I was reminded of how I passed the chance to hold him, without knowing it would be my only time to feel the small weight of him. I was reminded of how I didn’t walk to the front of the chapel to see him.
Sitting in Mass last week, with the great Father Frank Pavone (yes, Father Pavone of Priests for Life) as the celebrant, how could I not foresee that the small white casket would be part of my day today? A few hundred people, a famous priest, a screaming toddler (yeah, that’s my kid), and not one nasty look on their part or flip-out moment on my part. (Thanks, God.) A moving homily and then a stirring speech afterward, all focused on life…just where, you ask, does the small white casket come into play?
It wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t so much care about the whole issue of pro-life, choice, whatever. I’m just one person. What’s my opinion worth? (For that matter, that last is still true!) And then, the small white casket entered the picture.
I watched a couple bury another son with grace and dignity. I watched a woman arrange the funeral for her daughter’s son, her grandson. I watched the funeral director with tears streaming down his face. I watched the man I would someday marry carry himself there, and I watch him still struggle with what was the third small white casket for the family.
The other night, the small white casket edged into my mind at news of a miscarriage. A miscarriage is but a buried baby with no ritual, near as I can tell. I can’t call it no big deal. I know too many people who have suffered in silence, and I see too many who would give almost anything to have those babies.
And then there’s the issue of why I care now. You see, our family would take those buried babies. We’d love to have them – they would be around 13, 10, and 5. God needed them back, but that’s no comfort for us. We need them in heaven (keeping my daughter off the road, for one thing!), but again, we’d take them here in a heartbeat.
But, for a reason we will only have (if we remember to ask) when we’re face to face with our Father, they’re not here now. They’re in small white caskets, on a gravesite we visit and will take our daughter to this year, so that she knows about her three cousins, and appreciates the extra angels she has.
I see now, in looking back, that the small white casket was the first big explosion in the hard brick wall of my heart. The raw wounds I was tucking away, the bitterness and the pain, could fester no more in the bright light of closer examination. I see now, in the light of the small white casket, the hypocrisy of killing perfectly healthy babies. Is it any coincidence that I know so many women who have lost children, had insurmountable hurdles in conceiving, or have had to accept their childless lives?
I think, sometimes, of just how easy it was for me to get pregnant. BAM. Blink. Done. Then I think about how easy my pregnancy was – no bed rest, no fear of losing the baby, no sickness that I couldn’t deal with. What about the ease of labor? What about her health? All fine. Great. Perfect.
I have so much to be thankful for, and yet, the small white casket is the light that’s providing the blessings. I can’t help but think that, in looking for baseball bats, God chose, instead, a small white casket to hit me with. I still can’t think of it without tears, and I am completely unable to talk about it without being an embarrassing snot-volcano. But the small white casket changed my life, from the inside. The small white casket gave me the perspective. No, I’m not the most important person in my life. I’m not the one running the show. I never will be. No, it’s not always easy to be the impossible list of roles. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to do Thy will, not my will. I just have to focus heavenward. I just have to let Him carry me when I’m not strong, and let Him drive. I just have to keep myself praying, always praying.
Some people have the grace to know what’s right. For me, there’s the small white casket.