Monday, May 11, 2015

Siblings & St. Therese

Last week, I shared a quote from St. Therese's mother, Bl. Zelie Martin, about baby loss, but she's not the only member of the Martin family that has wisdom to share with a mother whose lost a child.  Last year, while reading the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul, I came across a particular passage that really touched me as a mother of a living child and several children lost in the womb.  She wrote:
After Marie entered the Carmel, and I no longer had her to listen to my scruples, I turned towards Heaven and confided them to the four little angels who had already gone before me, for I thought that these innocent souls, who had never known sorrow or fear, ought to have pity on their poor little suffering sister. I talked to them with childish simplicity, telling them that, as I was the youngest of the family, I had always been the most petted and loved by my parents and sisters; that if they had remained on earth they would no doubt have given me the same proofs of their affection.  The fact that they had gone to Heaven seemed no reason why they should forget me--on the contrary, as they were able to draw from the treasury of Heaven, they ought to obtain for me the grace of peace, and prove that they still knew how to love me. 

The answer was not long in coming; soon my soul was flooded with the sweetest peace. I knew that I was loved, not only on earth but also in Heaven.  From that time my devotion for these little brothers and sisters increased; I loved to talk to them and tell them of all the sorrows of this exile, and of my wish to join them soon in our Eternal Home.

St. Therese's siblings did not die during pregnancy, but they did die in infancy/early childhood.  Therese, being the youngest of the family, never knew these older siblings and yet she knew of them and was able to form a relationship with them.  From a young age, she loved them.  She felt their love for her.  They continued to be a part of her life. 

I struggled quite a bit with how to talk about our babies with Lucia after our first two losses.  We told her that I was pregnant as soon as I found out and we told her afterward that the babies had gone to heaven, but she was still so young at the time that she soon forgot about them.  She had no understanding of death or heaven or even of siblings.  It wasn't until after our last loss that we started to talk about our babies with her in a more regular way.  I try to always pray a litany of Saints at the end of our evening prayers and include the patron Saints of all our family members, including those babies we lost. When she gets upset because she doesn't have siblings, I remind her that she is a big sister to four babies in heaven.

Lucia talks about her siblings often, saying things like, "I'm a big sister. I have four babies in heaven. They are going to be so excited to hug their big sister when I get to heaven." It's endearing and I think so spiritually healthy for her to look forward to heaven with her siblings.  Now that I'm expecting again, she tells everyone, "My mommy has a baby in her tummy!" That's often closely followed by, "And we have four babies in heaven." This sometimes is the cause of a little discomfort to strangers or acquaintances that aren't familiar with our losses, but I don't ever want to discourage her from talking about her siblings. Sometimes there is a sad element that comes with the knowledge of her siblings. She often says that she wants the baby to stay in my tummy and not go to heaven like the other babies. So together, we pray for this baby.

I want Lucia to have a relationship with her siblings like St. Therese had with hers, based on love and faith, and though I don't always know the right words to guide that relationship, I trust the Holy Spirit to make up for my failings. And I think we're headed in the right direction.

You can download a free copy of The Story of a Soul for Kindle here.  (You do not need a Kindle to do so, you can download the free Kindle Reading App to your computer, phone, or tablet.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you 100% - totally endearing and spiritually healthy! And even if it's awkward when she tells strangers, it's probably good for them to learn how to respond appropriately to something like that?