Between all the stories of terror, selfishness, and violence, we sometimes need to read about a person who just tries to help in a small way.

So in today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution, there is a story about a retired woman, Margaret Freeman,  who helps children thrown away by their parents.

Those who are still alive, she helps to find adopted families. But those who have died are given a decent burial.

Arranging a decent burial is not as simple as it sounds. I remember when one of my retarded patients had no one to bury him (both his parents were in rehab at the time, and penniless). He was now a teenager. Those who cared for him loved him, and were aghast at the idea that he be cremated because it was the cheapest way to dispose of him.

It took some doing, but our social worker got the parents’ signatures to arrange a funeral, found a free burial plot, and arranged the undertaker who would prepare the body, bought a decent suit to clothe the body,  and arranged all the little details for the burial.

Ah, a decent funeral. Big deal, says the utilitarian culture. Let the state just bury the children in a pauper’s grave.

Yet funerals have meaning: They are a way to recognize that the life of the person who has died has meaning, and for the living to mourn the loss of that person. Even if the mother or family members don’t care, the funeral shows the world that someone does care.

Indeed, one of the “works of mercy” in most religions is to respect and arrange proper burial or cremation of the body of the dead. The customs go back into the days of pre history, and the more utilitarian who laugh at such customs ignore that respect for the dead binds us in some way with those who went before us.

So Mrs. Freeman arranges the funeral, the funeral director donates his services, and the cemetery owner discounts a small plot for the child’s final resting place.

Mrs. Freeman has even started an association to help raise funds for the funerals and to arrange adoption for those abandoned children who survive the ordeal. The organization, The Hannah Angel Center, also works with pregnant mothers to help them either care for their children, or to assist them in placing them for adoption.

The latest child buried by Mrs. Freeman was the child of a young girl and her drug addicted boyfriend. They did not attend the funeral.

During the 45-minute ceremony at Hillandale Memorial Gardens in Lithonia, speaker after speaker tried to find some meaning in his death. “We’ve got to send a message to the world that no more will these children be left alone,” said Rev. Luke B. Boswell, Jr. of The Rock Christian Church in Conyers.

And so, thanks to Mrs. Freeman, this baby’s short life will not be meaningless.

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You can donate to Hannah Angel at their website LINK

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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