“What might we do to make a deceased child part of our family in mortality?” Ensign, Mar. 1978, 22
Marvin R. VanDam, counselor in the Holladay Twentieth Ward Bishopric, Salt Lake Olympus Stake The ongoing family remembrance of our little Patrick began at the time I dedicated his grave on a lovely August afternoon in 1972.
Patrick was born in Abington, Pennsylvania, and because of a complication at birth he lived only six days. We lived near a lovely little cemetery, but decided that he should be buried instead in a location near where we would want our eventual home to be—or at least in an area we could easily visit, since corporate assignments might require us to move frequently for many years.
We therefore held the funeral and buried him in Utah, where we grew up and where our parents lived. Since then we have moved to two different European countries on assignment, and then back to Utah. We are grateful for having made that decision.
In the prayer of dedication at the gravesite, I asked fervently that our family might live to be worthy to join Patrick someday in that perfect place where he now is. Six years later, we still pray often for that same blessing, and find that it is a significant family encouragement and challenge to work toward that goal.
We not only pray that we might someday meet and again associate with this special son and brother, but we also feel it is appropriate to pray for his current success and welfare. Nevertheless, we know that all is well with him because of the promise of the Lord that little children who die in infancy are perfect and worthy of his kingdom.
Inasmuch as we are now fortunate to live convenient to the cemetery where Patrick is buried, we have established the practice of going there from time to time to have family prayer. Sometimes one of our children will say, “Can we please stop at Patrick’s grave to have prayer?” Whenever we do, it provides us with a special teaching moment to talk with the children about things important, sacred, and eternal.
Since Patrick is, we feel, as much a part of our family as any living earthly child, we believe there is value to be gained from remembering his birthday and even in sharing a birthday cake baked in his honor. To have the children thus see our total faith as parents that Patrick is real, that his little body will be resurrected, and that we may be joined again eternally as a family is an advantage that we as parents would not want to lose.
Because four of our children have been born since Patrick died, we are grateful for the white leather book of remembrance we compiled to remember him by. In it we have his certificates, photos from the hospital and of the funeral and burial, related correspondence, and other small treasures. As we show the children this book of remembrance, Patrick remains real to those who knew him and becomes real to the children who did not meet him here.
My wife, Sandy, and I are most thankful for the fact that the Lord allowed the birth and death of this little boy to be one of the most beautiful and spiritual family experiences we have been privileged to have since our marriage. The Lord made his presence and even his death sweet to us, and we cherish not only the memory of Patrick himself, but also the memory of those few special and sacred days we spent together. At that time we studied as thoroughly as possible the doctrines and writings of the Church regarding little children who die. As parents and as a family we cannot express how grateful we are for those promises and the future they hold. I want to say that we do not as a family constantly dwell on Patrick, but we make a conscious effort not to forget him, nor to forget the very special family challenge and promise he has given us.