From Leslie Harder, Library Specialist One at the Roanoke Rapids Public Library:
It’s not common knowledge that I miscarried my youngest child almost 23 years ago. I miscarried my baby when I was two months pregnant. We hadn’t shared my pregnancy outside of a need-to-know select few. Since few knew, few ever learned of my miscarriage. It wasn’t exactly a secret. I just didn’t talk about it.
Years later when my son William died, the Lord used my grief over William’s death to remind me of my third child. I felt compelled to acknowledge the baby I miscarried with a name. I lost the baby way too early to know its gender. However, in my heart that baby is a girl. The name God gave me for my baby was Hope. It’s not the name we would have chosen had she lived, but it is so fitting for her life now … because my Hope lives in heaven.
Naming Hope was the first step in acknowledging her part in our family. The following year I acknowledged her publicly by riding in a Never Forgotten bike rally in her memory, as well as in memory of my son William and my stepdaughter Sherrie who had both joined her in heaven by that time. After that, I began adding her name to other parts of my life: a keepsake ornament on our Christmas tree, a luminaria in the park at a local event, a wooden ornament in her memory on the Community Prayer Tree here in Roanoke Rapids, a small name card on the shelf where mementos of her brother William, her sister Sherrie and my grandchild August (also lost very early in pregnancy) were kept. At those times when her name came to mind, I would crack open the door of imagination on who she would have been, had she lived. However, I never crossed the threshold. I didn’t not cross it on purpose, I just shied away from the pain, I guess.
Occasionally since I’ve acknowledged Hope, I would wonder why I never cried for her. I didn’t cry when I lost her. I didn’t cry when I named her or spoke about her or thought about her. I didn’t cry on what would have been her “birth”day (01/01/2001). I didn’t even note the exact date that we became aware that she had left her place beneath my heart sometime in late May/early June 2000. It seemed as if I had acknowledged Hope’s life, but not her death.
Six months ago, I was reading a historical fiction book, “The Ladies of Ivy Cottage” by Julie Klassen. One of the characters in the book was a widow named Jane. In addition to having lost her husband, Jane had also lost five babies to miscarriage. When she discovers that her babies were buried in a specific part of the church graveyard, she decides to visit the area. In the cemetery, she walks to the section that she’d been told about. There were no markers in the section, so she just lays her flowers on the ground. The old sexton interrupts her and in her anguish she says, “I just need a place to put my flowers and remember. Is that so wrong?” The old sexton gently shows her the actual resting places of her five babies (who he himself had buried). After he pays his respects and leaves, Jane falls to the ground, presses her hands on the soil that lay between her and her children and cries for all she has lost.
By the time I finished reading that passage, I was in tears. Something in it unlocked something in me that allowed me to cry for my beautiful baby whose face I never saw, whose eyes I never looked into, whose soft cheek I never kissed. I was able to cry for all the moments I didn’t get to make with her, for not getting to watch her wrap her brothers (and her dad) around her tiny little finger, and for all the milestones that I had with my sons that I will never have with my daughter. That “something” in the passage was Jane’s words, “a place to remember.” That’s what I don’t have with Hope: a place to remember her.
I thought that moment was the place, the moment when I read that passage and surrendered to God all the losses associated with Hope. Then I saw the social media post for registering for this year’s Walk for Life for the Pregnancy Support Center of Roanoke Rapids. While I was filling out the registration form for the walk being held on May 20, I realized that God had given me my “place to remember.” This event is my place.
So I’m going to walk this year’s Walk for Life in memory of Hope — and not just in memory of my Hope, but in memory of the millions of little ones like her who left for heaven from their mother’s wombs. I’m walking in memory of those pre-born babies who have been acknowledged and those who haven’t. I’m walking in memory those whose births were planned and those who weren’t. I’m walking in memory of the more than 62 million who might have survived if they had been given a chance, but they weren’t and they didn’t. They’re our babies. Just because they didn’t survive doesn’t mean they didn’t live and aren’t loved and missed. The Walk for Life is my place to remember them.
I’m inviting you to join me in the Walk for Life in giving, walking or praying — whatever way God leads. Perhaps you have a “Hope” in heaven like I do. This is a way that you can remember your little one. Perhaps all your children were born healthy. This is a way that you can celebrate your blessings. The Pregnancy Support Center is a much needed ministry in this area, and it provides far more than prenatal counseling. I encourage you to look them up online at mypregnancyoptions.org and see why this vital ministry should be supported wholeheartedly by the community it serves. Mark your calendars for May 20, 9 a.m. to noon, and meet us at the urban green space at 1026 Roanoke Ave. to walk for life in support of the Pregnancy Support Center of Roanoke Rapids, a place for hope.
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