Premature baby’s death acknowledged by proper funeral

Co-Director of Aid to Woman

Last week I attended a funeral in Toronto, not unlike one I had attended fifty years ago, as a child in my native Holland. Both of the deceased were infants, however both were born into different social and economic circumstances.

Back home, my family gathered, lovingly, to bury by six-week-old sister in our family plot in a large city cemetery. But last week in Toronto, family and friends of a 23 week-old premature baby, Donellah, who only lived 2 hours after she was born, gathered together to bury her -two years after she had died. He mother, single and poor, had no money or place to bury the infant, so with a heavy heart she had her cremated. Still, she yearned to have her Donellah’s existence acknowledged with a proper funeral. Last week that happened- through a remarkable set of circumstances.

Linda Groce, a sidewalk counsellor at Aid to Woman (an emergency pregnancy counseling service in downtown Toronto) met Sonya, mother of Donellah, by change and heard her sad story. Recognizing this young mother’s loss and unresolved grief, Linda decided to help her.

Last week she organized an ecumenical funeral held at a tiny chapel in St. James Cemetery in downtown Toronto. It was presided over by Father Bill Comerford, a Roman Catholic priest and Reverend Ken Campbell, a Baptist Minister. The carefully planned ceremony was attended by volunteers from Aid to Woman, friends and neighbors of the baby’s extended family and by at least 15 well-behaved youngsters (some in strollers).

When Father Comerford led songs of praise during the solemn ceremony, and Revered Campbell gave a reassuring message of God’s ever-present love in all circumstances of life, there was not a murmur among the children nor a dry eye among the adults.

All of us were touched by this hour of quiet reflection, this ‘time out’ of our busy lives after which we wandered amidst the grave stones of people long gone and the beautiful old trees within the serenity of this natural setting in the middle of Toronto.

It made an impact on all of us. Friends who attended the funeral (including the faithful Burnie Sisters) had these comments:

Mary Roberts: “It made me realize how valuable we all are in the sight of God. I kept on thinking how pleased He must be.”

Joan Spensley: “When I told a pro-abortion friend where I was going, she remarked; ‘You are really pro-life aren’t you?’”

Michael Lynch: “I was especially touched by the fact, that it was such a beautiful sunny day, which made the cemetery look like a park and this a joyous occasion.”

Bill MacArthur: “I could see how happy the mother was and how it put her mind at ease.”

Sharon McGaffin: “When I came home that afternoon I told my family about the simple, beautiful ceremony and especially about the flowers the children laid on the grave side.”

A few days after the funeral, Sonya wrote Linda a note to thank her. It said, “God will certainly reward you, for the work you do to help save His children. Also how much love you give to people around you. You have changed my family and brought us closer to God.”

I can’t help but marvel at God’s eternal love or all our children, born and unborn, now or in fifty years hence. In His heavenly home, whatever their circumstances of birth, they are all equal and loved.