When my daughter Cara was stillborn at 41 weeks, I felt the pressing need for her funeral service to be recorded. At the time, our other daughters were only two and three years old – still too young to fully understand what was going on. I wanted the day’s events to be captured so we could share these moments with them in the future. Now, it’s hard to believe – but five years have passed since that day.
After Cara’s funeral, it also became clear that her eulogy was meant to be shared beyond our family and friends. Loved ones encouraged me to post the video online, and despite the terrifying vulnerability of it all – I did.
I asked some hard questions as I spoke that day: Can the life of a tiny baby who never took a single breath have purpose, significance, meaning and glorify God? Because she was a stillborn, was she an accident? Was she never meant to be? Did she have no purpose? Did she have no calling? Nothing to offer to us or to her God?
Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, I also answered these questions that day.
The ultimate answer I gave that day is true for my Cara, and I know there are families out there who need to hear that it is true for your child/children too: every life echoes in eternity – including those who never took a single breath.
There is incredibly beauty and purpose in each life.
Instead of just sharing the video like I do each year, I thought I’d transcribe it into words for those who prefer to read. Just know – it’s not something I had written out before speaking – and accordingly some parts aren’t as polished as a proper blog ought to be. (I edited punctuation into a couple run-on sentences that occurred as I spoke, and edited out some ‘uhhs’ etc., but I kept the wording as spoken). I’ve also included the full video below, for those who may want to watch.
Also know – Kevin and I have been anything BUT private about our experience of bereavement. This is a part of our story, but we willingly share it in the hope that we can be of encouragement to others. Feel free to share it too.
Eulogy transcript follows…
I have so much that I want to share. It will be tough but here we go…
Last week I was sitting on the couch, just flipping through the channels on the television. I caught a scene from the movie, Gladiator. I only saw just that couple minutes, maybe, and in that scene – I don’t even know who he is – but what he said was: what we do in life echoes in eternity.
And it really really struck me.
I moved on, turned the TV off, but I couldn’t really shake that phrase. We have this big blank spot over where the television is in our home and I kinda thought, that would be something good to put on the wall up there to remind us that we are eternal beings and what we do in this life ripples and has eternal consequences and can move people.
In my womb, Cara thrived in every way. She always had a strong heartbeat. She was really active and she was really responsive. Of all our children, she seemed to relate to the outside world, incredibly well. Like Teri said (Teri is our beloved doula and friend who spoke before me at the service) she loved music; in church she would bop around in there. We knew she was a girl and we named her very early. And so she knew her name. We spoke to her. The girls hugged my stomach and kissed her and were waiting for baby Cara. She especially loved Kevin’s voice. Whenever he talked to her, it would be an instant kick. We weren’t waiting for Cara to join our family. She was part of our family and is still part of our family.
So, she was due to arrive two weeks ago today. Last Sunday she would have been 41 weeks. We thought maybe Sunday would be the day that she would arrive. I had what was the beginning of labour pains. But after noticing that it had been awhile since I felt her move, we tried to get her to move. She wouldn’t. She didn’t respond to Kevin’s voice. So I went to the hospital just to get checked, but in my mind I thought – well, so many women do this, right? You’re just paranoid, it’s the end of your pregnancy and they’ll just tell me to go home.
But I got the devastating news that her heart had stopped and a confirmation that she had died.
It was my worst nightmare.
I have always found the thought of delivering a stillborn child to be unimaginable. Actually, three weeks earlier through Facebook connections I had learned of a woman and her husband. I don’t even know them, but I found out that they had lost their child at 38 weeks and had to deliver their baby. These are the words that I wrote to my friend on Facebook after she had posted news about it: “That post really broke my heart. It is unimaginable to think of enduring that kind of a loss. I can’t imagine delivering a baby that could have lived outside the womb.”
My heart was so broken for these strangers. I prayed for them and I cried for them.
Three weeks later I was facing the exact same scenario.
The doctor told me it was not reasonable to expect to find out what had happened. Often times there are just no answers. I told God that I would accept the loss of Cara, but I told Him to have mercy on me. I couldn’t bear the agony of living my life wondering if I had done something wrong, or could have somehow prevented this from happening. As a mom, you always feel like you want to look after your children and I kind of felt like I might have failed her somehow.
My labour was induced the next morning and God’s grace to get me through my worst nightmare was astounding.
The care I received from the midwives, the nurses and the doctor were just beyond my ability to describe. It was like God had hand picked each person to give me exactly what I needed at exactly every moment during labour and deliver.
I could feel a peace that only comes from God.
Monday evening, Cara’s earthly body was born. And what I thought would be the most agonizing moment of my life was the most beautiful thing I have ever encountered.
There is no way to explain it.
It was just one of those holy moments where heaven touches earth. Cara was greeted with honour and dignity and with the weeping eyes of a room full of midwives, nurses and a doctor who were sharing our pain and crying with us.
