. I felt a tug to purchase the sacred dwelling place. A place of such honor, not meant to be destroyed or forgotten.
I knew that no one else in the room would want a bassinet that held the bodies of dead babies. Most people would quickly look the other way. Take a step back. Not wanting to see or know the physical reminder of such deep, haunting pain and loss. I longed to rescue the deserted, neglected holy bed. To polish it, cover it in fresh paint, lay new cushions and a clean pillow inside. I longed to give the bed the dignity it had earned for holding such precious cargo. For helping to honor lives that the world would never know. For existing solely because every life matters.
Tim urged me to move on, as I snapped a picture with my cell phone. Needing to at least capture evidence that the bassinet once existed. That it had once been a shred of beauty in the midst of a family’s brokenness.
I really wish I would’ve bought the bassinet. It may seem strange to most of the world, seeing beauty in the most broken of all the broken things. That gift…of seeing beauty in the broken…is both a blessing and a burden. Understood by few. Misunderstood by many. It is a lonely calling.
Something about that bassinet resonated with the loneliness I carry quietly in my mama heart. I’ve felt a bit worn, myself…sometimes even overlooked and tossed aside. I hold many tears…my own and the tears of others, aching. And, like many brave and beautiful mothers, I was once the dwelling place of precious lives who graced this earth for a brief interlude, before entering glory.
If I ever have another opportunity to rescue a neglected and tossed aside sacred place…or person…I hope I have the courage to buy the dirty bassinet, in front of onlookers who may judge. I hope that I won’t be shamed again (with my own hesitation), into walking away. Things aren’t always what they appear. What some may view as a woman losing her mind, wallowing in sorrow, not moving on…may actually be evidence of the most profound healing. For it is the most courageous warrior, who runs back into the battle to carry his wounded brother out from among the bloody warzone, the whizzing bullets and explosions, to a place of safety. Only love is brave enough to do that.
To read my family’s story of beauty from ashes and the sufficient grace that carried us through the loss of three of our five children, in my new book, Sufficient Grace, click here.
To learn more about the sacred calling that consumes my life and heart, visit The Sufficient Grace Blog or Sufficient Grace Ministries website.
Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly’s journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.