Carol was never given the opportunity to grieve her younger brother.
Living just a few short days, he had died in infancy, had been buried quickly and was rarely mentioned in her home. Like many families, Carol's wanted to move on from the painful loss as quickly as possible. And yet Carol never forgot him. Last year Carol, now in her early 70s, attended a service I had organized, at a historic cemetery in Indiana, and participated in a service of remembrance for many who were buried there. As the service concluded, she released a balloon to remember the life of the little brother she never got to know. For Carol, though, that "ending" wouldn't be an ending at all.
As in my own life, death would give way to new life.
Over the last seven years, I've had the opportunity to offer dignified burials for infants, like Carol's brother, and many others. Though engaging with mothers and families in their darkest days isn't something I ever aspired to, one tentative yes in 2009 changed the trajectory of my life.
My heart was gripped after seeing a news story about the body of a newborn being found in an industrial dumpster in Indianapolis. Following a trail of clues, I eventually spoke to the city coroner, begging her to let me bury the baby boy. And though I had to wait until the conclusion of the criminal investigation, I had the sacred privilege of burying Nicholas 13 months later. Since that day, my life became inextricably bound with the life of precious Nicholas, God has led me to engage with countless more mothers and families, hospitals and police officers, to honor vulnerable lives that deserve dignity.
And when people are curious how it all began, the answer surprises some: I followed a nudge from God. Turning off the TV, I couldn't shake the thought of this abandoned little boy.
"Really, God? Are you sure you want me to get involved?"
I tried to reason away the clear sense of God's leading. I didn't know anyone involved. It wasn't my business. There were probably already systems and procedures in place for situations like this. I could go read a book and let the uncomfortable holy nudge pass.
And yet, nervous, uncertain, fearful, I called the reporter who'd covered the discovery of Nicholas' body. And that single yes to an unlikely nudge from God has changed the trajectory of my life.
I'm not the only one, either. As I've been privileged to walk this path, I've seen countless women and men inspired and emboldened to respond to the holy nudge in their own lives.
One woman bravely prayed with a girlfriend who had been suffering with grief since the abortion of her first baby decades earlier.
A mother of a teen lost to drowning established a swimming safety program at the public pool where he died for children in the neighborhood.
Nicholas' mom now seeks out, and walks alongside, other mothers who have lost children.
And Carol, who had finally grieved the loss of her baby brother, responded to the prompting from God in her own heart. After recently reading about the unlikely journey that has unfolded for me after that first hesitant yes, in my book He Knows Your Name, Carol decided to say her own yes. As a survivor of abuse, Carol has become a volunteer at a local shelter in the town where she lives.
Humbly, she shared with me this week, "I know a lot about abuse, and I think through my own experiences I might be able to help someone. Maybe something I say will help someone get through a season of their lives and move on without fear to find happiness." Because Carol has bravely responded to God's gentle tugging at her heart, new life has been birthed from death.
How is God calling you to say yes to a nudge in your own heart?
Linda Znachko is the author of He Knows Your Name and founder of the ministry by the same name. He Knows Your Name gives children a name in life and dignity and honor in death. She also partners with mothers who do not want their children's legacies to be the circumstances of their death. Her aim is to assist the grieving to find healing and purpose in knowing every life is sacred to God. A sought-after speaker, Znachko works to bring attention to the problem of abandoned, unwanted and marginalized children. For more information about Znachko and her ministry, visit heknowsyourname.org, on Facebook (HeKnowsYourNameMinistry) and via Twitter (@LindaZnachko).
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