My wife and I recently attended the funeral for one of our children. This was the child that we recently lost in the fifth miscarriage/stillbirth in a row. After five different losses, along with five accompanying headstones in a single plot in our parish cemetery, the emotional process doesn’t necessarily get easier, but, only in cooperation with God’s grace, the spiritual understanding gets deeper. I’m not going to get into the medical aspect of all this. We have discovered some medical issues that my wife has, although I suspect that we haven’t found all of them. Throughout this entire ordeal, my wife and I have not actively been trying to conceive a child, however, in accordance with out Faith, we do not use artificial means of delaying pregnancy.
My perception of the implications of being open to life, as taught by the Church, has always centered on the “life” part of it. The lack of artificial contraception has been the way to allow God “room to maneuver”, so to speak, and to still allow us to discern if we are in fact ready to bring another child into the world. We do not believe we are called to populate the earth by having as many children as physically possible, but we allow God the ultimate decision. Because of this openness, we have been blessed with four healthy children, aged from nine to four, and five more children whom God has felt compelled to call home to Heaven before leaving the womb.
After this recent loss, I was forced to reconsider what being open to life is really all about. Once again I had to tell my children that they had lost another sibling, I had to help my poor wife, who is prone to hemorrhaging after delivery, and we had to attend another funeral for a child I would never meet. I talked to the wonderful priest who was there for the funeral after it was all over. I asked him how he deals with this all the time, consoling people and helping them to deal with tragic loss. He told me that he keeps in perspective that God’s idea of death and life are radically different than our own. God’s idea of death is something that we can only hope to perceive after much reflection and prayer.
This priest told me the story of a man who had lost his five year old daughter in a car crash which didn’t even hurt his other two daughters who were also in the car. He said that this poor man told his family that the ultimate purpose of family is to get each other to the ultimate destination, Heaven. At the funeral this man told his family that they had just made a down payment. This made me think quite a bit. While I am sad that I will never get to hold this little one and watch her grow up, never get to play with her or share life with her, she is in the presence of God in eternal life. My own view of death is now forced to grow in a personal direction. I can intellectually know what the Church teaches, but I can honestly say that the loss of five children has forced me to acknowledge the hope and the grace that comes from the knowledge that they are all in Heaven. We have made our own down payment.
I have also been forced to reflect on the true meaning of what it is to be committed to remaining open to life. God is the author of all life, and we are the instruments through which He achieves His masterpieces. He allows us to partake in the creation of new human beings, eternal souls destined for the ultimate journey home. As God is the author, He is the one who retains the right to call certain souls home before they live among us. That does not diminish the beautiful uniqueness that is inscribed in each soul, it does not negate that each soul has a purpose, it demonstrates His Divine Will and that we are all called to submit ourselves to it, even though it can be quite difficult. Those five little souls that He called home have a purpose and a unique role that only they can fulfill, and God, in His infinite Wisdom, has ordained they remain with Him.
In conclusion, I think that being pro-life is more than fighting against abortion, it is more than avoiding the use of artificial birth control in order to avoid pregnancy. Those are very important things that are part of the whole picture. I think that being pro-life is acknowledging that God is the Author of Life and He allows us to participate in its creation, but we must allow God to use the life to which we are open for His Will.