Elizabeth Petrucelli

Author, Blogger, Educator

Miscarriage Series – The Commendation Ceremony

Commendation Invitation for Miscarriage

I wasn’t sure what a Naming and Commendation Ceremony really was. After Ruby died, we were encouraged to celebrate her life and name her. We didn’t have an official ceremony but we named her. I had been to a commendation ceremony before for some clients but I wasn’t sure what ours would be like considering how early this baby was born. I wasn’t nervous though, I was very excited. A feeling I hadn’t experienced much over the prior weeks.

My excitement was just like the excitement I had before our gender-reveal party for Timmy. No one knew the sex of the baby and we all couldn’t wait to find out. When I learned the sex of Gus, I couldn’t wait to share it. I wanted everyone to be surprised just like if he was born alive.

I did fear judgment on the name we chose for him. I wasn’t sure if his name would be accepted by all. In reality, it didn’t matter, this was our son and the name chosen for him. I really can’t say we chose his name because Gus was chosen for him from the moment I knew he was within me. Oh how I wish he was here to carry such a powerful name.

As we all rushed to get ready, I remembered I needed to grab Gus’s memory box, the baby figurine, his cross, and his memory book. A blanket that was made for him would be brought by my friend Peggie. I couldn’t wait to hold it and see it (I sleep with this blanket). Very few memories for such a small child but memories none-the-less.

Gus's Memory Box

We got out of the house on time, but traffic was horrible getting out of town. I had wanted to stop for some thin Sharpie’s but there was no time after how long it took to get out of town. We would show up just five minutes before the ceremony and I had things to set up.

We arrived at the church and family and friends were gathered inside the Narthex. I knew this would be overwhelming and difficult for me in that I needed to greet each person, hug them, and hear their words. As an introvert, this is hard on a regular day; today, it would be even more overwhelming. I was also in a rush to get things set up and talk with Father Ed as I had not yet given him Gus’s full name.

I rushed through greeting everyone and made it to Father Ed where we talked about what was to take place and set up Gus’s things. It was nice to have a few private moments with Father Ed before the ceremony. I was so thankful he was doing this for us.

After everything was set up, all the people were still in the Narthex and I asked them to go sit. Father Ed officiated getting that done with a welcome to all Christians. We entered the church.

The ceremony started with a beautiful song called I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light. I had no idea this song would bring on the tears. I didn’t think anyone else would sing during the ceremony but as my voice choked and I no longer could sing through the tears, I could hear those around me singing. As the third verse began, I could see Father Ed walking up to the altar and as much as I wanted him to hear my voice resonating, my voice was not there.

The lyrics literally took my breath away and I was overcome with grief. It was as if Augustus was telling me, “All is okay mommy. See, this is what I am doing!”

1. I want to walk as a child of the light;
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world;
the star of my life is Jesus.

Refrain
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

2. I want to see the brightness of God;
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear Sun of righteousness, shine on my path,
and show me the way to the Father.

Refrain
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

3. I’m looking for the coming of Christ;
I want to be with Jesus.
When we have run with patience the race,
we shall know the joy of Jesus.

Refrain
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

As the service began, I wondered if this was “overkill.” This was the stigma of miscarriage coming out in my own mind. As much as I knew this was needed and more people should do this, I felt a bit bad about making such a hoopla about my own child.

We had our priest and a cantor who were there with a fully lit church. We were such a small group there celebrating his life but it seemed, for a moment, that we were putting out all these people. I leaned into Hubby’s ear and asked, “Do you think this is overkill?” He shook his head no. Afterwards, I would realize why he felt that way.

As Father Ed chanted the beginning prayers, Augustus’ name was sung. I am not sure if everyone picked up on it or not and I hoped he would say his name more and more throughout the ceremony. I could hear my friends taking pictures all around me as I tried to keep the tears from flowing.

Commendation Ceremony 2

My friend Katie, read the first reading. It was so beautiful and relevant to infant loss. As she read, I wondered what was going through her mind. I wondered if she wanted to cry. I wondered if she would make it through without crying. I wondered if the loss of her own son, Henry Thomas, would bring on grief for her. I wondered if I was causing her pain. In that moment, I realized how hard this must have been for her. I just wanted to tell her I loved her.

Father Ed proceeded with the Gospel and then the Homily. The Homily took my breath away again. Father Ed has such a way with words. I wanted to soak in every word, remember it all but there was not way my mind could do so. Augustus’ name was repeated several times so all could hear and I had really wished in that moment, that we were there for another reason. A happy reason, not celebrating a short life.

Our friend Donna then read the petitions and it was so hard. She instantly started crying and it was so difficult but all I felt was love from her. I didn’t matter that she was crying. She was validating this experience. Our experience. She didn’t need to be stoic. She knew how hard this was for us. She had comforted her own daughter through loss. Afterwards, she came to us and gave us a big hug. I just wanted to tell her I loved her. She may never realize how much this meant to our family.

Commendation Ceremony 1

We were asked to place Ruby and Augustus’ name in the Book of Life. Oh how I couldn’t wait to see their names in there. I was awe struck by the fact that Ruby’s name would now be in a Book of Life. We had never placed her name in one before. She too, would be commended and honored today.

After Hubby wrote their names in the book, I noticed that Augustus’ name was missing a U. I had hoped we would have time to correct it later. We weren’t able to fill in the dates of life in the book. I knew Augustus’ but Ruby’s took a bit to remember her exact date. Father Ed told us we could fill it in later. I am not sure when later would be.

Hubby and Joey were then offered time to speak. Joey originally wanted to go first but then asked his dad to go first. I am sure he was just nervous. Hubby started but he was crying. He said some beautiful things but I loved that he said, “When your wife gets pregnant, you fall in love with that baby instantly. Someone you have never met and don’t know.” I know those weren’t his exact words. He probably doesn’t even remember his exact words but what I don’t think he realized is that I needed to hear those words. We talk, but I rarely hear those intimate thoughts he has. It was healing to me.

Joey shared his experience of what he heard from me when Gus died, how he felt, and how hard it was for him the next day because he knew I was hurting. I love him so much. We have an amazing bond and I really need to be more cognizant of that and help grow that bond. He loves me so much and we are “attached.”

Joey drew this in the sand at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. It was his message. He misses his brother.

Memory of Gus at Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The ceremony concluded soon after and we walked out behind Father Ed. We waited in the Narthex for the rest of our family and friends while they signed Gus’s book and we hugged them and thanked them for coming. They all said they thought the ceremony was beautiful. They all felt it was needed. It validated everything. We lost our son. It’s okay to grieve and our son meant something, no matter how small he was.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth,
    You are so eloquent at expressing your emotions and clearly describing the feelings that every woman and family experience when they suffer a loss. I did not know how an infant loss touches a family until we experienced it ourselves. Your support of Katie (and the rest of us) helped us cope with the tragedy – but you also taught us how important it was to celebrate Henry Thomas’ life. We do that each and every day – as you do with Ruby and Gus. Katie asked if she could to the reading instead of the prayers of the faithful and of course I said yes. I did not realize how the emotions would swell up as I relived Katie’s grief through your grief (and that of your family) at the loss of Augustus Jude. Thank you for coming into our life and for allowing us to be a part of your special day. I look forward to meeting Gus and Ruby in heaven. I do love you and your family. Donna

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