It has been a few weeks since Isabelle’s birthday, and we also recently celebrated the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi – one of the saints for which Isabelle was named. I thought it might be nice to share a bit about how our family remembers our little girl during this time of year. Although each year is a bit different, we definitely have a few traditions that are staples for our family. Now that Mark is getting older, we also added a new tradition this year to help teach him about our family’s little prayer warrior in Heaven.
The week of Isabelle’s birthday, Mark and I perused the baking isle at our local grocery store. I asked Mark what kind of cake he thought Isabelle would have liked. He started babbling and pointed at random things. I settled on Funfetti cake. Then I headed for the icing and candles. They now sell icing in every color. When I was a kid, we used food coloring. As I looked at the options, I couldn’t help but stop at the pink icing. I grabbed a carton and then threw some pink candles into the cart as well. I never thought I would have so much pink in my shopping cart.
Isabelle would have been three years old on July 25th. This year, now that Mark is a bit older, we decided to make a birthday cake for her. Mark is currently very into blowing out candles and singing “Happy chu-chu” (Happy Birthday to you). I am pretty sure he thinks that this is supposed to be a monthly occurrence. I figured we should take advantage of his interest and teach him about his sister.
It took a while to convince him that it was Isabelle’s birthday and not mommy’s birthday since mine was the last birthday we celebrated. However, eventually he started saying, “Happy A-belle” (Happy birthday, Isabelle) and pointing at her picture. Mark grinned as we sang, and he blew out Isabelle’s candles one at a time. It is definitely a tradition we will continue to do as he gets older.
We watch a Christmas movie on Isabelle’s birthday as well since she was born exactly five months before Christmas. Who doesn’t love Christmas in July? This year we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol. Mark was mildly amused but mostly distracted by his toys. He doesn’t watch a lot of TV.
On July 26th, the day Isabelle went home to Jesus, we always read Matthew 18:1-5 and Matthew 19:14. This was one of the readings at her funeral. This year we read it with Mark. He pointed to the Bible, reminded us that it was a “Bible” a few times, and then listened attentively while Matt read. It was a simple act that I hope will encourage good conversation with Mark as he gets older.
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’ … Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’
Matthew 18:1-5; 19:14
Matt was able to take the two days off work so that we could be together as a family eating pink birthday cake and remembering our sweet girl. We received many kind phone calls, text messages, and cards, and we appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers. We are so blessed to have such an awesome support network.
August 11 was the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi, one of the saints for which Isabelle was named. St. Clare grew up wealthy but ultimately gave away her possessions after hearing St. Francis of Assisi preach. She lived a simple life, wore no shoes, ate no meat, remained mostly silent, and devoted herself to prayer. She founded a religious order, known now as the Poor Clare Sisters, who can be found all around the world. I’ve always admired St. Clare’s complete devotion to God and am thankful that there are people willing to pray unceasingly for the world around them. I love that our sweet Isabelle is now doing that alongside St. Clare and all of the saints and angels in Heaven. It is a beautiful thought that brings me much comfort.
Each year on the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi (and St. Isabelle of France), we attend Mass as a family. What better way to remember our daughter than to pray alongside her, St. Clare, and all of the other saints in Heaven during Mass. This year, I loaded Mark into the car and met Matt at church. While stopped at a red light, I looked out the window to see that I was stopped at “Isabelle Blvd.” How appropriate. I guess she just wanted to remind us that she was praying for our family.
Developing family traditions on their child’s birthday, date of passing, and/or due date is important for many grieving parents. These traditions become a way to remember and to celebrate the brief lives of our little ones in Heaven. Over the last few years, I have read so many wonderful ideas from other parents who have lost children to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Some ideas I’ve read include attending a church service, watching a certain movie, making a birthday cake, releasing balloons, fundraising, planting flowers, volunteering, or simply sharing a special meal together. There are so many wonderful ways to remember a little one.