For parents across the globe, the very thought of losing a baby is almost unbearable. Understandably, those who do face such circumstances might not be able to cope in the immediate aftermath. So, two students from New Jersey’s Delbarton School took matters into their own hands following the discovery of a stillborn child at a recycling center in October 2017.
The ReCommunity Recycling Center is a privately owned company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has operations in 13 states, with more than 30 different facilities, including one in New Jersey. That particular center, however, was the scene of a tragedy on October 24, 2017, after a heartbreaking discovery there.
While sifting through the recyclable waste from numerous districts, an employee found a stillborn baby boy. An investigation was consequently launched by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and Medical Examiner to find out what happened. During that period, though, an outside group looked to secure custody of the corpse.
Although it might be difficult to fathom how the boy’s remains arrived at that facility, the aforementioned group had dealt with similar situations in the past. Known as Wave-4-Life, they are a pro-life ministry based at the Delbarton School in Morris Township, New Jersey. And two students from that group sent a petition to the Morris County Superior Court to gain possession of the body.
Elizabeth Mainardi, a science teacher at Delbarton, runs the Wave-4-Life group, which was created in 2016. She claims that the ministry was inspired by a similar club at a school in Massachusetts. There, pupils put themselves forward to go to funerals that otherwise would have no attendees.
Much like that group, Wave-4-Life has a very specific purpose – to honor the burials of human bodies that nobody else has claimed. Mainardi sees the funerals as an act of kindness to those who find themselves all alone at the end. “It brings a humanity to a situation where a decedent doesn’t have known family,” the science teacher told Delmarva Now in October 2017.
Following the discovery of the stillborn, Mainardi spoke with Drew Bauman, an attorney and former priest who’s helped numerous children in need of guardianship. On December 8, 2017, he was finally given permission to serve as an administrator over the boy by the Morris County Superior Court. Consequently, the Delbarton students could now hold a funeral and bury the baby.
According to Mainardi, it would be their fourth service and second for a stillborn. Meanwhile, student Billy Schroeder explained Wave-4-Life’s views ahead of the funeral. “We believe that no one deserves to die alone, and it’s only the right thing to do – to give them a proper burial and a proper funeral – because everyone’s life has value, and they’ve all had different stories,” he told WHAS-TV.
“We think it’s important to honor them as human beings, a basic tenet of respect I think,” Schroeder added. After two months of waiting, Wave-4-Life carried out the funeral for the stillborn on December 18, 2017, at the school’s St. Mary’s Abbey Church. The small, white casket was then taken to a local cemetery, where it was carried to a burial plot by two pupils.
Behind them stood eight of their classmates, all holding flowers. Prior to the service, Wave-4-Life named the baby Anthony Mary, because his corpse had been discovered on the day of Saint Anthony Mary Claret. Following the reading of the Rite of Committal by Reverend Hilary O’Leary, the students put their flowers on top of the coffin.
“We recognize that his mother is probably scared, heartbroken and distraught,” said Schroeder at the eulogy in front of 100 students, faculty members and parents. “Just as we pray for baby Anthony, we should pray for his mother and father in this difficult time. Even when our society may not show respect for each and every life, we believe in the sanctity of life.”
“We don’t want this child to be forgotten,” O’Leary continued. “We’ve come here out of love and respect.” At the conclusion of the service, the two pallbearers made their way to the hearse behind a student holding a crucifix. A framed quotation was placed beside the casket, reading, “You are worth more than many sparrows.”
Speaking after the funeral, several students reiterated O’Leary’s stance, while offering their own reflections. “We think every life is worth a shot and worth a fight,” John Manahan, a junior at the school, told the Daily Record. “We showed today to Anthony Mary that he’s part of the Delbarton community, and we want to extend our love to him and his parents.”
Meanwhile, fellow junior Finn Gannon, who had acted as a pallbearer, said that the funeral served as an extension of his own beliefs. “We accepted him into the Delbarton community like a brother, and we’ll remember him forever,” he told the Daily Record.
Jack Townsend read from the Old Testament at the service and later reflected on the situation at the cemetery. “Today obviously was a very sad event and that the baby had to be abandoned, but he’s in our thoughts and prayers,” he said. “So are his parents, who I’m sure went through a tough time.”
While Wave-4-Life ultimately drove this idea forward, the community also came together to offer their services. Tony Bizub, whose son attends the school, is the proprietor of the Bizub-Parker Funeral Home in Little Falls, New Jersey, and he felt compelled to supply the hearse for Anthony’s burial.
Elsewhere, trustees at the cemetery provided a shaded burial plot. The graveyard contains the bodies of soldiers who died during the Civil War and the two world wars, but an exception was seemingly made for Anthony’s remains.
John Sperry, meanwhile, volunteered to excavate and cover the baby’s grave. Following the funeral, he reflected on the impact of Wave-4-Life’s actions. “You get together as a community when something like this happens,” Sperry told the Daily Record.
Although they only have around 70 members, Wave-4-Life brought their community together as one to honor Anthony’s passing. They will no doubt be hoping that the goodwill that was gained will help them to spread their message.
For parents across the globe, the thought of losing a child is close to unbearable. However, when one unfortunate soul couldn’t bear the death of their baby boy, a student group stepped in to ensure that he received a proper burial.