Only God knows my real name…one He’s given just to me. He calls me “His Little Lamb.”
I was conceived in January of 1936. I know my mother loved me. I lived and grew under her heart. I didn’t get to know my father. Did he ever touch Mommy’s belly and feel me move inside her?
I lived for four months in my little cocoon. Something happened. I stopped living. There must have been sadness that day.
I ended up in a Mason jar in a doctor’s office. I was the perfect specimen of a 4-month gestation baby. They say I was perfect in every way – even down to my tiny fingernails. Perfect, but not alive.
So many, many years I stayed with this doctor. He got old and sold his practice to a younger doctor. I came as part of the deal. When this second doctor, got old and died, his son sold the contents of his house to a very nice couple. They found me in the basement, way back in the cobwebs, up on a shelf. They were shocked and asked the son, “What is this?” The son said, “Oh that thing…I used to take it to school for show and tell.” The nice couple, Dennis and Mary Frances Westfall, were shocked and very touched to find me. They adopted me, and brought me home to look after me. They named me “Baby Douglas”.
When the new priest in town came to bless their home, they explained their unusual situation to him. They wanted very much to give me a proper burial. Fr. Joe Catanise said he’d be honored to do this and the funeral plans were set into motion. First, I needed to be visited by the Sheriff’s Department. They wanted to know all kinds of things about where I came from. And the Coroner’s Office was quite curious, as well. My adopted parents were reluctant to part with me, they had come to love me so much, but they entrusted me to Fr. Joe’s good care, and I stayed a short while with him at St. Leo Church. Then I traveled to the Burger Funeral Home in town where I stayed until the day of the funeral. Mr. Burger was very gentle with me.
Two very nice ladies from St. Leo’s who are in charge of Pledge for Life, Patty Buskey and Anna Summa, made all the arrangements for my funeral to be open to the public as a way of offering closure to those who lost a child to miscarriage or abortion. Anna got me a pretty blanket to be wrapped in. It’s very soft and cuddly.
The day of my funeral, June 5, 2010, some 74 years after I was conceived, was very special to many people…and to me. Nobody that attended my funeral really knew me. But there were 116 people who came to say good-bye to me. To pray for me and for all babies lost to miscarriage or abortion.
Fr. Joe knew early on whom the perfect priest would be to give the homily at my funeral. Fr. Anthony Mugavero, from Holy Apostles Church in Rochester, came to speak on my behalf – to help all people who had lost someone to miscarriage or abortion, to help heal their wounds. Some never had the chance to remember their lost child in a Mass. So my funeral Mass was really also for all of them. It was called a Mass for the Unborn. Anna and Patty advertised my funeral and invited all those who had lost a child in this way. It was an opportunity for them to find closure.
My funeral Mass began with pretty flowers at the altar, and I was in a simple, but beautiful little white casket. I was wrapped snugly in my soft little blanket. I was right up front. And there were two soldiers in fancy hats and capes and carrying swords, as a sort of honor guard for me. They were called Knights of Columbus. It made me feel very special.
The music was so moving. The St. Leo Resurrection Choir sang beautifully and led everyone in the hymns chosen just for me. I waited so long for this. To think that the Music Director, Patty Gorman, who had lost a baby many years ago, played so lovingly for me. It must have been very sad for her. She sounded like an angel.
Mr. Burger printed up prayer cards for me and he and Fr. Joe were of the same mind; they gave me my middle name – Leo. It’s perfect - Douglas Leo, as in St. Leo the Great, who was a very brave saint.
Fr. Mugavero spoke so beautifully about love, and that every child is a gift of God. How life is so precious, whether born or unborn. His words were so gentle and kind. He sang the words from a song by a singer named John Denver. “I want to live, I want to grow, I want to see, and I want to know, I want to share what I could give, I want to be, I want to live….” That says everything I would want to say. What could I have become if my life was allowed to develop?
But my coming to being, however short that time was, had a purpose - if for no other reason but to be found and be loved enough to be honored by this funeral. My existence was to help those, who have lost their dear babies, to have closure. I’m proud of that.
The folks from Burger Funeral Home found a perfect place for me to rest in the Parma Union Cemetery. The good people who are in charge of the cemetery donated my special place. It’s next to a little girl who was born one year after I was conceived. She lived for six days. I think we will be good friends. I overheard someone at my new home say this funeral helped her have closure for a child she lost. I’m happy for that.
Every life, no matter how well lived, matters to our God. He never forgets His creations. He had a purpose for my life, as short as it was. If I have helped one person by my short existence, I have not lived in vain. God bless all the babies. And thank you.
I’m at peace.
Baby Douglas Leo
Those of us who attended Douglas Leo’s funeral Mass want him to have a proper headstone. If you have been touched by this story of his little life and his very large impact on others, please consider contributing to his headstone. Donations would be gratefully accepted at St. Leo Church, PO Box 725, 167 Lake Avenue, Hilton NY 14468.