Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 13th and 14th, 2008...

Well, this time last year was a lull in the storm.

Yesterday would have been the funeral day. I don't really know if I ever wrote out the funeral story or just kept it in my head, but in the week on Percocet, it was probably the occasion I remembered the most clearly.

I had been so used to wearing my maternity wardrobe that finding "other clothes" was difficult. I also felt that I wanted to wear black. I remember as a smaller human, being invited to attend the funeral of a little girl who'd died of leukemia, and being told not to wear black - only color. At the time, I had been unable to attend because I had been afraid: the last funeral I attended and had remembered had been my little brother Finn's, who had also died of a placental abruption when I was five. I remembered his little white coffin and really, didn't want to see another child-sized coffin. In short, I was a scared teenager and at that point, unwilling to deal with my emotions effectively. I sat on the bed and cried, and felt scared by the prospect that nobody was "safe" from death. So I didn't go, and didn't wear colors.

I hadn't been to a funeral in a good twenty years when I attended H's favorite aunt's funeral in January of 2008. The next funeral I attended was the funeral of my daughter. Then, H's good friend's mom, who I also had known. Then, my friend M's baby boy, Carter. Little person, big person, little person, big person, little person... Death is not discriminative.

This time I chose a pair of black, very lightly pin-striped pants I'd used to wear to work. They barely fit, but rode under my cesarean incision. I chose a sleeveless, wool turtleneck with a woolen belt as my top. I did add color - I wore purple flower on my top. I wore black shoes, and black socks. My hair was put up on top of my head in a tight bun. My clothes matched my bruises which only later turned into various colors of the rainbow...

We meandered to the funeral home, H and I, smoking on the way. I'd taken up smoking as a release after Josie's death: I didn't smoke much because I knew it impeded healing, and I wanted to heal - but I did smoke a little. It didn't really seem to matter at that exact moment. We smoked in the car and then wandered up to the funeral home slowly - my arm in H's because I could barely walk. I'd foregone my Percocet for the afternoon in an attempt to get off the stuff, and it had proven to be a mistake.

I really dreaded walking into the funeral home. I dislike being the center of attention unless I'm playing a character - and this was no play. I smiled weakly at the kindly funeral home director who'd taken Josie, who then took my coat and hung it up for me.

There were already quite a few people there and for a second, I felt envy because at the front of the room was my daughter, and they had obviously been there for longer than me and had spent more time with her than me that day. Silly, but true.

I noticed immediately that there were an abundance of flowers. They were everywhere - big, beautiful arrangements: daisies, roses, live plants, hanging plants, lipstick vines - and ornaments. There were big pictures of my girl in frames. I went to them, thinking they were all for show and realized that they had all been sent for Josie. I had never, in my life seen so many flowers in one place. I had been the district manager for the state of Minnesota for my company, and almost all of the stores I'd been managing had sent an arrangement. I had no idea how they'd even known. There was a beautiful little rose in a little vase from my midwife, R, and peace lilies from our friends. I was overwhelmed.

For some reason, many of us go around in our daily lives wondering if the positive things we do actually have a positive impact and if our friends are really our friends - or even on bad day, if people even like us at all. I got my wake up call that day and it said something like "whatever you've been doing, you've not done it wrong." I took that seriously and continue to.

(Later, those flowers would cover every surface in our house, from the kitchen table, to the main table, to the top of the television, to the window sills. I waited until they'd died, and then took the flower petals, which were still brightly colored, and packed them in jars and baskets. We still have most of the living plants.)

I walked up the aisle of the funeral home, I remember being on autopilot. There was the little coffin. Inside it was my baby. I knew this and I was afraid because I didn't know how she'd look, and we'd been apart for two days - she'd been in someone else's hands. I ignored everyone and went up to the coffin. There was a little, heart shaped cushion on it with tiny roses, from her two grandmas. She had on a really beautiful velvet dress and her little white bunny pants - they had a cottontail on the back and little bunny ears on the feet, which I remember thinking were so cute when I picked them up. I loved those pants. She lay on a blanket and had another blanket over her - a light pink one with stars and moons embossed on it, which I later did take and still have (I haven't decided whether or not to use it with Isobella yet, but I think now that I might).

What really killed me, and to some extent still does, is the little crib toy she was buried with. It was a little glow worm - pink and purple - and you pulled it's tail to make it play music in it's little tinkly winkly manner. That was buried with her. I wish I could find another one like that. You can see it in the post I made a little ways down the page - it's attached to her crib there. It lit up...the children wanted her buried with something that lit up...

