This week Project Pomegranate offers our “Prepare Yourself, Father’s Day is Coming” Blog series, noting how difficult the Father’s Day season can be for those who have struggled with fertility grief. Welcome to Monday’s blog post! Also, check out our new book of devotions, Though the Darkness Gather Round!
October of 2006 was a very difficult time for my wife and me. We were pregnant with what we believed was a beautiful little one who would arrive no later than May of 2007. We were shocked to discover our joy was going to be tripled. We went from joy to joy times three to “oh man how are we going to do this?”!!!
Within what seemed like a few moments, our joy turned to literal, emotional and spiritual pain. It was discovered that we would most likely lose the triplets. We did not know why, nor to this day do we know why. We were devastated. I was the chaplain at the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama at the time. Within in two weeks I was planning to attend a training session in Atlanta on how to serve and care for families who had experienced infant and pregnancy loss. I had dealt with loss of this type before with others, but never experienced it myself.
I am a doer and a fixer. It is who I am and I guess who I always will be. My way of grieving is to do and fix. With our loss, I was lost. I could not do anything nor could I fix it. I was paralyzed. I was caught between my role as a husband and father and a chaplain and minister. In the days that followed, I chose the role of grieving husband and father. I am glad that I allowed myself to be a grieving husband and father not only for myself, but also for my wife. She needed me to be present with her, real with her and not stoic or separate. Chaplain Scott was not needed at that time. Phillip Scott Lee, husband, was who she and I needed.
Because of where we were in our pregnancy we were not going to have funeral, but we needed a place where we could go to find healing. I had a rock that I kept from my time as a children’s minister in 1998. This rock traveled with us from our previous home several years before. I often wondered, but now knew why I had kept this rock. In our backyard in the midst of some trees where my wife and I could see out our back windows and could visit anytime, we created a place for us to begin finding hope and healing.
Working as a chaplain, I realized many families like us were not going to have a funeral, but needed a place to visit where they could find hope, healing and just be with their little one or like us ones. Pregnancy loss and infant loss is not something that is talked about a lot. I felt it was important for families to have a place, a voice and have their loss recognized and not something that was hush, hush. The loss of a little one is as valid as any other loss that a family might experience.
I approached our hospital administration to share my idea. It was a selfish idea, but one I believed was important for our community. The administrator agreed and gave me a plot of land behind the hospital to create this sacred space for families. Thankfully, I had a series of wonderful helpers from the hospital and community to create this place.
Different dimensions have been added to the area since the original planting in 2007. We started with planting a tree in the center of the space. The tree is a Red Maple and a symbol of comfort and shade for families as they visited the garden. The next year we began adding engraved bricks that families could engrave with their child’s name or a saying that would be placed in the border around the garden. Families were invited to place their bricks in the garden area. To enhance the area, we added azaleas and other types of flowers and plants. Three benches and various statues from families who had experienced loss were also added throughout the years. This place was not going to be a cemetery, but a place of hope and healing where families could come and sit, pray, talk, but most important, just be. During our yearly Service of Remembrance in October, we also released three dozen butterflies. Secretly, I chose three dozen for my little ones.
During my years as chaplain and our providing this place, we had people who experienced loss twenty plus years ago who came to visit because they now had a place. Place is important. Everyone needs a place. I invite you to create this place if you have not done so already. Time heals most wounds, but sometimes you need a place.