First off, Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there. You all were in my thoughts and prayers yesterday, especially those of you whose children are very sick or have gone to Heaven, those of you who are expecting and those of you who want to have a child and suffer from primary or secondary infertility. I hope that you all had a wonderful day, despite the weather (very stormy, windy and rainy) that we had here in Chicago. I had a really nice day with Bob and Sean, however I also felt in some ways that the weather reflected some of the feelings I have about losing our baby girl and celebrating my first Mother’s Day since Molly died.
One week ago yesterday (Sunday, May 4) was Molly’s Memorial Service. We had it at our neighborhood parish St. Barnabas Catholic Church at 3:00 p.m. We got there early to make sure everything was arranged the way we wanted it to be. In the church entrance/lobby we set up a table with the guest book in front of a collage frame with our five favorite pictures from Molly’s birthday and programs for Molly’s Memorial Service. Soon after we arrived a heart shaped flower arrangement we had ordered was delivered and we placed it in front of the alter in the church. From the time we got to the church family members and friends also began to arrive. It was very touching to see who came to participate in Molly’s Memorial Service and to support Bob, Sean and me on the day we chose to honor our baby girl’s memory.
As the time for the service to start grew close, Bob, Sean and I took our seats in the first row to the right of the alter (when facing the alter) and our family and friends filled in the rows behind us. At one point before it began, I snuck out to quickly go to the bathroom. I peaked out at the entrance to the church and was blown away at the number of people coming in and waiting to sign the guest book. Many of the people were those who I guess I sort of expected to see there, but it still meant so much to me to know they were indeed there. There were also people I noticed entering that I was surprised (in a good way) to see and that also meant a lot to me. Days later we looked at all the names in the guest book and added a few that we know were there but didn’t sign it and figure about 115 people attended Molly’s Memorial Service that day.
Our pastoral associate welcomed everyone right before the service began. I was doing really well emotionally until that moment. I heard our pastoral associate announce that we were there to honor and celebrate “Molly Marie Benson’s short but very special life” and I lost it. At that moment the reality of why we were there, surrounded by our family and friends set in. We began to sing the song we had chosen to open Molly’s Memorial Service called “You Are Mine” by David Haas. The chorus is “Do not be afraid I am with you, I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you and you are mine.” It is such a beautiful song and seemed the perfect words to sing as we started Molly’s service.
The first reading we chose from the book of Wisdom 4:7-9, 13-14. We asked Bob’s maternal aunt, who is a retired Lutheran Minister, to read it. These Bible verses start with “the just ones, though they die early, shall be at rest.” We found it to be a comforting reading from the Old Testament that addresses people who die young.
Our Responsorial Psalm was “To You, O Lord” by Marty Haugen. The refrain is “To you, O Lord, I lift my soul. To you I lift my soul.” It is a simple Psalm that I find singing to be very therapeutic.
The second reading we chose was a letter from Paul to the Philippians 4:4-9. This is one of my all time favorite Bible verses and has helped me over the years to trust in God, especially during difficult periods in my life. We asked my sister/Molly’s Godmother to read it.
The Gospel we chose from Matthew 5:1-12a. It is commonly known as “The Beatitudes.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God….” The Gospel was read by our pastor Fr. Bill. Next Fr. Bill gave his homily. He said the readings we chose were very appropriate to honor and remember Molly. Fr. Bill talked about how much God loves Molly and how much love came from her life, even though she never opened her eyes. It was a very nice sermon and I found many of Fr. Bill’s words and sentiments to be comforting as we continue to make peace with Molly being in Heaven now instead of here in our arms.
One of our good friends, the same one who came to see us and Molly the day she was born and died at the hospital, read the Prayers of the Faithful for us. I had written the prayers with help from a funeral planning book that our pastoral associate had leant me. We were pleased with how they turned out and honored Molly and those whose lives and hearts she had touched.
We asked Bob’s sister and her husband along with Bob’s brother and his wife to bring up the gifts (the bread and wine before communion). It meant a lot to us to have our siblings and their spouses each have a role in their niece’s memorial service. The presentation song we chose was “Eye Has Not Seen” by Marty Haugen. The chorus is “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love him. Spirit of love, come give us the mind of Jesus. Teach us the wisdom of God.” I like how this song speaks to us not always being able to understand why certain things happen the way they do, however if we trust in God, we can learn to find good in everything we face in life.
We chose for our Communion Song “We Remember” by Marty Haugen. The chorus is “We remember how you loved us to your death, and still we celebrate for you are with us here. And we believe that we will see you, when you come, in your glory Lord. We remember, we celebrate, we believe.” This song sums up how I feel about both my relationship with God and our daughter Molly. It helps me to find peace with Molly being in Heaven now and speaks to our belief that our family will all be together again Heaven some day. My mom and my dad’s paternal twin cousins served as Eucharistic Ministers with Fr. Bill.
