On Saturday our family had the opportunity to run in our first 5k as a family of four. Daniel and I ran one together before we were married, but it hardly counted as a run since I could barely walk the whole thing. This time it meant something to us. We ran in the Race to Remember, which benefits an organization called Mamie's Poppy Plates. This organization provides hand painted plates of footprints and birth stats to families who have lost a child in early infancy or in pregnancy. While we have never experienced infant loss or stillbirth, we have lost two babies to miscarriage and felt like this race was a worthy cause to give our time to.
Leading up to the race I was really anxious and I couldn't put my finger on it. As I drove to pick up our race packets on Friday it hit me. I was aware that running in a race in memory of the two babies we have lost put our grief right out into the open. Of course, it's a race to remember, so it's only fitting that I would remember the babies we don't have with us. It felt so raw and in my face to take part in something that put my loss out in the open. The Internet is one thing. Looking people in the eye who have experienced similar (and far more horrific) losses to my own was freeing and excruciating.
As we stepped inside the park to join the pre-race festivities I felt my self-conscious fear melt away. Everywhere I looked there were families in shirts bearing the names of the babies they have lost. I made a point to read and process every precious name on every shirt. Names of lives desperately wanted. Names of babies who were gone far too soon. Names of boys, girls, full term, premature, and sick babies who never made it through their first few moments of life outside the womb, if they even got that far.
And that was the point.
Every person who chose to run that race on Saturday knew they were running for something more than themselves. Grandfathers ran in honor of their grandchildren. Brothers ran in honor of their sisters. Cousins ran in honor of their cousins. Aunts and uncles ran for their nieces and nephews. And mothers ran for their babies. I read those names because like their family members, I want to remember that their lives mattered, even if they were brief.
The beauty of memory is that we are given the chance to remember what is most precious to us. Even if it is laced with pain, we still have the hope that our memories remind us of happier days. God did not need to bless us with this gift, but he did. Throughout the Bible he tells us to remember, most importantly to remember his kindness to us. On Saturday, like many other mothers who have babies no longer with them, I remembered not just the lives lost, but the goodness of God in the midst of the pain. God gives and God takes away and his name is always worthy of my praise.
(Before the race there was a balloon release in memory of the babies who have died. If you had an early pregnancy loss before you knew the gender you received a white balloon. If you look closely, the above picture is of our two white balloons floating away.)