October 18th is the day we remember our Saint. It’s the feast day of St. Luke and the month that correlates with Lucas’ loss (and infant and pregnancy loss awareness month). There is providence even in the details.
As a Catholic, ritual is incredibly important to me. To us. I find meaning in collecting similar experiences every day, every week, every year. Each time we repeat an action, it becomes a deeper, richer part of our family story.
So, we have a few things that we do to remember Lucas. To maintain his legacy and solidify his memory in Elder Canon.
On the 18th, we make some sort of cake. Last year it was an actual cake. This year, Lucia baked the tiniest cupcakes in her easy bake oven. We eat something sweet, we say a prayer, ask for his intercession and sing a song. This year it was “Softly and Tenderly”. Last year, I think, it was “The Cry of the Poor”: the same psalm our friends sang at his celebration.
As the kids get older, I see some moments moving them more, but we still include food and song and prayers so that everyone can feel like they are participating or like they have something to remember. Dominic doesn’t remember the memorial service, but he certainly remembers cake. And so Dom talks about him.
That’s important too. I let the kids talk about him. I never, ever shush them. You would think this would be easy, but realistically, the places Lucas comes up are often the places I would least like to discuss loss or miscarriage: any time someone asks the kids “How many siblings to you have?” or any time I’m asked “Are they all yours?!” in front of them. It’s most often in the super market line, or when we meet new people… in general places where I’m trying to put on a happy face or give people a good impression of our family.
Lucia is his fiercest advocate. She never, ever fails to say “I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers, but one is in Heaven. He died before he came out of Mama’s tummy.”
I’ve watched more than one grocery checker swallow their own tongue trying to figure out how to respond.
And that’s ok.
I don’t have to apologize for my grief or for my suffering. I may not make eye contact because that is a hard Truth, but I never shush the kids.
I stroke her hair. “Yes, honey. And now he can pray for us,” is usually my response.
Sometimes that opens a tiny window into a stranger’s soul. They purposefully catch my eyes and say, “Me too,” and just for a minute we are united in that very personal grief. And I feel better (and devastated) to know that I am not alone. If I’m in a particularly grace-filled moment, I give a little prayer of thanks for all my children. Lucas included.
Honestly though, usually I don’t, because someone is screaming or pitching a fit, or adding unwanted items to the cart. But sometimes I can, and that’s Lucas’ intercession.
The other way I grieve and remember is to cut my hair. Right after his loss, I cut off the hair at the nape of my neck. Partly because I needed an outwards expression of my inside pain, but also because I made small relics out of the hair. As with many women, my hair changes in pregnancy. And I had already started to note the difference in the short time He was within me. My hair remained one reminder that he was there at all.
Some of that hair I cut just the one time, and it has almost grown out to reach the full length. I can’t help but feel, how dare it move on and mask itself with the rest of my hair… as if it had never been affected.
So in a specific small spot, I have Andy cut my hair off every year. I don’t do it on Lucas’ feast. I don’t need to feel anxious about forgetting to do that ritual on a specific day. And honestly, it takes enough emotional energy just to put together the cake/singing/prayer piece. I give myself the grace of time with my personal grieving, and honestly, his loss took a long time. So, sometime in the latter half of October, my hair is cut again. I place it at the base of the rose we planted in his honor. Returning a bit of myself to the ground. Dust to dust.
Throughout the year I feel that spot. It starts off bare and scratchy. Raw. Much the same way I feel in October. As it grows out, it’s still noticeable especially when my hair is up. I will reach for that spot when I’m thinking of him or daydreaming. I feel like it’s a tangible but private connection to my grief. To the aching that still sits in my chest. To my pierced heart.
Also, I’m becoming less afraid to remind people of this anniversary. One hard truth of grief is that other people move on. This grief is my constant companion, not theirs. As it should be. But I also know that there are many people who want to love us, who want to pray for us, and who want to remember Lucas with us. They just need to be reminded. So, I tell them. And, without fail, they respond with grace, and love and prayers. So much so that I am reminded of the joy he initially created in this world and that feeling eclipses the sadness of his passing, if only for a moment.
Lucas’ intercession continues in my life. He sends me sunshine on grey days. He prays peace into my heart when I am irrational with his siblings. He reminds me of the faithfulness of God, even in my sufferings. When I despair with doubt He is there. Sometimes I can almost feel him holding my hand. And he brings me back to a place of belief and gratefulness.
He loves me in a way that only a son can, in a way that only a Saint can.
Pray for us, Lucas Emeth.
And we’ll keep remembering you.