And she was beautiful.
After she was born, the doctor said, “would you look at that”. I instantly knew that my prayer for mercy from God had been answered. There was very clearly a cause of death. Cara’s umbilical cord was tied in a true knot.
In that moment God gave me what I needed – a loving and gracious answer to prayer – to release me so that I can heal. I am grateful for that – and sorrowful – because I know that’s not something that every woman in my position gets to have. That grieves me a lot.
We were so blessed to be able to hold Cara…to look at all of the features that God had delicately crafted into her face and her feet, her hands and her everything. We praised God for all of the details that He’d knit into her. She looked so much like our other girls.
One of the nurses at the hospital bathed Cara. She wheeled out a cart with warm water and soap and towels. I sat there watching this nurse hold my precious baby and wash her as though she was the most special child in the world. And in that moment, I felt so served and so loved that I said to Kevin and Teri, that it felt in that moment like the Lord Himself was washing my own feet.
Pastor Al and our friends and family were all alongside us, praying us through the hardest day of our life. We are so richly blessed by that.
We had longed for the privilege of raising Cara as our own but we left the hospital with empty hands.
It hurt like hell.
I’m not saying that because I want to swear in church. We throw that phrase around in our culture, but I think that in this scenario there’s an accurate analogy there because hell is the separation of God from His children, eternally. In losing our own child, the hurt that we are experiencing mirrors some of the heartbreak God must feel. He had to forsake His own son on the cross. And now I know how much it hurts God to be separated from each person who doesn’t know Him.
That’s the truest tragedy. He creates life. He loves people. He knows every one of us so intimately, but so many of us choose to live separate from Him.
Through Cara’s birth we identify with His heart in a way we never could before. We’ve lost a child and we know that pain. And just as God must feel the insult of sacrificing His own son for a world that mocks Jesus – rejects Him and denies Him – we too identify with that: so little value is placed on the life of a baby in the womb.
Now, I won’t go to political, but those who know me know that I could. Abortion in Canada is legal up until the moment a baby fully exits the womb – meaning that before Cara died we had every legal right to terminate and end her life…the life of this precious baby. In our culture we don’t even tell people we’re pregnant until we’re twelve weeks along, because we might lose the baby. Then moms are left to grieve in secrecy over a life that was so precious to the mother. We know this firsthand because this is not our first loss. This is not our second loss. We have lost children. After our most recent one last year, we chose to share about it publicly to acknowledge and honour that life. I know that everyone’s here today because you’re sharing in our pain.
Our culture would say that Cara’s life was over before it even started. We know that that’s not true. Every birth, no matter how it occurs is a spiritual act and it deserves honour. Carrying and birthing a baby who is uniquely created, cherished and loved by God – is a privilege. Every life in the womb is uniquely purposed for God.
So we asked ourselves: What does this mean for Cara’s life and her purpose?
Because she was a stillborn, was she an accident? Was she never meant to be? Did she have no purpose? Did she have no calling? Nothing to offer to us or to her God?
Teri had mentioned that Cara was named after two incredible people – after a beautiful Christian friend of mine, whose name “Cara” means beloved friend – and also after her Oma, her great Oma (named Gezina) who is a solid rock of faith and example of leadership to our family. We named Cara with the hope that she would grow into a woman of their likeness. We prayed for her and prophetically believed that that would be the legacy of her life.
After the ultrasound when they said that she had died, I had this moment of loss. I felt in my heart, what a shame it is…because we had such hopes for her and the little life she would lead. But that thought that I had was so so wrong. Cara fulfilled her purpose and her calling to God with a purely innocent heart. Her life was short. We don’t even start the scorecard of life until a baby is born. We record the date of birth. We record the time of birth. But the truth from the Bible is that we are all conceived by God long before we are conceived in the flesh. The Bible says that God sees us before we are born and He schedules all the days of our lives.
Each life has a purpose.
On Sunday and Monday, life did not pull a fast one on Cara. God was not caught by surprise, although we certainly were.
The fact that Cara’s life didn’t unfold the way that we had hoped, doesn’t mean that our prayers were unanswered.
The purpose for her life was just not fulfilled the way that we thought it would look like.
We have already been seeing incredible stories of how Cara’s existence has touched hearts and how that ripples through the hearts of others. I could literally stand here and tell you story by story, and we would be here until dusk, of the private things that have been shared with us that are so deeply personal to people that I can’t even share them. But they are sacred to us and they tell us that our little girl had quite the ministry.
