September 10, 2017
I was just thinking about the day they put my daughter in a casket.
You know, I never saw her go into the ground.
I had never planned a funeral before. I didn’t know what I was doing, but we figured it out. We had no choice. I hated every second, but I had no choice. I wanted it to be as beautiful as possible, knowing it would never be “enough” for her.
We talked to our priest, and he helped us find the funeral home and cemetery. We met with him and the music director of our church to plan the funeral Mass. We met with the funeral director to plan the visitation. I remember asking to have prayer cards to hand out. He seemed surprised, like that wasn’t normal for a baby’s funeral. I wanted them, lots of them. She was no less of a person because her life was shorter than most.
I handed him the obituary that I’d written the night before. He was surprised by the length. He said, “This will be very expensive.” I told him I was fine with the cost, and I wanted it printed in our hometown paper and the Nashville paper. He took care of it. I read it now and then. I’m not sure why. It’s not like I’ve forgotten how much I love her. I love and miss and want her every second of every day.
I made “A Beautiful Life” slideshow from photos we had. I still wish I had more photos of her, but I was told I had so many. I took pictures of her every day of her life, so I suppose I did have a lot for a baby only nine weeks and three days old.
We ordered baskets of violets for the funeral home. My oldest son (5 years old at the time) wanted her name to be “Violet”. I didn’t know if anyone would send flowers for an infant. When I arrived at the funeral home, the director told me it was the most flowers he’d ever seen for a baby. The room was covered.
Some close friends and family helped to decorate the room before the visitation began. I had picked out a new outfit that she’d never worn for her to be buried in. I think it had little bunnies on it. For the casket, I had a small diamond cross from her Nana, a doll baby from her Grandma, and some family pictures of all of us together. I sent a pretty rose headband from her newborn pictures since she never was without a bow or headband. The funeral director later told me to bring a hat. He didn’t want me to see the cuts from the autopsy. I’m glad I was spared that.
I remember them asking if we wanted an open or closed casket. I hadn’t thought about it. My husband and I went in to see her. I vomited. She didn’t even look real. She looked rubber. It wasn’t my child. No one should see a child like that. I want her remembered how she was alive, not dead … in a box. Casket closed.
My Mom wanted to see her body one last time, so one of my dearest friends accompanied her. I couldn’t look at my child’s dead body again. I couldn’t even think about it. I just had to keep moving forward, get through tonight, get through the funeral tomorrow. Just keep going until I’d finished what we had to do, what we hated doing.
We got through the visitation. It’s all kind of a blur. I don’t know who was there, what was said. I know I felt supported though. There were lots of visitors, and it did help to know that they cared about us and our sweet angel.
The next day was more difficult. The pre-funeral visitation was much worse for me. I kept breaking down. I felt trapped in a place, in an experience, that I hated. I wanted to run and be free of it. I wanted to WAKE UP FROM THIS NIGHTMARE. I kept feeling like I needed to get away from everyone. I was so afraid of what we had to do next. The last 10 days had been so horrific, but this… oh, no, not this. Please, God! Don’t make me bury my baby.
My husband, our three young sons, and I followed the casket down the aisle. This aisle was meant for her first communion, confirmation, and wedding day. It was for Sundays and school Masses. This aisle was meant for her to walk down as she grew in her faith and love of Christ. … NO, that wasn’t God’s plan.
This was only her second time down this aisle. The first was the morning of her tragic cardiac arrest, as I proudly held her on my way to receive the Eucharist. I was so filled with joy that morning. It was my first time taking all four kids to Mass. They were decked out in their Sunday best, and all looked so beautiful. I held the world in my arms and was as happy as I’d ever been.
Hours later, my joy turned to sorrow. My nightmare began.
That day, my daughter went down this aisle for the last time… in a box.
I held my youngest son (2 years old then) nearly the entire Mass. It brought me peace to hold him close. I had to sing all the songs with my eyes closed, and the tears came. We sang the songs I had sung to her in the hospital as she went to heaven. When I hear those songs now, I get so emotional. We sang one today at Mass, “Here I am Lord.” All the hairs on my body stood up, as I was covered in goosebumps. I shed only a few tears today (nearly 20 months later), as I remembered the day we laid her to rest and celebrate the life she now enjoys in heaven.
After the funeral, it seemed like the drive to the cemetery lasted forever. It was January 29th, but it didn’t feel cold. The ice and snow from the days prior was mostly melted away. The day of her cardiac arrest may have been the coldest that year, but this day the sun shone bright. I stared at the sky and asked God, begged Him, to help me any way He could. I felt the warmth of the sun, and I knew it was my Father in Heaven. He was letting me feel His love and comfort.
Many cars pulled to the side of the road as we drove. One man got out of his truck and placed a hand on his heart. They couldn’t possibly know it was my beautiful baby who had died. I appreciated these gestures none-the-less. These strangers took a moment out of their day to show respect for my child, for my family, for our loss. That meant a lot to me. It reminded me of the good in this world.
We finally arrived at the cemetery. I remember feeling like it was a long walk up a steep hill to her resting place. When we visit now, I know that wasn’t the case. I wonder if it seemed so long and difficult because my heart was so heavy, and I hated being there to bury my child.
Our priest said some words. I don’t know what he said. It seems like the fog really hit me then. He asked me a question, but I didn’t understand. My mind was blank. This was the end. Everything that I had to plan and do for my child to be buried was done. Now what? What now? I don’t know.
The priest asked again, and I said “I don’t know.” I know now that he was asking if we wanted to stay and watch her be buried. At the time, it was like his mouth was moving, but I understood nothing. I just kept saying, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” I was screaming it and crying, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!”
Our family and friends hovered around me, and I just went somewhere else in my brain. My husband walked me to the car. Others stayed, put flowers on the grave, gathered together. I sat in the car and cried, so lost and confused. I knew what I was supposed to do until this moment. Now, I know nothing. I don’t know how to go on. I don’t know how to take the next step. I don’t know how to live without my child. I don’t know anything.
We drove away. I didn’t see her go into the ground.
Since then, I like to visit her burial place, bring her flowers, and talk to her. I like to decorate the headstone and honor her. She often sends a butterfly to greet me. The sky always looks beautiful from that spot. I feel close to her. I wish I could hold her, but I know she’s with the only One who could love her more than me.
I continue to pray for God to help me any way He can, and I still feel His comfort.
On the greatest day of my life, my beautiful daughter will see my body go in the ground. On that day, I’ll hold her again.
I think I’m glad I didn’t see her go into the ground. It was only her body in that box anyway. My daughter lives in Heaven.