March 7, 2024

This project is shared by the Life Team at Zion Lutheran Church Wayside in Greenleaf, Wisconsin, and Cross Lutheran Church and School in Yorkville, Illinois.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Many parents have faced the tragic loss of a child through death–either before birth, at birth, or as infants and young children. Losing a child at any age is heartbreaking, and sometimes, because of the circumstances, the parent(s) never have the chance to mourn that loss or to find the healing that Jesus offers.

In 2021, the Life Team at Zion Lutheran Church Wayside in Greenleaf, Wisconsin, responded to their pastor’s idea to create an Infant Mourning Garden to provide a quiet place for people who had lost a child to find peace and healing as they spent time there in communion with the Lord. They printed articles in their newsletters and bulletins promoting the idea, and as they did so, many women in their seventies or eighties came forward. With weeping and sorrow-filled voices, they shared how much they appreciated a place to mourn the child or children they had lost. They shared how years ago, if one lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth, it was common practice to immediately take the baby’s body away. The mother never saw her child, never held her child, could not mourn her loss, and could find no closure in the Christian burial of her child. And no one ever mentioned the incident again. Losing a child to abortion was even more quietly handled and equally devastating for many women.

The Life Team now knew this was a needed ministry in their congregation. A member of their church who worked for a driveway company donated much of his time, labor, and materials. It took about a year to finish the main heart and sidewalk, to install the pavers for the cross, and to do the basic landscaping. Many people found healing before it was even completed. A woman who worked at a local landscaping business from whom they bought the trees learned what the garden ministry was all about. She believed this was a beautiful outreach that would touch people’s lives, including her own, so she donated a beautiful fountain. An older woman wept openly as she sat on a bench and grieved the stillborn child lost decades before. She bought a paver for the cross, had it inscribed with heartfelt words, and was able to view it in the garden when her daughter brought her to visit just a few weeks before she passed away. The benches were donated by a family who had lost a grandchild due to illness.

The garden is open to the community, and the church promotes it regularly. People can buy a tree and have a small plaque placed in memory of their child, or they can have a paver inscribed with a meaningful message. It cost about $2,500.00 for this beautiful garden, even with the donations, and it occupies a large space next to the church cemetery. They have continued to add other features over the last two years, and it has become a magnificent place to meet the Lord.

But what if you do not have the space or the finances for such a garden? Trust the Lord and know that a small garden can be just as meaningful. A bench, a small tinkling fountain, and a few grasses to whisper in the breeze can be placed under a tree, a small gazebo, or a trellis in the smallest of places in your church yard. Special Bible verses—perhaps on a paver or on a small plaque on the bench—will impact the heart and soul.

Cross Lutheran Church and School in Yorkville, Illinois, also has a beautiful memory garden. It became a reality in 2014 and continues to minister to families. One great idea was this: They asked members at church, “When you have gone through a hard, difficult time, which verse from the Bible helped you?” The life group then purchased pavers with those verses engraved on them and added them to the garden.

Hope and healing will be found whenever and wherever we commune with our Heavenly Father. If we sit quietly in His beautiful creation, we know the Holy Spirit will draw us closer to Jesus, the Great Healer of hearts. Our awesome Triune God longs to bring us comfort and healing, so let us create a place where He can be met by those whose hearts need His healing touch.

Jesus invites all whose hearts are burdened with grief, regret, guilt, or sorrow to come to Him:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).