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Saint Callistus Ember Novick

March 15, 2013

(This is a slightly longer and more personal blog than most, so the casual reader may want to skip this one.)

I have 4 beautiful children.

Cody Ryan is my the eldest. He is a firstborn son. He is a male heir. The day he was born was one of the happiest and most life-changing days of my life. He brought great pride and joy to me and our family when he was born.

Tess Mae Louise is my girl. She is my girlby (baby girl – girlby is a word she unwittingly invented, along with ‘boyby’, when she asked her mother as a young child whether a new baby was ‘a girlby or a boyby’). She is so beautiful. She is my angel. She is my joy.

Canyon James is my boyby – my baby boy. He is my mirth. He is sooo much fun just being him. He is the one that keeps me going and young.

Hhhmmm…that’s 3 you say?

Let me tell you about the 4th…the one you’ll never meet…at least here on earth.

Between Tess and Canyon, there was a child who was miscarried.

Callistus Ember is my saint.

While expecting our 3rd child in February 2000, my wife, began experiencing pains and feared something was wrong. The doctor did an ultrasound and said everything seemed OK. The doctor was wrong.

One late night near the end of February, my wife was experiencing worsening pain. We left a message for the on-call doctor to call us back. While waiting for the call, we fell asleep.

I was awoken to the sound of a loud, shrieking gasp and saw my wife sitting up in bed next to me.

I asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t answer. She laid back again. I kept asking her to talk to me and let me know what was wrong, and she seemed to just be waking up. She said something was very wrong. She said she felt cold and lifeless. She needed medical help. I was so afraid.

I called 911 and the paramedics arrive minutes later from the hospital a mile from our home. They started an IV and took her to the hospital. I asked a neighbor to stay with Cody and Tess, and went to the hospital with her.

I called my mom and dad, and they drove out an hour away in the early hours to be with us. My mom stayed at home with the kids and my dad came to the hospital to be with me. Mom and Dad have always been there for us.

While waiting in the ER, my wife was in extreme pain, and we were both fearful.

They did another ultrasound to see what might be wrong. They found it. The baby was growing in her Fallopian tube, not in her womb. The tube had burst. My wife was bleeding internally. She needed surgery to survive. The pregnancy was not viable. The baby would be lost.

I was so distraught. With two young children at home, I needed my wife. And I was concerned for the baby. Before they took her to surgery, I touched her abdomen intent to give a blessing to the baby we were about to lose. She shrieked in pain from the lightest touch and I pulled my hand away. I felt so helpless.

When they took her to surgery, I met my dad in the waiting room. I wept. I felt so helpless to protect my wife and my child. And the prospect of losing one or both of them was more than I could bear. My dad stayed with me throughout the wait to give me his strength and encouragement.

When the surgeon emerged, he assured that my wife was doing well, but that the baby was lost.

The surgeon shared a few photos of the surgery.

From what I recall, I saw a very, very, very tiny person, with a head, body, limbs and even fingers.

I asked what they did with the baby following a miscarriage, and heard that they discarded it with other bio-hazard waste. I was appalled by the thought.

I asked if they could not do that and keep it separate until we could make other arrangements for it, which they did.

I did some research and called a funeral home with Catholic connections about whether they did burials for miscarried babies, and what it would cost. I was so relieved to learn that they did, and if we couldn’t afford it, which we couldn’t, that they could do so at no cost to us. What a blessing! Thank God for them! They picked up the remains from the hospital.

While my wife was still in the hospital recovering and resting, I went home and got some rest too. I also later got on the internet and started doing some research on potential baby names so we could name the child we had lost.

Naming was always an intimate dialogue. We spent a lot of time thinking and talking about all our kids names.

Our home, we had named Zephyrgarten – Garden of the West Wind – it had deep meaning for us which I won’t go into here.

I looked up “Zephyr” as a potential name root, and learned that there was a Pope Zephyrinus in the 3rd century AD who was also a martyr and saint. I then learned that Zephyrinus had been succeeded as Pope by Callixtus, who had previously been entrusted as a deacon to supervise the catacomb burial chambers along the Appian Way in Rome, which are to this day called the Catacombs of Callixtus. The early Christian’s worked to ensure that their dead and martyred members would receive a dignified burial in death, just as the Lord Jesus had been buried by Joseph of Arimathea.

I was touched by this connection of working for a dignified burial for my child and the work of Callistus, and wanted the baby’s name to be Callie.

While waiting at the hospital while my wife slept, I had the image in my head of a spark that died out, just as an ember from a burning campfire goes up in the air with a red-hot glow, then burns out quickly, then falls to the earth as an ash. Ironically, the day was Ash Wednesday and I later went to our church and received ashes on my own forehead with the words, Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19).

Thus, we named our 3rd child Callistus (Callie) Ember.

When my wife got home, we told Cody about the loss of the baby. He wailed in grief. It was the saddest sound I have ever heard. We wept. I couldn’t bear the pain of the grief. I felt like I had failed in my role to protect them from harm.

Days later we buried Callie over the gravesite of my mother-in-law, thanks to the kindness and benefaction of the funeral home that I had called, and we had a gravesite service to lay Callie to rest.

Callie is a saint, and in heaven now.

A fews years later I had a star in space named Callistus Ember at the Star Registry so I could always look up to heaven and be reminded that Callie is up in heaven shining bright over us and lighting out way home.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Erika permalink
    March 16, 2013 6:21 am

    Ed, I remember that night so clearly since it was Beth and I that came over. I just remember seeing Tina in bed looking pale as a ghost and not responding to our voices.
    We both prayed for you both and the baby. I never knew the rest of the story and I’m glad to learn you got to name the baby. I’m sorry for your family’s loss but take comfort your little angel is watching over you all.

    • Ed Novick permalink*
      March 16, 2013 6:52 am

      Erika,

      I’m so glad you commented. Having another witness to what happened helps validate and enrich the story.

      Thank you for being there for us as you often were. I don’t know what I would have done without you being there. Please accept my deepest gratitude.

      That experience was a traumatic one for me/us. Life seemed so good and happy up until then.

      Since, not so much. I’m still in grief from this loss experience and others since.

      The only thing worse than the fear of losing someone you love so much, is actually losing them.

      I think I needed to write and share as part of my healing process. I can only hope things can get better from here.

      Thanks again,
      Ed

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