My First Stillborn Memorial Service

I have led a lot of funeral services during my twenty-plus years of ministry. Each one is painful and beautiful in its own way. Each one gives a unique opportunity to comfort the family, honor the deceased, and preach the gospel. But the service I led this last Sunday was an unusual one. It was the memorial service for a baby who went directly from his mother’s womb into the presence of Jesus. As Bryson Reese’s father shared so eloquently, his baby’s first sight was the face of Jesus. What a wonderful thought! The service was hard. But it was so very good…for the parents and their family, for our church, and as part of our sanctity-of-life message to a watching world.

It’s the last point I want to unpack here, very briefly. And the insights come from my daughter Bekah, who is a close friend of the couple. As we discussed as a family Sunday evening…

Having a memorial service for a baby who died before birth is such a powerful testimony of our belief in the sanctity of every human life. We believe that life begins at conception. Perhaps, then, when a life is lost between conception and delivery we should pause to honor it. Perhaps doing so will remind us and those around us to grieve with the sorrowful parents, to thank the Lord for creating and caring for a young child as Jesus repeatedly did throughout His earthly ministry, and to celebrate the life that was as sacred as though the child had lived to be 100.

A life lost between conception and delivery is as sacred as though the child had lived to be 100

Like I said, it was good for us.

I decided to preach my message through a eulogy about baby Bryson.

  • Bryson’s life began by God’s design. It is God who opens and closes the womb in His benevolent wisdom (1 Samuel 1:5-6, 11, 19-20, 27).
  • Bryson was fearfully and wonderfully made. David tells us so in Psalm 139:13-16.
  • Bryson was loved by so many people. Most notably, his parents adored him, and they adore him still.
  • Bryson’s life had meaning. In a very powerful way, he brought glory to God, much like the man we meet in John 9. “The works of God [were] displayed in him” (v. 3).
  • Bryson is with Jesus. David gives us this hope in 2 Samuel 12:22-23. And one day his parents will join him because of their faith in Christ. Thus, Bryson’s life allowed me and his parents to preach the gospel to all who attended the memorial. 

Not every family will want to have a memorial service when they deliver a stillborn or go through a miscarriage. It’s a time of grief, and many—perhaps most—will want to grieve privately and discreetly. We should absolutely honor that and comfort them in their quiet loss. But there is value in celebrating even a brief life. In a culture of death, it’s one more way to defiantly proclaim that life, however short, is precious. Worth remembering. Worth celebrating.

Grace.

This is shared with the consent and encouragement of Collin and Sidney Rygh (pictured above), an exemplary couple who have been nothing short of courageous. Pray with me for their comfort, and rejoice with me in their resilient faith that honors our Lord even during such a hard time. SDG.