Monday, December 22, 2008

Alexander's Memorial Mass

We had Alexander's service on Saturday, December 20th. It was a lovely service. The pastor of our church was the celebrant, and our parochial vicar concelebrated with him. Our music director once again played and a dear friend of ours once again cantored. The music was beautiful: verses 2 and 3 of The Name of God; Remember Your Love; Now We Remain (the only shared song of the two services); and Prayer of St. Francis. Each song was special to us for certain reasons, even though most would be considered "Advent" or even in the correct liturgical position.

The refrain to The Name of God (David Haas): "I will take the cup of life, I will call God's name all my days." It's normally a communion song, but it is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard and, as we were selecting music, the second verse really touched us: "The dying of those who keep faith is precious to our God. I am your servant called from your hands, you have set me free." And then, the third verse, just spoke to us as well. It was as though the second verse was telling us that Alexander's life and death were precious to God, and then our son telling us "I am (God's) servant; I am free". In feeling his peace and his happiness that he is with God, the third verse was our words to God. "To you I will offer my thanks and call upon your name. You are my promise for all to see, I love your name, O God!"

Remember Your Love (Mike Balhoff, Darryl Ducote, and Gary Daigle) is a Lenten song. Lent is a time of penitence, a time when we recall our sinfulness and our allientation from God, when we feel that perhaps God has abandoned us and we beg Him to forgive us and take us back. In a time of grief, I think we feel that we have been abandoned too. I ask everyday, "Why, God, why?", knowing that the answers will never come, that they couldn't possibly be good enough... This song was that. It was that plea to please not have been abandoned. It was the reinforcement that God is still there, the telling yourself so that you can believe. The prayer that God will hear and make His presence known. "Remember your love and your faithfulness, O Lord. Remember your people and have mercy on us, Lord." I wont quote every verse (there are 5), but some of the lines are: "The Lord is my life and my refuge, when I call he hears"; "O Lord, hear the sound of my call and answer me. My heart cries out for your presence; it is you I seek".

Now We Remain (David Haas) is the only repeat from Nicholas and Sophia's service. Had anyone asked, I would have said it would have been "You Are Mine" also a David Haas song, that we have sang to all the children. ("Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will lead you home. I love you and you are mine.") It's a special song to us. But, Now We Remain... That too is a special song. That is the song that I think defines what Catholics think about living and dying. "We hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts. Living, now we remain with Jesus the Christ." While the refrain symbolizes being physically alive and having just received the Eucharist, as a funeral song, it symbolizes eternal life and being with Christ. We chose to have only verses 1 and 4 sang (had the church been full, we would have done all four, but with a smaller group, those two were the most important to us). "Once we were people afraid, lost in the night. Then by your cross we were saved; dead became living, life from your giving..." "We are the presence of God; this is our call. Now to become bread and wine: food fort he hungry, life for the weary, for to live with the Lord, we must die with the Lord." Wow. I am crying now and it's just me writing the words. I dont think there is anything else I can say except that my children are with God and as sad as that makes me on earth, my heart knows that they are at such peace and are happy.

The recessional hymn was sort of the ode to little Alexander, our little "Paz", our peacebringer. We've taken to calling him Paz at home again, and for Peter, who doesn't like nicknames, I find it so amazing that he says "Paz would have been his nickname". It's really sweet. We chose the Prayer of St. Francis, as arranged by the Sebastian Temple. It's really just beautiful. It turns the prayer into lyrics (the prayer can be seen in the sidebar, on the reverse of Alexander's prayer card). We chose it because this prayer has been speaking to us since Alexander's conception and we really feel like our son had a connection to St. Francis and this beautiful saying. Perhaps he would have chosen "Francis" as his Confirmation name... Who knows...

Both of our priests really made the service so special. Our pastor's homily was spoken directly to us. We used the readings of the day, which meant the Gospel was the Annunciation. Peter and I feel closer to the Blessed Mother than we did before because she walked this road too, this road of losing a child... No matter how old your child is, they are still your baby. I'm sure cradling him, she was cradling her little boy. I can't see the Pieta anymore without getting so upset that I have to leave. It was always upsetting but never like this. Anyway... Father talked about how this young girl had plans, plans that seemed to be falling into place when suddenly everything changes. I can't type all that he said, but it was comforting and sometimes that is all you need to remember... Our vicar had actually come to the hospital and he helped make the church so lovely. One of the sections he read was part of the Eucharistic prayer, when we ask the Saints to pray for us. When he said "St. Alexander", I just burst into tears. My little boy... my little saint in heaven... The other part that was so touching was how often our son's baptism was referred to. It makes me so happy to remember those moments, how he moved, how he squirmed at the water and cuddled into his father's hand just a little closer. How he put his little thumb in his mouth before drifting off to the sleep where he met his brother and sister, and saw God face to face...

It was a much smaller service than Nicholas and Sophia's. The weather here (we are near Philadelphia, north, in Montgomery County) was nasty on Friday which made traveling not so great, but also, we scheduled this one much sooner (3 days before vs 3 weeks before) because of the holidays. Instead of 110, perhaps we had 25? So, it was a more intimate gathering, but was just as beautiful. Folks came back to the house for lunch afterwards and it was nice to see folks looking at not only little Alex's pictures, but those of all three of our precious little saints. His baby book was a big read, as was the book I had picked up at the bookstore called "Mommy Dont Cry: There Are No Tears In Heaven". People talked and hung out, and we were so tired when everyone left around 5pm. A small group, but still a treasure.

Tomorrow, our son would be a month old. I really can't believe that a month has passed... A month... It sounds so long, but it isn't when your life doesn't move on like the hands on a clock... Fruit Loops for breakfast, PB&J for lunch, tuna sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner. I would have eaten this menu everyday. I don't even like Fruit Loops! But my son did... For whatever reason, I craved this food like nothing else. So, tomorrow, this is what we'll eat, and we'll remember. We'll have a little candle on a dessert and we'll sing "happy birthday" and we'll remember that, one month ago, this special little boy, this instrument of God's peace, this beautiful child that we are blessed to call our son, came into our lives.


A n T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cara said...

It sounds like everything went the way you wanted them to for the memorial. God bless you for every step you keep on taking through your intense pain.

Happy one month Alexander. You are sorely missed.

S said...

I'm glad the service brought you some peace. I'm sorry we weren't able to attend. We got your card, the image on the front was just lovely. Our cards are addressed and still awaiting stamps so it looks like you'll get yours a bit late. A peaceful Christmas to you both.

c. said...

It sounds beautiful, Michele. I am so sorry that you have to know the experience of having to plan and hold 2 memorial services for three children. I'm so sorry your babies are not here to be loved and cared for by you, their incredible mother.

Holding you and Alexander and Sophia and Nicholas close to my heart.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you had the opportunity to share your loss with your church community. and that it went so well.

I hope that you find more genuine moments of solace and even joy in the coming year.