His older sibling reminds us why we shouldn't be sad and teaches a lesson from the Gospel
A little over a year ago, our family moved to Florida, meaning that my wife bravely left behind all of her friends and family and the place she’d called home for more than 30 years. We knew that resettling would be a major process as I applied for and began doctoral studies. We’d have to find new friends and a new parish, learn our way around a new town, all while I was burying myself in books. Yet added to all of this was some good news: We were expecting our fourth child. The baby was going to make for an interesting first semester, but children bring such joy that we were excited.
Then, just a few days after we settled into our new home, my wife one morning couldn’t find a heartbeat with our fetal Doppler. She went to the doctor and our worst fears were confirmed. Our child, who the doctor was able to tell us was a boy, had no heartbeat. We always knew we’d name our first boy Fulton, but as it would turn out, Fulton Karol never got to meet the rest of us. A couple of days later, we went to the hospital and my wife delivered our baby boy, our firstborn son. It was not an easy time, and the year that’s gone by hasn’t washed away the pain.
Some days, we get upset, and still ask why it happened. Other days we’re glad we at least got to hold him in our hands. This was our second miscarriage and circumstances in that first pregnancy didn’t allow us to deliver and hold our child. We knew it would be heartbreaking to deliver Fulton, but we also knew it was the right decision for us.
Our oldest daughter, who is only five, very much knew what went on last year. She knew mommy had another baby in her belly and was elated about having another sibling. In fact, she also knew it was a boy. We explained everything to her as best we could when we lost him.
Since this week marks a year since Fulton’s death, and knowing that my wife and I would be struggling with the anniversary, I decided to talk to Faustina about our emotions, helping her to understand why her mom and I might be a bit upset and what we are going through. Her words, and her simplicity, astounded me. It brought (and still brings) tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Here’s how the brief conversation went:
Me: Faustina, you know, this week, it’s going to be the day when your baby brother died last year. So, mommy and daddy really need you to understand that we might be a little bit sad. Sometimes we still get sad about it. How do you feel about your brother? Does it make you upset?
Faustina: Well, Daddy, I know you get sad sometimes. But there’s nothing really to be sad about, because Fulton is in heaven. And so is Judith (the other child we lost to miscarriage). They’re both in heaven, and that means they’re still in our family, so you don’t have to be sad. And they’re even with Jesus, because he’s in Heaven, right?
Me: That’s right, sweetheart. Jesus is in heaven and so are your brother and sister.
Faustina: Well, if they’re in heaven, then they still can be our family. And we can see them one day. Do you think they growed up in heaven? I wonder what they look like. I sure wish Jesus had a phone, so we could call him, and ask how they are doing and how big they are. But it’s okay, you don’t have to be sad. Because they are happy and they can pray for us.
When I have moments like this with my children, I think I begin to understand why Jesus calls us to be like them. It makes me realize that my graduate degrees and all of the study I’m doing, while perhaps good, are not in the final analysis what is most important. Instead, it’s the pure, simple, trusting love of a child’s heart that we all need. That’s what makes St. Therese such a powerful witness to sanctity, and why I’m glad that I have children around to remind me of what truly matters in life … and that, sometimes, maybe I ought not be so sad.
Fulton Karol, ora pro nobis.
Chiara Judith, ora pro nobis.