Suffering and Dignity 

by Mary-Clare Franco, grade 8

“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23). This statement asks us to accept the crosses that God allows us to have. Suffering is a part of life, yet the world tells us that it is bad, but good can and does come from suffering. The culture of life is based on accepting life from conception to natural death and is partially based on how well you receive your cross. Carrying one’s cross can often have good results. Our family has been carrying many crosses this past year, and we have hopefully shown other people the dignity in every human being’s life.

This past year my mom suffered three miscarriages in a row. Our family’s suffering fortunately was not in vain. Several different people, including relatives, doctors, nurses, and people working at the funeral home, saw the dignity and respect that everyone deserves, whether born or preborn.                        

In the spring of 2018, my mom had been 19 weeks pregnant. A routine ultrasound showed that our baby had no heartbeat and had likely died a few weeks earlier. After we found out about the loss of our baby, our family was feeling hopeless and sad. We had wanted and prayed for this baby; we were looking forward to a new sibling.                                                      

In the past, some of my mom’s relatives had told her that she had too many children. Our family is pretty large. We have six children in our family, including myself. After the loss of our brother (Zachary), many of those relatives saw our sadness. They came to understand that the grief for our brother was very real—that Zachary was a part of our family and theirs too. I think that part of this example to them was how our extended family and friends grieved with us. They were happy for us when they were told that my mom was expecting a baby; now they grieved with us in our loss. We received food, flowers, cards, many prayers, and various acts of charity. It was a good example to my mom’s relatives and it inspired them to help us, too. Our relatives and friends gave us the love and help in carrying our cross that we needed at the time. 

My parents have also shown the dignity of the preborn person to people they did not know. At the hospital, for example, my mom had to be induced into labor. My parents carried their cross to the hospital that day. The cross was very heavy for my mom. She was on the maternity floor of the hospital, the same floor that my two busy and entertaining younger brothers had been born on. Yet my mom bravely carried her cross. Several doctors and nurses saw how sad she was at the loss of her son. They could see that my parents wished for their son to be treated with respect, as he was their baby. 

We were fortunate to go to the hospital and meet our baby brother for the first and last time. All of my brothers, sisters, and my two grandparents came with us. I was excited to see what the baby looked like. He had all the features of a perfectly formed little baby. I am sure the nurses must have been amazed to see six kids all wanting to hold their little brother. There was awe at that time, but there was also sadness. When we left, a surprising thing occurred. We received a condolence card from the doctors and nurses. That helped with Mom and Dad. It told us that they cared about us and wanted to acknowledge our sadness. 

When our parents had to arrange for the cremation of our brother at the funeral home, the people there were very kind and understanding. They treated my parents respectfully and with dignity. They saw how my parents wanted their son to be treated that way as well, because he had value as a person. Once again, people saw how we were suffering and how we wanted our baby to be recognized and respected as a human being.

This past November, my mother lost another baby. This added to the cross that we already had to carry. This loss inspired my parents to write a letter to our Catholic diocese asking for an improvement on how it supports families who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. The letter asked for a cemetery for miscarried babies. It also asked for more guidance on the diocesan website. We hope that those who read the letter will provide assistance to the Catholics in our diocese and can help others in their loss and grieving. This reflects the culture of life because it is another way to help give more dignity to the preborn babies and their families. All of this would not have been possible if we had not carried our cross to the best of our ability. 

Suffering can show others the dignity in each stage of every person’s life. Carrying your cross can help show different people that life is a gift and should be respected. My family chose to accept their cross faithfully, in the loss of our baby brother, and was an example to my mom’s relatives, doctors, nurses, and those who worked at the funeral home. My parents’ suffering will also hopefully create a better support system for other Catholics in our city who have lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. A culture of life accepts suffering and acknowledges the dignity of the human person. This involves carrying your cross voluntarily. Our cross was very heavy, but through it we gave an example to many people. This example is one way to help spread the culture of life to the world. 

© 2018 Mary-Clare Franco. Published with permission.