The metal tree, on which the parents of the dead children hung inscribed leaves, at the grave field “A touch of life II” for star children in Frankfurt’s main cemetery.
Image: Frank Röth
Parents whose child died in the womb often blame themselves. Our author was present at a funeral of these so-called star children.
VOn the last day of August, around 40 people are waiting in front of the mighty mourning hall in Frankfurt’s main cemetery. They don’t seem to know each other. There are no greetings, no standing together in small groups, although the women and men are quite similar in age: somewhere between late 20s and late 30s. Almost all came in pairs. Two have a stroller with them. A man is holding a large stuffed teddy bear, the woman is holding a bouquet of flowers at his side. Every few minutes she puts a handkerchief to her eyes. Two ministers hand out a sheet of paper folded in half. Most people open it and stare at it intently. The evangelical pastor in a black robe with a white collar speaks a short greeting. She says, “It’s good that you’re here, despite the sorrow you carry.” Then the group moves. She has one goal that unites her at this moment: a small coffin in which lie the smallest, delicate creatures – star children.
Star children have been denied an earthly existence by nature. They died in the womb, during childbirth or shortly thereafter. There is no clear definition of the term. Nevertheless, it is used again and again, as in the Frankfurt main cemetery, for children who are miscarried before the 24th week of pregnancy and weigh less than 500 grams. These two boundaries mark the threshold of viability. Before the 24th week, the lungs in particular are still so immature that they cannot adequately fulfill their function of supplying the body with oxygen and taking over the removal of carbon dioxide.
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