Monday, November 5, 2012
Countess Alexandra Mourns the Deaths of Infant Children With Their Parents on All Saints Sunday
A difficult All Saints Sunday event for Countess Alexandra of Frederiksberg, but one that she undertook with solemnity and grace. Alexandra joined a few hundred families at the church where Derf and Yrma were married, to celebrate and remember the deaths of hundreds of children who were taken too soon from this life. A beautiful ceremony and a wonderful, communal gathering for the benefactors of Alexandra's charity, the National Association for Infant Mortality. The photo gallery shows Alexandra being respectful, dignified and poised as this very grief-striken group gathered in their pain to remember together and go forward for the living. Alexandra has spoken often about her love for church and the strength that she receives from religion. It seems the best Danish royal possible was present with these families. Hallelujah.
Photo Gallery: BT
Countess Alexandra as patron of the National Association for Infant Mortality attended the All Saints Worship with lights in Copenhagen Cathedral. Countess Alexandra lighted candles with 300 parents of the infants who die each year in or outside of their mother's womb.
There were neither communion wine or wafers given at the All Saints worship service in Our Lady Cathedral on Sunday. Instead, the altar bench was strewn with sand, adorned with tea lights and names like William, Lasse, Jazmin, Super Carla and many, many other small lives that were taken from here, almost before they came here.
Tradition dictates that yesterday's All Saints Sunday is used to commemorate the dead. In Copenhagen Cathedral - Our Lady's Church - and in 15 other churches across the country, survivors lighted candles for the very smallest. Behind the memorial service was the 20 year old group National Association for Infant Mortality, and therefore the association's patron, Alexandra, was also an obvious guest in the Copenhagen church.
"It was very moving. I think that was a very special and beautiful atmosphere. All the families sit and make their own way. But with death, there is also life, and it was great, there was so much life here", said Countess Alexandra after the service. Before, while church bells rang 2pm, struggling parents with sensible prams and playful children took their place in the church.
Only the fewest were so large that they completely grasped grief or intercepted their parents' volatile tears during hymns like 'The Fair Little Flowers Now Peep To Each Other'. So while the priest Anders Gadegaard talked about the little children whose deaths their parents never come to understand - and never will understand - allowed girls in princess dresses and boys in lumberjack shirts to romp around between the benches.
"I think a lot of what the priest said is that love is vulnerable to being lost. It was beautiful, and I take that home with me. Although it is the wrong way in the life chain to say goodbye to one's children, said Alexandra, who was the patron of the association in 2004.
Not because she has lost a baby, which otherwise is a requirement to sit on the Society's board as an advisor. "The pastor said that he himself has not lost a baby, but he has lost. And I can of course say yes. I lost my father, and it is a sorrow."
While her grief goes back to 2010, handed it to several parents goes far back in time. All the way back to 1976. The parents who wanted it could hurt not only write their child's name in the sand on the altar bench, but also read the name, birth and death up. The oldest would today have been 36, the youngest a month.
"You need to deal with her grief, faith and religion is a way to do it. Now we have a son to be confirmed next year, so we are a little more diligent to use the church at the moment. And I think it is very beautiful to come and be in church on Sunday. We all use it in different ways, but it is very cleansing of one's soul", said Alexandra.
After the last hymn "Beautiful Savior" was sung, Anders Gadegaard took off his cassock and served coffee in the adjoining chambers. Also Alexandra got a cup and had a chat with the many grieving though expectant parents who hoped for a glimpse of the Countess. "You can not imagine their loss. You just can not get acquainted with it. But you can listen, and I will do that."
Photo: Niels Meilvang