Preparing a Funeral for a Baby and Feeling the Influence of a Life

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Mara Kofoed, a Brooklynite of 12 years, is founder of A BLOG ABOUT LOVE.  She writes her heart out daily sharing real stories about love, marriage, divorce, self-worth & trials.  Because of her own divorce & 8 years of infertility, she learned something that felt revolutionary at the time, but was what she had been hearing her whole life in the Mormon church: choose happiness – even amidst obstacles – by living a life motivated by love.  She applies this to her new marriage & together with her husband, they share all their happylovesecrets with the world every day on their blog.  Someone helped Mara on her journey to finding her her own worth & happiness, and she’s dedicated her life to try and do the same for you.   

One of my dearest friends—my oldest friend from my twelve years in Brooklyn— spent many years trying to get pregnant. Finally, she did IVF and it worked. She was pregnant! We were brimming with excitement for she and her husband. Our Brooklyn community of friends was overjoyed. We hosted an extravagant shower at my home and everything seemed to be the happiest of beginnings.

Until the baby was born.

Right away, the doctors knew something was not right with baby Beatrice. After several weeks, she was diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic disorder, one that was life threatening. The baby girl would likely not ever be able to leave the hospital ventilators, even if she lived.

The news floored us. We were all young professionals in Brooklyn. We spent our days hanging out with each other, visiting Coney Island or having picnics in park. We crammed into Mini Coopers and went on road trips. We sat around and talked about business ideas and our big New York dreams. We barbecued on rooftops, decorated our mid-century modern apartments, worked long hours, and relished our tradition of dessert nights. And now one of us had a four pound baby in an ICU incubator. It felt like the life you hear about from off in the distance; the worst-case scenarios that you think will never happen.

We had just put away baby shower decor and now we were preparing a meal drop-off rotation. Organizing a laundry schedule for the parents. Collecting quarters for hospital vending machines. Pooling funds for car services so our friends wouldn’t have to battle the subway day and night. Dropping off books to read, snacks, and letters of comfort. Little children from the primary practiced songs to record for the baby. Friends worked on a baby quilt. It was an operation like I’ve never seen before. People poured in to help. I took it upon myself to be the hub of the operation. I had the time. I was not able to have children myself. And my heart could not have been bigger for this family and this baby. Every ounce of me wanted to do all I could to help.

And, I needed a purpose. I needed a purpose like my life depended on it. My husband of seven years had just announced that he wanted to leave our marriage, divorce me. Not have children with me. No one knew this but me. I sat there watching my life unravel while at the same time watching my friends’ lives unravel before theirs. Everything near and dear to us was being ripped from our grasp and there’s nothing we could do about it. But never in my life had I been more in tune with what was left. Even with a husband that was on his way out the door, even with a baby whose life was fragile. What was left was love. Love for each other. Love for this life. Love for babies. Love for friends in need. Love for what we had. Love for serving each other and fulfilling each other’s needs. Never before had I so clearly seen that love and service is the balm of the world. It heals even in unimaginably difficult circumstances.

It wasn’t long before my husband took his exit and left the state. Two days later that sweet little baby passed away. Just before I received word that she died, I had the sweetest moment that I will never forget. I was listening to the recording of all the Primary children singing words of peace and comfort and joy for that baby and her parents. Give Said the Little Stream. Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam. I am a Child of God. I was listening to those songs in my home, alone, and sobbing, but feeling more love and peace and comfort than I had ever felt in my life. A couple of hours later, I got the call from Bea’s parents, saying that Bea had just passed. I consider those children’s singing voices a tender mercy from God. Those voices filled my home that evening and my heart had never been more full of love and hope and gratitude for what really matters most in this life.

Normally the Bishop would have planned the funeral, but he happened to be out of town. And so, one of his counselors, his wife(both my dear friends), and I worked day and night to plan that funeral. We were all under 30. We had never planned a funeral before and had no idea what it would take to quickly bring together a smooth event for the family. But because of the many willing people literally begging for assignments, we organized a luncheon, flowers, musical numbers, speakers, an organist, car dispatchers, people to drive family to Greenwood Cemetery from the church, even water bottles for the graveside service in the blistering July heat. Women cooked day and night. Men tenderly helped with every need. People of our ward and friend community helped in every way imaginable. A thirteen-year old boy even showed up on his skateboard the morning of the funeral to help set up chairs. The feeling of service and love that all the men, women, and children felt that day is something that none of us will ever forget.

My friend later wrote “the baby’s grandfather gave what would be considered the eulogy. But rather than talking about the life and accomplishments of the deceased he instead expounded upon all of the service, love and charity that this beautiful little girl inspired in those who surrounded her.” She made us better people. She gave us hope for this life and all the goodness that exists in it. She reminded us what it feels like to offer love so freely and willingly. She brought us closer to what God represents. She brought us closer to who we all have the potential to be. I will always be thankful for Bea.

Has the death of a loved one (or a similar loss) ever been a sanctifying experience for you? Do you think it’s possible?

7 thoughts on “Preparing a Funeral for a Baby and Feeling the Influence of a Life

  1. Two of my dear friends lost their fourth baby to a rare condition (anencephaly) five years ago. They knew for seven months that the growing baby would die once outside the womb, so they planned a funeral for seven months. It was a wrenching experience for them, and for those of us close to the situation. But I have never seen a family with stronger faith. Meeting that baby in the hospital was a holy experience. And anyone attending her funeral would think she had lived 100 years for all the lives she had touched. I look back on that time as one of the most sacred of my life.

  2. Dear Mara, I am a huge fan of your blog. You are beautiful and inspiring. My husband and I know Lori and Aaron, I was just telling my mil about your amazing blog, thank you for sharing.

  3. Sadly, I’ve been to far too many funerals for children. Every one has been life changing. But one in particular…

    I can’t seem to write the story, but I learned this– when a child dies (or a mother or a brother or..) just do something. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cake or flowers, a note or an afternoon raking their lawn. Anything will help. Just mourn with those who mourn and leave the comforting for later.

  4. Yes. It is possible.

    We just recently buried our youngest child, a baby who only lived 5 hours. I have my moments and days when things are VERY hard to get through. The help we have received from friends, neighbors, ward members and family has kept us buoyed up through it all. I know if I feel like I am starting to sink into despair, I can reach out, and be pulled back to the surface.

    The most sanctifying thing that happened and has helped me be strong through it all is the time we were able to spend with our baby before death. We had him for only 5 hours but they were five of the most peaceful and happy hours we have ever had as a family.

  5. The story is too long to share in it’s entirety, but when my husband’s brother died at the age of 29 after battling cancer for 6 years, in our home while the whole family was here for another sister’s wedding, we experienced so many “little” blessings from many angels, tender mercies really, that added up to one miracle. The miracle of feeling peace and love at such a sad time. It was at that time that I felt the closest to heaven that I ever have.

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