I can share one story. I have permission and it’s not a personal thing. Just as an example to show you how a life can ripple…
Our cousin Yvonne went to the bookstore. She wanted to get a book for us that would be ready for us whenever we needed something to help us cope with the loss. She looked and she found something, but then thought, maybe the person at the counter might have some insight about a book for us. She went and she asked, and the woman at the counter said, “wow, I really had a feeling that someone was going to come in today and ask for a book on infant death.” She said that when she was driving to work that morning she turned on the radio and there had been an interview about a John MacArthur book on that exact topic. So she called up the book in the computer and there was one copy left in the store, which Yvonne purchased, and felt a sense of urgency to make sure that we had that. The book itself has meaning and the thought behind it from Yvonne is beautiful and comforting. But in that act of her seeking to purchase something for us in our pain, she revealed that God had put things in place before we knew. To have that interview on the radio at that exact moment that the woman who would be in the bookstore had heard…and had it laid on her heart to actually feel that somebody would come in looking for it…and then actually have that person come into the bookstore and ask for that thing…It built her faith. It built Yvonne’s faith. It built my faith and Kevin’s. It told us that we are loved. That God knows what we need and He is providing it for us, and He is doing it through the body of believers who are caring for one another.
That is very precious.
God has done this for us, over and over and over again, in such a short period of time. Even Kevin had to truck a load of grain. You know, it’s not the time where he wants to be doing that, but some things have to keep spinning. He usually listens to the Christian radio station in the truck and he got in the other day, probably not wanting to be there at all – and turned on the station and there was a message that spoke so personally to him. It provided exactly what he needed, so that even though he had to be working, he was being ministered to in that time and built up.
These things are not coincidences.
This is our God who loves us.
He provides for us everything that we need.
One of the most touching things that we have been hearing about is how many people have walked this journey themselves. They are comforting us through their own stories. And also, our experience of losing Cara but celebrating her is bringing healing to people’s hearts. It wasn’t even all that long ago when stillborn babies were just taken away from the mom. They didn’t get to hold them. They didn’t get to see them. They didn’t get to celebrate what God had done. On behalf of the moms and the dads – because dads are really broken about this too – its’ hard enough for moms to share publicly, but dads love their little children too – we believe that through our brokenness, we can, as a couple pray for healing in people who need it.
So can the life of a tiny baby who never took a single breath have purpose, significance, meaning and glorify God?
You are with us now and you prove that she can and she did. She moved you to come. You might have been moved to come because you love Kevin and I, because you share in our pain or because you’re connected to someone else in our family – but you’re here.
You prove that what we do in this life echoes in eternity even if you never take a single breath.
Life is sacred.
I just want to close by coming back to the circumstances of Cara’s delivery. My own prayer – and it was quite desperate…God knows me and He knows my weaknesses and what I worry about – and I needed to know what had happened. I needed that to be set free. So I reflect on that knot…that beautiful knot in her umbilical cord…and I think of the symbolism of a knot…
Knots are used for binding.
I think of that moment of her birth, when we were unified with strangers who were sharing in our pain. Weeping with us as we welcomed her body. And I am just amazed at how many people have expressed comfort and helped us out. I know that our journey in that regard is just beginning but God has been knitting us closer together and pointing unmistakably to a God who loves us all. Our weakness is when God moves the most. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I’ve never been told so much how strong I am, how strong Kevin and I are – but it’s only because of God’s grace.
The greatest commandments summarized by Jesus was to love God with all that we are, and to love people as we love ourselves. And if that’s the greatest commandment, when I think of Cara and what she’s done in our own hearts – drawing us closer to God and encouraging people to love one another – I think she had a pretty good ministry.
We are highly honoured to have been chosen as her parents. And we celebrate her life. And we look forward to seeing just some of the ripples from the purpose that God gave her. This isn’t a journey that we would have chosen, but we can honestly say that if we could go back in time to before she was conceived – if we knew the outcome would be this – knowing what we know now of how God has touched our hearts and touched other hearts, we would gratefully accept the call to do this again.
I just want to pray for a second: God, we love you so much and you are so faithful to us. And we thank you for blessing us with Cara. We love her and we wanted to keep her. We pray Lord, that all of the joy and delight that we’ll miss out on in this life, Lord – that you are experiencing that now. And we pray that she will bless your heart and bring you joy. We’re going to miss her so much. And we thank you Lord, because we know that you’re going to give us everything that we need. And we also know Lord that this life is so so short – and that we’ll see her again. And Lord our prayer is so much for the hearts of everyone who’s here, Lord…we just pray God that in some way you would allow their hearts to be touched by the life of our daughter. Nothing would bring us greater honour as parents, to celebrate her life then to know that she has touched other hearts for your glory God. Amen.
If you are interested in following along with our story, please do! Feel free to look around the blog and be sure to connect on Facebook. Many parents who have lost a child say this blog, about the pain of losing a baby, has been helpful to them. I’d also love to hear from you, and should you be in the midst of grief and pain – I would be happy to stand with you in prayer! Drop me a line here.
Should you wish, you can watch Cara’s Eulogy below: