A life worth celebrating — no matter how small
ByAndré Escaleira, Jr.
One minute, a family rejoices at the discovery of their pregnancy, excited to welcome a new life into their arms. The next, they suffer miscarriage, stillbirth or another tragedy that claims Baby’s life, whether inside or outside of the womb.
This is the awful, heart-wrenching reality of thousands of women and families. Precious Lives, a ministry of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, seeks to step into the void of this very type of loss to fill it with faith, at no cost to grieving families.
“Precious Lives is meant to guide families that may be feeling lost during a time of loss,” said Jessica Galan, Associate Funeral Director at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Wheat Ridge and one of the main forces behind Precious Lives. “Losing a child at any stage of pregnancy can be hard, especially when it’s early on. You feel alone, like there’s nowhere to turn to. Being able to reach out to these families to help them start the healing process, guiding them in our faith, regardless of what faith they might have within themselves… To me, that’s what our ministry does and provides. We give Baby a proper send-off, as we should.”
More than 30 years old, Precious Lives began because of a visible need. “We had families that were calling, asking to bury their baby,” said
Paulette Kaufman, Mission and Family Care Manager at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery. “I think that’s really what it started from. We know that from conception to death, that’s a baby. So we want to honor their babies, their lives. It’s a corporal work of mercy.”
Now, the services take place monthly at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery and draw scores of families, some of whom lost their baby years — even decades — prior. Regardless of each family’s particular story, the motivation is the same: prayer, healing and community. (Photo by André Escaleira, Jr.)
“For a lot of families, it’s a big deal just having a service,” said Kaufman. “It’s not that they lost a baby and now no one wants to talk about it. They have that connection with us and hopefully their faith, which will help them get through this. It’s important to have a service for their little one.”
“Being able to come back to that burial site to be in peace and quiet with Baby,” added Galan, “just to have somewhere to honor their child they lost… A lot of it is being able to come back here and take that first step of opening that gateway to fully healing, as much as you can, of course.”
Made possible by the generosity of volunteers, Precious Lives allows families to grieve their loss with a community of faith without finances becoming a stumbling block. Without this extra preoccupation, families — like Galan’s own — can engage in their healing.
“I’m a mom of three,” Galan shared, “but I have experienced four losses after my youngest. For me, I feel as if it was a calling that brought me here, that led me to help in this ministry. During my losses, I did feel alone and I didn’t know exactly where to turn or what to do. For me, just being there with these families is more, on a personal note, to make sure that each family has the support that they need at that time to help guide them. It’s just helping give that full circle of faith and healing, feeling like you’re part of a community that cares about you and you’re not alone.”
A tragic and heartbreaking experience already, many families suffer in silence, Galan said. “I think it’s good to talk about this. I think a lot of baby loss is sometimes ‘hush-hush.’ That makes it harder to cope. So with our services, even if the moms don’t interact one-on-one, they’re seeing each other out there and not feeling so alone.”
Indeed, Precious Lives seeks to provide healing to grieving families through prayerful community, to ensure that the families do not feel alone amid their loss and engage that very loss with faith. A corporal act of mercy and a pro-life act, giving these babies a proper burial and a final resting place also provides scores of families with peace.