It has been just over 8 months since we came home to find someone we didn’t recognize. Yesterday that saga drew to what is hoped to be its final breath, the man who was on our property that day has been found guilty and sentenced. To be honest, neither my wife nor I wanted to spend the day in the court building, not just because its a boring day, but because this was just one more stressor that we really didn’t want or need. See, for the past three weeks, my wife and I have been grieving the unexpected loss of our child in the womb.
We were expecting another November baby, almost to the day of our firstborn son. As the 18 week ultrasound approached we were excited to find out the gender. We went in with expectations and left shattered. There was no heartbeat. The next 72 hours are a blur. My wife was induced and delivered our child whom we named Anastasia Claire. Her middle name, Claire, is the name of my wife’s grandmother who had passed earlier this year. Anastasia is rooted in the Greek word αναστασις (anastasis) meaning resurrection, because that is where our hope lives, in Christ and His resurrection. While she was unable to be baptized, we rest assured that she rests in the arms of Christ our Lord. At least three passages are relevant here:
Isaiah 55:10-11:“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Luke 1:40-43: She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
From this we can conclude that not only can infants have faith, so can children in the womb. That faith is created through the work of the Holy Spirit who indeed knew what to pray for even if we did not. The same Spirit who works through Word and Sacrament to create and sustain faith in adults and children, we trust, has worked through the Word Anastasia heard in the womb to accomplish the purpose for which it was sent.
While we do not mourn as those who have no hope, we still mourn. One of the things that has helped us as we mourn was the funeral service. Some may wonder why we had a service for her, but in my mind there was no way we would not. She was as alive as anyone else, even if she had not yet emerged from the womb and breathed on her own. Her loss is as real to us as any other loss we have ever experienced. A funeral was not only appropriate, it was necessary.
My wife and I planned the funeral, choosing hymns and readings that spoke light into our darkness. When it came time to find an officiant/preacher, I knew that it had to be me. My wife carried our child the entirety of her short life, cradling her in the womb as her heartbeat ceased. Officiating the funeral was my way of caring for my child. But I knew I would not be able to preach, so I turned to someone who is more than a father in the faith, someone who has formed and shaped me into the pastor I am, Martin Franzmann. Although he died in 1976, his writing and sermons are easily accessible. And so he preached using my voice as I read a sermon entitled, “The Man Who Went Home With Only A Word In His Pocket.”
In short, that sermon spoke of the fact that the word of Christ creates faith. This is true even for the man who traveled 27 kilometers to his dying son with only a word from Christ that his son would live. As my wife and I travel through the rest of lives, we too carry a word in our pocket, one that may not seem like much but is more than enough. Christ’s word in our pocket is the word of the Gospel, the word of the resurrection to life eternal, it is the word that created faith in Anastasia and sustains faith in us. It is the promise that death is not the end, as Christ lives, so too do those who die in Him. We may not have been able to hold her or hear her laugh in life, but in the life to come we will indeed do so.
For those interested the funeral service and sermon are available below.