I had the incredible – yet heartbreaking – honor to speak at Mott Children’s Memorial Service. For those of you who don’t know what this is…our children’s hospital holds a Memorial Service once a year to honor the precious children who’ve lost their battles. The memorial service provides a place for parents, siblings, grandparents and care teams to remember and celebrate our little ones. The music therapy team performs, poems are read, a slide show of each child’s bright, shining face is played as his/her name is said aloud, and parents and clinicians speak in an attempt to provide words of comfort to the families who’ve very recently lost their babies, toddlers, children, or teenagers.
This was my third year attending the Mott Children’s Memorial Service. It had been only four months since Micah’s passing the first time I attended the 2013 Memorial Service. When we received the invitation the first year, I immediately sent in our decline, saying we would not be participating – I could not imagine attending a memorial service for dozens of children and being surrounded by families just like mine – who were mourning, aching, trying to figure out how to live without their child. It seemed like the most depressing event imaginable. Less than an hour before the 2013 Memorial Service, my mom and I decided to attend. And while it was incredibly somber, it was also comforting, and allowed me to feel a deeper connection to Micah. Noah, Zachary and I attended the 2014 Memorial Service, and once again we were comforted as we honored Micah along with families just like ours, mourning their sweet little ones.
I was honored to be invited to speak at the 2015 Memorial Service. One of Micah’s primary nurses spoke just before me, sharing her story about the months she cared for sweet Micah and our family. It was humbling to walk on stage and look out at the faces just like mine. The heartbroken mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, so deeply missing their precious little ones. As I began to speak, I only hoped that my words might provide some type of comfort to their broken hearts.
Below are the words that I spoke. After the Memorial Service, several mothers, fathers and grandparents thanked me for all that I shared, and asked for a copy of my speech. So here it is. I hope that it offers some comfort to those seeking it…in honor of sweet Micah, and all of our precious children gone too soon, I wish you peace.
Hi everyone. I first want to thank Racheal for being here today, and for the compassionate, professional, and consistent care she provided to Micah and our family. Our family is forever grateful to each of the incredible care team members who cared for our sweet Micah here at Mott.
Tragically, all of us here understand the raw, deep, forever heartache of losing a precious child. We share an unspeakable connection. The loss of our children binds us together, and outshines any of our diverse beliefs or experiences.
Like many of you I’m sure, at first, I didn’t know how to breathe, eat, sleep or live without Micah in my arms. I felt completely lost and disconnected from everyone around me. I simultaneously needed my family and community to surround me with their love and support, while also giving me the space and time to mourn Micah, honor Micah, and celebrate Micah in ways that brought me peace.
After we lost Micah, I felt compelled to keep Micah’s spirit, name and smile alive in our home. I desperately needed to integrate Micah into my daily life.
And so I did.
I hung Micah’s photos throughout our home. I wrote his name, spoke his name, and signed his name on cards. I watched videos of Micah, and shared them with Zachary. I wrote poems about Micah. I listened to music that reminded me of Micah. I created ways to celebrate Micah by giving back to others, in his honor.
I felt the most at peace when I felt the most connected to Micah.
At first, I worried about how my family and friends would react to my overt ways of coping.
Would they think I’m crazy?
Would our interactions and relationships become awkward?
Would they decline my invitations to join me in celebrating Micah?
At first, these concerns made me hesitant to pursue the things that brought me peace. I wanted to celebrate Micah and keep his spirit alive in my life, home and family, but I was afraid of being judged.
And then I connected with another mother who’d lost her son. I shared my story with her, and my hesitancies to pursue and do the things that brought me peace.
She helped me realize that I needed to tell my family and my community how I wanted to be supported. Because they’d never experienced the traumatic loss of a child, they had no idea how to react, what to say, or how to support me. Once I knew how I wanted to be supported, I had to figure out how to articulate it to my family and friends.
I wanted them to speak Micah’s name, always include him in our family, and join me in celebrating his beautiful life. So, I asked them to – and I felt so blessed and comforted when my family and community eagerly joined me in doing these exact things.
The journey of finding peace after such a tragic loss is a difficult road, and may take months or even years. All of our roads to peace will be different – even if we’re mourning the same child together – we will each experience that loss in our own way and need to find and do the things that bring us our own sense of peace.
I am at peace now because I know that I am forever Micah’s mommy – time and death cannot change that. And, I have accepted that this raw, deep heartache of missing Micah in my arms is forever. I will never “get over” this loss or move on. For me, peace is being okay with feelings, emotions and experiences that completely contradict each other. My heartache of Micah can and does coexist with gratefulness and even happiness.
Once I accepted that the loss of Micah would hurt every day for the rest of my life, I could adapt to the pain and turn it into something beautiful. For me, that beauty has been to keep Micah alive in our family and home by celebrating him every chance we get.
The traumatic lifelong experience of child loss has the power to destroy marriages, families, and health. The loss of a child shakes our foundation, our entire being. Feelings of regret, guilt and resentment are often overwhelming and can hurt our relationships with the people we love.
It takes great strength and focused energy to allow our loss to evolve into something beautiful. While child loss is traumatic, it does not have to be destructive. We can use our intense pain, trauma and heartache to spread love, nurture each other, and inspire our community to live life more fully, the way our children did when they were still here with us.
For me, peace is sharing Micah’s smiles and spirit. Peace is embracing the heartache of Micah. Peace is carrying Micah in my heart, every day. Peace is giving back to my community in honor of Micah. Peace is knowing that Micah is always my baby, and I am always his mama.
In honor of each of our beautiful children, I wish you peace.