There are many tough questions - and answers - families often face when experiencing pregnancy loss. The following are some of the most common questions we hear about the common burial program offered through Wings of Hope. Please let us know what other questions you might have about this program, or other aspects of Wings of Hope. We need your help to make this organization as beneficial as possible for families in Southern MN.
What is a common burial? The phrase common burial in terms of pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation refers to burying more than one set of remains together in one burial vault. Babies lost after 20 weeks gestation are not allowed in MN to be buried in the same vault.
What does it cost to participate in the common burial? Wings of Hope, in conjunction with Calvary Cemetery, Mankato Mortuary, and other supporters, help to provide the burial at no cost to families. We rely on donations, paver orders, and fundraisers to support the services of Wings of Hope.
Do I have to buy a paver if I have my child’s remains buried at the site? No. The engraved pavers do offer many families a tangible way to honor the lives of their children. The pavers are also opportunities for family, friends, and community members to help support these families and Wings of Hope.
When are the burials at the memorial site? We currently have them scheduled for twice each year – the 2nd Thursday in May and the 1st Tuesday in October – at 6:00 p.m.
Where are the common burial plots? The plots encircle the central Wings of Hope statue and walkway. They will be marked with the date (month and year) of common burial.
How are my child’s remains buried? If you choose to participate in the Wings of Hope common burial service, representatives from Mankato Mortuary will respectfully place your child’s remains into a burial vault. We have a dear volunteer who sews burial blankets that enclose remains individually. The vault is sealed and then buried after the remembrance service.
*The information presented here are not intended to provide or replace legal or medical advice or regulations.
This is the time of year in Minnesota when we do so much in the dark. Some travel to and from work when it is still dark. If we grocery shop past 4:30 we're unloading those bags in the dark. And even though there might be Christmas lights twinkling in the distance, it can still feel cold, dark, and lonely, especially if you are moving through the holiday season while missing your child.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to stop by the Wings of Hope site in Calvary Cemetery (the gates are open 7 days a week sunrise to sunset). Nestled between evergreens you will find this place of warm remembrance. Bring a cup of coffee or cocoa and sit on the benches. Read the poignant paver inscriptions. Bring a friend and talk about your baby. Most of all, know that you are not alone in your grief journey. As we come together as a community and learn to support each other, we realize that we are not just alone in the dark, and we can be that light for someone else who needs it.
These keepsake ornaments made just for Wings of Hope honor the loss of multiple babies, and will be available at our booth at the Holiday Expo. Remembrance items like this can help families find a way to honor the memory of their little angels during the holidays.
Thank you to everyone who is coming together so that our first booth at the Holiday Expo can be a success - in both fundraising and creating awareness of Wings of Hope!
Moms are not the only ones affected by miscarriage and newborn death, and these handmade Christmas ornaments that will be for sale at our booth are evidence of that. These were made for Wings of Hope by a woman who has lost grand-babies to miscarriage - and who has other families and friends who have also experienced loss.
The wonderful woman who made these for us said she put soft down in four of them to represent angel feathers, and the other four have glitter. Reminders of babies, angels, and wishes on stars.
Donations like these not only help Wings of Hope, but they can make great gifts for those in your life who you maybe just don't know how to say, "I remember, too."
The Wings of Hope committee continues to prepare for the craft and bake sale on November 19th! This is the first time we will be participating in the annual event at the Madison East Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., where vendors of all kinds will have tables set up with their handmade designs, crafts, and delicious baked goods. Come and shop for a good cause at our booth and help support families in Southern MN who experience pregnancy and newborn loss. All proceeds from the sale at our booth go to Wings of Hope and the services we provide.
Have something to share that we can add to our booth? We still need donations of crafts of all kinds and baked goods - please consider helping us reach our fundraising goals! And remember, you can shop early by looking at the items we have already available on our blog and sending us an email to let us know what you would like!
Help support Wings of Hope and do your holiday shopping at the same time! Items like these handcrafted bookmarks will be on sale at our next fundraiser. Can't make it on the 19th to the sale? Send us an email or give us a call to pre-order your crafts. We'll keep posting pictures of items as they are ready for shopping!
Saturday, November 19
Madison East Center
I'm one of the faces behind Wings of Hope. And I'm 1 in 4. As I prepare my candles for the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day service on Saturday, I reflect about how I can finally share the name I gave my child - the child no one else held but me. I also reflect on the idea that I am encouraging our community to end the silence around pregnancy and infant loss, but I haven't necessarily done my full part. So, today I'm speaking out and sharing my own story behind what propelled me to this place.
We were expecting our second child and my sister-in-law Shari was expecting her first. We had just spent a Sunday afternoon together shopping for our babies – two pregnant women joined in sweet expectation of being pregnant with children who would soon grow up as cousins, getting into mischief and creating wonderful mayhem. I was in the final stretch of the first trimester and Shari was in the final stretch of the third, and we were both giddy with pregnancy happiness.
Our beautiful day came to a close and Shari and I embraced, her swelling belly reaching out to touch me first, and we laughed that the cousins were hugging good-bye, too. Little did we know just how accurate this sentiment was. We had no idea of the kinds of goodbyes we would have to say in the days that followed.
Later that same night, after starting to spot and cramp, I ended up in the hospital, and the next day learned that my baby died. I wanted to jump out of my body that had betrayed me. Or had I betrayed my baby? I wanted to run away from myself, to leave behind the anguish that was prickling me all over.
I failed my baby. I failed my husband. I failed my daughter. I failed my family. I failed my friends. I failed myself. These thoughts consumed me.
Had I failed God? Was this a punishment? Was this a test?
Or, had God failed me? Writing that now is painful, for I have come to deeper and stronger understandings and beliefs, but I cannot hide the fact that I questioned God. I questioned why a loving God would allow mothers and families this type of pain.
I just wanted to be back in that space and time when Shari and I were shopping for baby supplies together. I felt an envy creeping in like a dark fog that settles heavily and makes it difficult to see clearly. I grew even angrier with God and more envious of Shari every second. Even though I was seething with an anger that I directed to the Heavens, I asked – or perhaps demanded – of Him to take those next few weeks before Shari gives birth and find some way to heal my heart so that when I looked into the eyes of my niece or nephew I would feel joy, and not sad longing. It was almost as if I was challenging God, giving him a time limit to heal my pain. I told Him it was the least he could do for me after he let my child die.
For two days my world was the anguishing pain of this thing we call miscarriage. That word just doesn’t describe this process, this pain, this occasion. And then on the third day the pain became so strong and severe I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the bathroom. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the door to call for Steve. Like a wave crashing on the ocean, blood burst forth from me with such intensity that it felt like my heart was going to be sucked out, too.
In that moment, I realized it. This was me saying goodbye. I rocked back and forth and apologized to my child.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I couldn’t do it right. I’m so sorry I let you down as your mom. I’m so sorry. I love you. I miss you. Please don’t go!”
As those words poured out of me, so did the remains of my child. No tiny toes or whispers of fine dark hair, but my child’s broken remains. I wanted to gather those pools of blood in my hands and never let them go.
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.
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.