The image of these women walking to place flowers at the burial urn are from our first memorial service at the Wings of Hope site, and it perfectly brings to mind the following poem.
A Pair of Shoes
I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes, uncomfortable shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes, they are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in this world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don't hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.
Since the central Wings of Hope monument was revealed, we've had questions about how we decided on the design, and who carved it. When our committee gathered a year ago to plan for the memorial site, we had several goals we wanted to achieve. The central statue - of an infant cradled in wings atop of a tapered pedestal - is the result of months of considering, talking, searching, and even some tears as we felt the emotions of such a memorial site.
We asked ourselves: What do we want the central statue to convey?
After looking at other pregnancy loss memorials, we were struck by how many of them were dark and heavy on the heart. Some were stark squares of dark granite or marble. Others bore images of crying mothers. Many images left us as a committee feeling a foreboding sadness. So it turned out we could more easily identify what we didn't like, and that in turn helped us identify those things we wanted from the monument.
After pouring over pictures and coming up with a list of emotions and ideas we wanted the statue to represent, we gave these to Tom Miller, a local stone artist who we were confident could pull our "wants" into a reality. He did not disappoint.
The central pillar rises up - for some perhaps representing a heavenly direction or to others an uplifting sense of hope. The wings offer a soft, protective home for the child who has been lost. Some see angel wings, others a soft cradle for this child who cannot be cradled by a parent. Some have said the shape of the wings remind them of gentle tears. And then there is this child. Perfect and peaceful.
It is our desire that each person who visits the memorial site is able to experience the peace of the statue and the hope that it offers. A special thanks to Tom for patiently listening to our words, understanding our hearts, and bringing it all together with his artistic talent.
We've spent a lot of time talking about moms - and how our losses impact us emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. But we are not the only hearts aching. Dads also travel their own journeys of loss - and their experiences can be more uniquely difficult because of their dual roles of grieving father and rock-solid supporter for their partner.
Some of the dads we've had the privilege of meeting have shared their stories of loss. For many these are losses they experienced years ago, and just never knew how to talk about their children they still miss to this day. For other dads there has been confusion, anxiety, and even frustration, feeling helpless as to how they were supposed to respond and act in the face of pregnancy loss.
For all of the dads out there we want them to know that Wings of Hope is for you, too. We want the guys in our community to be able to talk about pregnancy loss, and know where to look for resources for both them and their partners. We want them to feel a connection to the memorial site, to their partners, and to their children.
We have rituals for many things in life - weddings, funerals, baptisms, and more - and during those times we look to our faith leaders. For families experiencing pregnancy loss, we are not always sure about what kind of ritual we need to say goodbye, we just know we need something.
We are so thankful to Fr. John Kunz of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Pastor Brad Jackson of Crossview Covenant Church for their leadership at the Evening of Remembrance. They comforted, prayed, offered words of reflection, and helped to provide that needed way to say goodbye.
It is our hope that in the future, other faith leaders from the community will also step forward to help lead the ecumenical services at the memorial.
Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. ~ George Iles
There is one word we keep hearing from people who visit the Wings of Hope memorial site - peaceful. We invite you to visit the memorial site - a truly peaceful place for reflection - and experience this for yourself. Even if you have not experienced pregnancy loss, come and read the names and inscriptions on the pavers and take in the beauty of the central monument. There is something profound about reading the sentiments and feeling the heartache - and hope.
The new benches, installed by Tom Miller and available through him for engraving, give you the perfect perch for taking a few minutes to pray, remember, or just be still. Visit with by yourself, with a group of friends, or family - you're all welcome during the regular cemetery hours (and you can drive right to the monument and park on the road in front of it), from sunrise to sunset.
For a woman who experiences the heartache of a miscarriage, that heartache is often intensified when she is forced to ask herself how to care for the remains of her child. There is typically no standard path or protocol provided by the medical community, the first resource we look to when we experience a death.
When the Wings of Hope committee began to put the pieces together for the memorial site, one of the most significant pieces we knew we needed in place was a resource for these women. And when we first approached Mankato Mortuary we honestly were just not sure how our request would be received.
It was at that very first meeting, however, that Mankato Mortuary stepped forward and stepped up – agreeing to work with us in offering these services that had not yet been offered in the Greater Mankato community. Women who experience a miscarriage before 20 weeks gestation can contact the mortuary to make arrangements for the remains of the children they have lost, even for first trimester losses.
These remains will be cared for with dignity at the mortuary until the time of common burial at the Wings of Hope memorial site. For those who do want to participate in the common burial for the remains of their child, the mortuary is still available as a resource to work with them to make private arrangements.
We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Mankato Mortuary. Without their support for Wings of Hope, families across our region would still be lacking in much needed resources. Because of their support, the heartache and needs of families are met with empathy and compassion.
At the Evening of Remembrance Pastor Brad read a poem that reflects many of the questions and emotions parents have after losing a child in pregnancy or newborn death. We've heard from many who wanted a copy of that poem, so we're including it here. It is an adaptation from the original by Jennifer Wasik, What Makes a Mother?. We love her original poem, but just wanted a way to include the dads in our expression of remembrance.
Last night was the first Evening of Remembrance for Wings of Hope, and it was a beautiful celebration of the lives of children lost in pregnancy and newborn death. Although there were many tears, there was also a sense of joy from those in attendance. The evening also seemed to mark a change in our community, perhaps turning a corner in the efforts to take away the stigma and silence that surrounds pregnancy loss. We'll continue to add pictures from the evening, and thought we would start with these images, courtesy of the lovely Sarah Denn.
The members of our committee have all been on the journey of pregnancy loss, but in different ways. Learn more about why they are all so passionate about bringing awareness and comfort to families who lose a child during pregnancy.