He calls them each by name.

 Lift your eyes and look
to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry
host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great
power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
-Isaiah 40:26
While I know that my sons don’t need
forgiveness for their sins (they had no sins), I still wanted to have
panikhidas for them. We had a panikhida the other night for someone
and I had to sing because there were only a few of us there. I was
paying very close attention to the words, thinking about Innocent and
Andrew. Most of the prayers have to do with asking forgiveness for
the person’s sins and they would obviously not apply in their cases.
I thought about why I wanted memorial services in church for
them so much. The answer occurred to me tonight. I wanted to hear
their names.
A whole cottage industry has sprung up
for providing various means of babies’ names in print. Some are
written in the sand and photographed, some are painted onto stones,
some are tied to balloons and released. If your child has died before
birth then you will not have the hand print on construction paper with
the child’s name and “Happy Mother’s Day” to pin on your wall.
You won’t be signing permission forms for field trips, you won’t be
typing about the cute thing he said in your letter to Grandma.
Parents of miscarried and stillborn children already suffer the
feeling that everyone has either forgotten their children or refused
to admit their existence in the first place. Hearing and seeing the
child’s name is validating. Your child lived
even if they didn’t draw breath. He or she is a person with an
immortal soul.
I
haven’t had a big interest in seeing Innocent and Andrew’s names
written onto balloons, the beach, or stenciled onto stuffed angels. I
want to hear their names in church with the rest of the departed.
Given that we commemorate reposed catechumens and given that unborn
babies of Orthodox parents are considered catechumens, you would
think that they would be commemorated and included when Memory
Eternal is sung in church, but they’re not. I don’t know what the
solution is.
Even
if I can’t change the practice of the Church (and I don’t know that
in some churches they don’t already do that), I can encourage people
to do this:
Say the names
of the departed babies of your friends and family members.
There
is some sort of misconception that if you mention the babies by name
you are hurting the parents even more. I’m not saying that for
someone out there this won’t be the case, but I haven’t met them yet.
Everyone I know
wants
to hear their baby’s name, wants to know that someone else thinks
about them and acknowledged their existence. The sound of your baby’s
name is no less beautiful for the child having departed this life. 

(Originally published on Lost Innocents) 

9 thoughts on “He calls them each by name.

  1. Thank you for this! That is exactly my feeling too, and it pains me that we can't commemeorate our son aloud in the services. We do sing St. Philip's tropar and memory eternal as the end of our family prayers, but I still would like to hear his name spoken aloud in church with the departed.

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  2. Yes! It warms my heart to hear people call my children by name.

    Perhaps you could have a special litany/service/mass (not sure what you call them in orthodox circles) written specifically for the departed little ones and have it said/sung/performed (again, not sure of terminology here!) on October 15th, International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance/Awareness Day? A special occasion where you're free to say their names and honor their memories within the church? Some sort of special rite acknowledging their existence?

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  3. I feel the same way. I love my babies' names and I want to hear them. We had a memorial service for a few family members and included Hope and it was really good to hear her name in church.

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  4. I've always been rather confused as to why we do not include the names of miscarried and stillborn babies in our prayers. I went ahead and included some names during our houseblessing because I wanted them to be included. I always pray their names in my head at church 🙂

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  5. Being named is so powerful; the revealing or giving of names in the New Testament (Jesus, John the Baptist) and changing names in the Old Testament (Abram to Abraham) is treated with great attention and significance in the Svcriptures, so it makes sense that we mothers need to hear and use the names of our lost little ones.

    We only recently named our lost babies, and it was very moving during our house blessing this year to hear Rebecca, David and Aaron included for the first time in the litany for the reposed.

    (another) Elizabeth

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  6. We gave the names of your sons with the prosphora we baked for liturgy a few weeks ago, along with the names of our stillborn daughter and two other babies who departed before they were born. It IS important that they are named and that they are prayed for. I'll keep doing that as long as I live.

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  7. Yes, yes, yes. Such an important thing, to have these little ones known by name. It means a lot to me whenever someone, usually my mom, mentions one of my lost littles by name.

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