We muster the courage to speak their names… the names of the babies the world barely knew.
Sometimes with a quivering voice, knowing what comes next… the eyes averting our gaze, desperately looking everywhere else.
Because the world doesn’t want to know that babies die.
Still, a parent remembers. Still, we speak their names.
I speak the words of truth and grace. And, they tiptoe forward, talking barely above a whisper, mustering the courage…
To speak their names. To tell their sacred stories.
I stand in front of hundreds of grieving parents in Houston, Texas, breathing words of hope and encouragement.
She comes forward, with her thick Jamaican accent, our hands releasing the balloons to heaven in unison…
Together, we speak their names.
I can hear the crowd cheering on the 5K runners, feet flip-flopping unto the pavement.
“It was sixty years ago,” she says in a voice too tiny for the weight of the memory that feels like yesterday.
She speaks his name, all the years of grief and regret, the haunting ache lingering.
Because a mother never forgets. Because he lived. Because he matters.
I was walking out of the smoke-filled rock concert (not my usual stomping grounds) when a beautiful woman with rockin’ hair, stepped up to me with tears in her eyes.
She said, “I need you.”
I said, “What do you need?”
She said, “I lost a baby. This is what you do, right?”
And, she told me about her sweet baby girl who was born still years ago. I hugged the beautiful-haired mama. And we stood in the midst of the smoke-infested outdoor concert arena, two moms talking about babies in heaven, shedding tears for what wasn’t. Feeling the missing. We both promised to pray for one another.
We mustered the courage to speak their names.
I pause to pray with them as their beautiful girl slips from this world to the next, allowing my camera to slip to my side for a moment.
The priest asks for her name as he dips his hands into the Holy Water. The father, knee-buckling, tears streaming lifts his voice…
To speak her name.
I wear their names around my neck, carried always within my heart. Because they lived, I live as a vessel of comfort and hope.”Is this hard for you?”
I am asked that question often while caring for the little ones whose earthly lives are brief.
Although I have moments of hard… for the most part, my answer is…
“No. It is a privilege for me to help you celebrate your baby. Because all babies are valuable and precious and worth celebrating.”
And because I’m the mother of the ones whose names hang around my neck, always carried within my heart.
Walk on, brave one. Keep boldly speaking their names…the names that the world barely knew. Speak until they know.
Together, we speak their names…today, tomorrow…until one day when we will meet again.
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.