Like many families, ours enjoys the tradition of celebrating the Feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6 with a “visit” from the beloved saint.
Our children find stuffed in their shoes chocolate coins, oranges, and candy canes. Amidst the treats, Saint Nicholas leaves each of our children a personalized ornament for our Christmas tree.
On December 1, 2008, we experienced the tragic loss of our infant son, Henry, who was born still a few days before his due date.
In the midst of our grief, we approached the feast day of the patron saint of children and found ourselves pondering a way to recognize our loss and Henry’s place in our family. That year, as all others, Saint Nicholas left each of our children a tree adornment bearing their names. I fondly recall the bittersweet sight of Henry’s ornament surrounded by those of the siblings whom he would never know on this earth.
Over the course of the next eleven years, we’ve grieved after three more children were called to Heaven in the first trimester.
Saint Nicholas has not forgotten these precious eternal souls. Each year, the children find their ornaments beside those left for their siblings who behold the Face of God. Some years, I’ve grinned widely at the sight of their precious names. Other years, the tears fall hotly on my cheeks as I dream of what might have been, keenly aware of the many things that never would be had these eternal souls not been so quickly swept into Heaven.
Someday, our children will leave home bearing their assortment of tree trimmings. Included in their collection will be memories of their saintly siblings to grace their Advent and Christmas reflections.
Saint Nicholas, patron saint of all children, pray for us.