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Lions Roar : May 2015
“Only as a participant,” Rand told her. “No observers are allowed.” For Bays that was fine: she was beyond being an observer. Rand invited anyone who wished to say a few words about the children they had lost. Most people remained silent, but one father talked of his baby succumbing to sudden infant death syndrome and a young woman—sobbing as she sewed—spoke of her stillborn child. When everyone had finished sewing, they carried Jizo statues to the garden and in a bamboo grove they chanted the Heart Sutra, offered incense, and dressed the statues in the garments that they’d made. Finally, Rand read the names of the dead chil- dren. Most participants stayed for a while to quietly wander in the garden. Later, Bays realized that a weight had been lifted from her heart. “There’s a particular kind of suffering when a child dies,” she says. “This ceremony is so impactful, so helpful for this kind of suffering. I really needed to bring it to Oregon.” Two important healing elements of the mizuko kuyo are the silence and the sewing. Noble silence gives participants the opportunity to enter a meditative state and prevents the ceremony from becoming divisive over the issue of abortion. Making something with your hands is helpful, Bays explains, “because you feel like you’re doing something for the child who died.” But the fundamental reason why the mizuko kuyo is so trans- formative is that it offers a sensitive yet direct way of dealing with death. “In our society we don’t talk about death,” says Bays. “We say someone ‘passed away,’ or is ‘no longer with us.’” When people are dying, we hide them away in hospitals and nursing homes. And most of us enjoy such long lives that it is a rude awakening if we outlive our child. In modern North America, the way we approach miscarriage is an extension of how we approach death in general. Between 10 and 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, yet people rarely talk openly about these losses or acknowledge how devastating they are. Since most miscarriages occur in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, doctors encourage women to keep their condition under wraps during this time. As a result, one woman grieving a pregnancy loss might be sharing an office with another who has gone through the same thing, but they don’t know about each other. They’re in their own silos of grief. The situation is similar for women who have abortions. No matter where someone stands on the pro-life, pro-choice spectrum, abortion isn’t an easy decision. And with so much As a pediatrician, Bays specializes in child abuse cases, but she also treats children who’ve not been abused, such as this girl. Bays was inspired to specialize in abuse during her medical training when she saw a boy who’d been so badly beaten that he couldn’t open his eyes. She felt he looked a lot like her own son. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 41