Twenty-three babies whose cremated remains had been left on a mortuary shelf were remembered in a ceremony Sunday at Roseburg Memorial Gardens, where the remains have now been buried.
Dozens attended the service, which included songs, prayer, laying of roses and a release of doves.
Some of the babies’ cremains had been forgotten for decades, with the earliest having died in 1948. Most of the babies are believed to have been stillborn or to have lived only briefly.
Some of the parents only recently discovered the cremains hadn’t been buried and a few of them were present at the ceremony.
One of those parents was Becky Blais, whose daughter Tara Kaye Stubblefield was stillborn in 1977. Blais traveled from her current home in Florence, Montana, to be at Sunday’s ceremony and said afterward that it helped her.
“It’s an awesome thing. It’s closure I’ve never had,” she said.
She found out about her daughter’s cremains on Friday after her niece shared a newspaper story with her.
“Forty-two years ago you didn’t get a birth certificate, you didn’t get a death certificate, you didn’t get anything,” she said.
The service was led by Jim Little of Roseburg. Little said the infants deserve to be shown that the community loves them and wants to give them a place of eternal rest.
“We’ve come together to conduct a service that has long been delayed. All of us gathered here are in a very real sense now the mother and father of these infants. We do not know the exact circumstance of their births, and how and why their ... life was cut short,” he said.
Little said he believes that infants who die are given instant access to heaven.
“We say to these 23, ‘May each of you rest in peace and know that you are honored and loved and cared for and you are unremembered no more,’” he said.
The entire group attending the service sang children’s favorites from Sunday school, “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Jesus Loves Me.”
Brandi Grant read a poem about love.
“These babies are being shown the love and care they deserve by being put to rest,” she said. “These babies will be in the arms and hearts of all of us.”
Most of the babies’ names were read aloud as white roses symbolizing each child were handed to volunteers. Some names were not read at the request of family members.
Then 23 white doves symbolizing the children’s souls were released. The first stepped up to the edge of the basket and looked at those assembled before flying off. Then the rest flew up into the air and circled around before heading north.
The white roses were carried up to the baby section of the cemetery and laid down next to an angel statue. Flowers representing babies known to have been girls were wrapped in pink tissue, boys in blue and those whose genders were unknown in white.
Little said he was pleased the service was well attended and that it provided healing. He himself lost a 3-year-old son who had been named for him. He said some others present had also lost children who were not among those whose cremains had recently been found. Some told Little the service was healing for them as well.
Douglas County Wings of Love spearheaded the effort to ensure the burial of the remains and the holding of a memorial service. The remains were originally discovered by Carol Hunt when she was researching forgotten remains of local veterans.
“I’m just so happy that people are coming out and that I’ve had them express to me that they have started to receive some healing,” Hunt said Sunday.