It was very special and moving to see our family and friends as they processed up to receive communion. We were able to see who was there and many made gestures to us as the passed by us, reaching out to us, touching our hands or our shoulders and giving us hugs. This included one of our favorite nurses from our OB’s office (the one who shared with us awhile back that 16 years ago she lost a son soon after he was born), many of our neighbors from the block we live on, many of our other Beverly neighborhood friends, childhood friends, college friends and many dear family members.
The post-communion Meditation Song we chose was “Spirit Blowing through Creation” by Marty Haugen. I find it to be a very healing song and thought it fit nicely after Communion, before I was to share our Family Reflection. The chorus of the song is “Spirit renewing the earth, renewing the hearts of all people. Burn in the weary souls, blow through the silent lips, come now awake us, spirit of God.”
Next it was time for me to share our Family Reflection that I had written, with some help and input from Bob. Our original plan was for me to talk and for Bob to stand next to me at the lectern for support. However, before the mass began, my mom reminded Sean that she would sit with him while we went up to talk and Sean told her that he wanted to come up with Bob and me when I spoke. So we told him that if he behaved that he could join us. It turned out to be really nice to have all three of us up there together while I talked. Both Bob and Sean’s presence ended up being very comforting. Sean held my hand the whole time, which was very sweet.
For most of the time I spoke I kept it together, however at one point I got choked up and actually had trouble reading what I had written through my tears, which were making my eyes foggy. It was actually a sort of funny moment of comic relief as I shared with our family and friends that I literally couldn’t see what I wanted to share. My always prepared dear husband Bob luckily had some tissues in his pocket and so I was able to wipe my tears and continue. I was pleased with how my Family Reflection went and I was glad that I was able to do it. I really wanted to tell everyone there that day how much Molly means to us and try to help us all make some sense from and find some peace in our journey with her. I am going to share my Family Reflection “Things that I have learned from having Molly in our life” in a separate post, following this one.
The Closing Song we chose was “City of God” by Dan Schutte. Though I love the song “On Eagle’s Wings” which is often used at the end of funerals and memorial services, I tend to associate it with the death of older people, especially our grandparents, and find it to be very sad, though therapeutic, when I sing it. Bob and I wanted Molly’s Memorial Service to close with a more uplifting and inspiring song, which is why we made the choice we did. The chorus is “Let us build the city of God. May our tears be turned into dancing. For the Lord, our light and our love, has turned the night into day.”
After Molly’s beautiful Memorial Service had ended, Bob, Sean and I were surrounded by family and friends that had come to honor our daughter and baby sister with us. We did have a reception back at our home following Molly’s service, however some of our family and friends were unable to join us there and thus wanted to pay their respects before they and we left the church. It was very moving to interact with our loved ones as they hugged us and told us how much they cared about us and Molly. It meant so much to us to feel the love and support of everyone who was with us there that day.
I was especially touched by one of my college friends in particular being there, who was due with her second daughter 10 weeks before Molly’s due date. She had delivered her baby girl 6 days after Molly was born and only 11 days before Molly’s Memorial Service. When I saw her I told her that I couldn’t believe she had come and she told me that she wouldn’t have been anywhere else that day. I found out later, through a mutual friend, that her mother had driven with her that day (they live a good 45 – 60 minutes away) and her new baby girl and waited in the car, in part because she is nursing, while my friend came inside for the mass. There were a number of special stories like that from Molly’s special day that were very moving for Bob and me.
The last thing I will share with you, is another sweet story from that day. Many of our dear family and friends joined us for a reception in Molly’s honor and memory back at our home after her service. It was a beautiful, sunny and warm day for people to gather, chat, eat (thank you to everyone who brought sweet and savories for people to munch on) and reflect on all of our journeys with Molly. At one point I was visiting with one of Bob’s paternal aunts. She said that she had just been in our basement and was told that the oldest of her three children, her only son, who I believe is in the 6th grade, had been spelling something on our refrigerator with Sean’s magnetic letters. For some reason I thought she was going to tell me that her son/Bob’s cousin had spelled something inappropriate, however that was far from the case. As it turns out he had spelled out a message in magnetic letters that read “We hart Sean + Moly.” He didn’t have enough of the right letters for it to say “We heart (or love) Sean and Molly,” but we certainly all got his intention and were very touched. I continue to be amazed by how our journey with Molly has touched so many people in different ways, including Bob’s young cousin.
Thank you to everyone who was with us in person the day of Molly’s Memorial Service and to all of you who we know were there with us in spirit. It was such a special day for Bob, Sean and me to experience along with our family and friends and it was another moving ritual that has helped us to have some closure to our journey with our daughter and sister. Thank you for reading and for your continued love and support.
I am working on formal thank you notes for those of you whom we have addresses for and have reached out to us in incredibly thoughtful and generous ways while I was pregnant with Molly and since she was born and went to Heaven. It may take me some time to finish them all, as I want to include personal messages, so I appreciate your patience. In the meantime, Bob, Sean, our angel baby girl Molly and I say:
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!!!