Eric's back to share more of his side of the story.
The Saturday when Brooke delivered Kolbe was one of the darkest days of my life. I remember driving to the hospital expecting the delivery process to only take a few hours but I was mistaken.
Once the night shift nurse had got Brooke settled in, I had to go to the front desk and check Brooke and Kolbe in. It was painful experience filling out forms on Kolbe but it gave me some comfort that there would be a record of him. Twenty minutes after giving the kind lady the information on Brooke and Kolbe, I asked her if this was where I fill out the form to release the body of Kolbe to my friend, Father Bernhard. The young lady just paused and said silently, “I am so sorry for you loss.”
After checking in Brooke and Kolbe, I went back to Brooke’s room to find her asleep. I tried to rest but was unable and so continued to read the Church’s document on “The hope of salvation for infants who die without being baptized.” I was able to get through only a small part due to the lack of sleep. Our day shift nurse stopped my reading to introduce herself to Brooke and I. Her name was Jamie, and as Brooke said she was a great blessing. She always referred to Kolbe as Kolbe or our child and never as a fetus. She was a great witness to life.
While Brooke was being attended to by other nurses, I was able to pull Jamie in the hall. I expressed our desire to her that we wanted our child to be treated with dignity and how Brooke and I wanted to sign the body of Kolbe over to Fr. Bernhard so Kolbe could be properly buried. She gave me all the forms to fill out and assured me that Kolbe would be treated with respected.
After a few more hours, Brooke was able to deliver Kolbe. Jamie was there to help Brooke with the delivery. I remember seeing Kolbe, and to be honest I was shocked. He was much bigger than I had expected. He looked like a perfectly proportioned individual that could lie in your hands. I just could not believe that so many people in the world do not believe that this fifteen week old child was not a human being.
I held back the tears as Brooke held him. When Brooke asked if I wanted to hold him, I declined. One of the biggest things I regret in my life. I truly failed as a father at that moment. I remember Jamie placing him on the table, while she and the other nurses helped Brooke recover from the delivery. I so badly wanted to walk over there to see him, but lacked the courage. I texted Fr. Bernhard that Brooke had delivered Kolbe.
Jamie took Kolbe because the hospital took a picture of all children born. Jamie prepared Kolbe by placing and wrapping his body in a white garment. Fr. Bernhard came with the small casket, which Ben had made specially for Kolbe, to pick him up and also had to sign the release form.
Once Brooke had recovered from the delivery, Jamie released Brooke. Before we left, Jamie gave us another white garment that Kolbe was wrapped in, the blanket he was wrapped in after his birth, and the hospital certificate of birth, which had his height and weight.
Walking out of the labor and delivery without a baby was a sickening experience. I felt helpless because Brooke was suffering much more than me, and I could do nothing about it. We headed back home and the one thing we oddly talked about was the evil of abortion. I have always been opposed to abortion in any circumstances but seeing Kolbe showed me how horribly evil the act is. I just could not get the picture of Kolbe with his mouth open, his eyes closed, and his hands reaching out. I could not understand how any human being could kill person like Kolbe who was so easily look like a little version of me. It was a gut wrenching experience of seeing how truly evil and sick abortion is. Please pray for the end of the horrible act.
When we got home, I remember I did not want to talk to anybody. I just remember wanting to hold my two girls especially Clare. I kept looking at Clare as a beautiful miracle because Brooke had subchorionic hematoma (SCH) with Clare, which she also had with Kolbe. I was truly happy that God had allowed Clare to successfully come to term. Clare and Maggie are precious gifts from God, just as Kolbe was.
Amy went back home to help Fr. Bernhard and Ben prepare for the funeral for Kolbe. I did not call my family or any friends. I just wanted to mourn the loss of my son. That night I did not read any from the Church’s document, but just talked and cried with Brooke about Kolbe.
While Brooke and I were talking that night, our friends, Fr. Bernhard, Ben and Amy held a rosary for Kolbe in the chapel. Fr. Bernhard cut off a small piece of the cord from the vestments he celebrated his first Mass in and wrapped it around Kolbe. He then placed a rosary in the casket. For the rest of the night, Fr. Bernhard kept vigil praying in the chapel with Koble and eventually slept there in the chapel with him until the morning. It is nice to know that from Kolbe’s birth to burial, there was always someone there with him.
Though many people thought I was suffering why God would allow such a thing to happen, I truly can say I never struggled with that. What was eating at my heart was that I would never know my son. I would never be able to throw the ball with him or build something with him. He would never be there to prevent me from making one of my girls into a huge tomboy. Being the only guy in the house, I truly suffered from losing my son.
Sunday morning, we woke up and drop off our kids at our friends’ house. Fr. Bernhard had generously organized a babysitter for our girls so we could go to the funeral Mass being able to pray and mourn without the distraction and worries of Maggie and Clare. When we arrived at the small chapel, Fr. Bernhard met us outside. He explained the order of the Mass and how I would carry the casket to the burial site. I remember thinking I could not do this, but out of shame of being unable to hold Kolbe in the hospital, I know this was the best thing I could do for my son. I am very grateful for the small moment with Kolbe.
At the funeral Mass, Fr. Bernhard celebrated a special funeral mass for unbaptized infants that came about from the reforms of Vatican II. It can be found in the Order of Christian Funeral, Part II Funeral Rite for Children. After the Mass, Fr. Bernhard also gave us the blessing of parent after a miscarriage that can be found in the Books of Blessing IX, p. 86.
The funeral Mass was like an Easter Sunday to my Good Friday that I experienced the previous day. I found comfort in the church’s prayers and Fr. Bernhard’s homily. Fr. Bernhard was able to read the Church‘s Document on The hope of salvation for infants who die without being baptized , which the commission stated, “Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the Beatific Vision. We emphasis that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge” (102). The document continues, “as we want to reaffirm in conclusion, they provide strong grounds for hope that God will save infants when we have not been able to do for them what we would have wished to do, namely, to baptize them into the faith and life of the Church” (103).
At the funeral Mass, I was given the life of hope that Kolbe is with God. I could have a firm hope in Kolbe’s salvation. In Fr. Bernhard’s words, “We can hope that God will do what you wanted to do for Kolbe.” I left the burial with a sense of joy that we had done all we could to get Kolbe to heaven and that is my primary responsibility as a parent. Yes, I would love to have been able to play ball with Kolbe, but I can have firm hope that he is in a better place with Our Heavenly Father.