In the midst of suffering, how to keep the faith

Stabat Mater

Grief is a complicated emotion, as Kerry Weber discovered when her infant niece Marian Elizabeth died after only a few hours of life. She explores her family's reaction to the loss of the new-born for Faith in Focus in America magazine.

When my cell phone rings early one sunny fall morning, I reach for it groggily, see that the call is from my mother and know that whatever she is about to say will be heartbreaking.

I am still in bed in my pajamas, and my mom tells me that Marian Elizabeth has been born.

Everything else my mother says is drowned out by the roar in my brain that tells me that I must see my new niece. “Call me back on FaceTime,” I say interrupting her. A moment later, the video call comes through. Marian Elizabeth, named for two women with difficult and miraculous pregnancies, is wearing a hat that is way too big for her tiny body, two months premature.

My sister, Elizabeth, is holding her daughter both gingerly and with such strong love. And I just keep saying over and over again, “She’s so beautiful, I love you both so much. You are both so beautiful. I love you. I love you.

She is beautiful,” even though I know my niece can’t fully comprehend it, while at the same time trying to understand it all myself. And then a few minutes later, somehow, I tear myself away from the phone, and I head off to work and I wait.

I am waiting for the next, inevitable call. The joy of seeing my niece alive is accompanied by the heaviness of knowing that what we had expected had, in fact, come to pass. Marian, facing a host of health problems, will only live for a few hours.

This first time seeing my niece will also be my last. During those hours of her life, Marian is baptized in a tiny white garment that swims around her, while I pore over manuscripts at my desk until I get a message telling me that my niece has died... Marian’s funeral is one of the most horrible and beautiful experiences of my life, at once tragic and grace-filled.

- Kerry Weber, managing editor at America, is author of Mercy in the City For the full story, click here.

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