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
Check out these adorable ceramic coasters made by one of our committee members! Awesome crafts like these - and baked goods - will be available at our craft sale on November 19th. Do your holiday shopping and help Wings of Hope provide support and resources to families in Southern MN - the best of both worlds!
Saturday, November 19th
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Madison East Center
Craft and Bake Sale
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.
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.
Last night when I stopped by the Wings of Hope memorial site to check on the new fence, I was met with a bittersweet surprise. The first of the pavers had been engraved, and among them were my own and those of my family. As I circled the walkway, reading the names, sentiments, and remembrances, the tears fell as I was struck with a mix of emotions.
Names of babies loved and lost. Some lost decades ago and some achingly recently. Words of comfort from community members. Yet these words on the pavers are more than just carvings in stone. They are steps in healing for women, for families, and for a community as we come together to find a way to support each other in pregnancy loss. They are reminders that we are not alone, and that the lives of our babies lost in pregnancy are still cherished.
- Chris O., Wings of Hope Chair
[NOTES: There are more pavers completed than pictured, and there are still pavers to be engraved. If you would like to know if your paver has been engraved, please send me a note with the description of the paver - I have pictures of all completed pavers. We will update you here when all of the orders have been engraved. There are also still pavers available for engraving. All proceeds go to pay for the central monument, which we hope to have installed next week, and for the costs related to Wings of Hope services.]
As the Wings of Hope committee continues to plan and prepare for the Evening of Remembrance, we are reminded of the generosity of the community of Southern MN. In less than a year we have gone from a bare plot of ground at the cemetery to planning for the first burial and remembrance service - the circle of the monument site representing this full-circle moment. And none of this would be possible without the support from the community.
An example about this support comes in the way of flowers - but it is much more than just flowers. Hilltop Florist and Greenhouse will be donating white carnations for each family who wishes to recognize their children lost in pregnancy. During our Evening of Remembrance these families will be invited to place a flower at the burial urn, and say the name of that child if they wish. Each carnation will represent the life of a cherished child, and will provide an opportunity for some of these families to, for the first time, publicly recognize that significant loss.
At the entrance to the memorial site we have two pillars, and in preparation for the Evening of Remembrance, a family touched deeply by the grief of pregnancy loss is donating two beautiful planters to rest atop these pillars and welcome visitors to the site. So when you go to the memorial site, you'll see not just the flowers, but symbols of love and support - in memory of the Demuth 9.
These are more than just donations of flowers. The generosity of Hilltop Florist and Greenhouse is a demonstration of the kind of community support that we need and so appreciate, a way of embracing all of those in the area affected by pregnancy loss. The generosity of the family donating in memory of the Demuth 9 reminds us all that in grief we can rise to help lift others. These flowers are hope.
Thank you to all who have donated time, money, and resources to help support families of Southern MN who have experienced pregnancy loss - and for a future in the area where those who experience this type of loss will feel embraced by our community.
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.