She looked very serene. I was warned she was delicate, so I just touched her a little bit to get a feel of the clothes she was in, and kissed my hand and placed in on her forehead. She had makeup on and they'd done a lovely job of preparing her - they really had. I remember at the time thinking that her soul had departed, though. This little one laying there was not the so recently life-imbued little body I had held in the hospital - she was gone now, her soul had gone on. In the hospital, I do believe it hung around for a while and the life force only willingly went through the divide between life and death shortly before I handed her over for burial on the Saturday (11th). Before then, her life was with us all in glittering sparks - it just couldn't be reconnected to her body any more.

I sat down at the front with a box of tissues and gripped them between my legs. H sat next to me and we just held hands and looked at the floor, or each other, or our clasped hands. Pretty soon the tears began to fall and it was like turning a faucet on - they fell very thickly and very quickly. Part of me wanted to hide, and hoped nobody would notice me. But they did.

Then endless people came in and started coming down and crying, looking at Josie and then coming to us and hugging us. Some offered words; some said "I'm sorry." Some children came in of my friend, and they were crying and crying... My pregnant friend Jill came as well and I remember being awed by her - how brave of her...she must have been terrified. My friend E came, crying, and I gave her a big hug. R, my midwife and friend, came in and immediately sat next to me - and I was so glad to see her. I was so glad she was sitting next to me.

Nurses from the hospital came, and the doctor who'd delivered Josie as well, all crying. I honestly had no idea how people had known because usually I am the "doer" - the "informer" who tells people where to meet and arranges things. Others had taken over for me here and that was amazing. There were almost 100 people there in the home.

Father Stenzil came in - a Catholic priest I have a lot of respect for, who is very kindly and un-pretentious. He conducted the memorial there in a "non-Catholic" way and it was really beautiful. The whole time, I wondered if the scene was real. Could I really be sitting here at the funeral of my own child? Could I get away with pretending it wasn't the funeral of my child, but rather someone else's - or that this was all fiction? I really couldn't - but I did entertain the thought.

Afterward, we waited for people to leave, which they did. A few came later to pay their respects. H helped me up from the chair, and I kissed Josie again - then turned and quickly left - only looking back to see another friend who had not been able to get to the whole service walk up and see her there...

It was cold - a cold day; very gray. H and I got in the car and watched as the man from the funeral home carried Josie out to their Mercedes and placed her gently in the back seat. Awful, really, because my baby wasn't even big enough to need a hearse... Up we drove, in very slow, police accompanied procession, to the cemetery just outside town. Many people came.

We stood there in the cemetery and formed a circle, I think, around the tiny hole she was being buried in. We held hands and H went to the Mercedes, and was handed the tiny coffin, now closed. He walked it to the hole in the ground and gently set it down. It must have been the longest walk of his life. I looked at him and had never respected someone as much as that in my life. I still cannot imagine how hard that was for him. He cried and I saw his eyes just lost in the wilderness, without all the people around him. We stood together in the cold, and looked at her coffin with the little wreath over it, and prayers were said.

Afterward we gathered the tiny roses from her wreath and took some home. I really wished I had been there when she was lowered into the ground. In England we do it differently - we lower the coffin into the ground and are able to toss the first dirt onto it. I wanted to do that, but apparently it is not how things are done here... That still bothers me.

When we got home, everybody was there. Our house was filled with smoke...everywhere I went, people would follow - no place was a "safe" place. I remember conversing for hours. It was very, very draining. Good friends were there, which was nice, and also people I didn't know very well who all were asking questions and questions and questions... After a few hours, I was glad to find myself with not too many people around.

The bars Ma had baked, which we'd meant to use for the baby shower, we used for the funeral gathering instead. I remember thinking how the flavor would have been different under those different circumstances - so different.

But then, everything would have been different under different circumstances...

6 comments:

Mira said...

Oh I wish it were different, so much Jay. Sending you love

margaret said...

Wow, I was on Percocet for my son's funeral. I don't know how many I took that morning, I just remember that surreal feeling of "is this real?". My husband too carried our son's casket out of the church to the funeral home car (we didn't warrant a hearse either) and then again from the car to the grave. Watching him carrying our son's casket broke my heart. How I wish things had turned out differently for all of us. Hugging you

Clare said...

I think there's nothing more cruel than a parent having to organise a funeral for their own children. Hopefully neither of us will go through that again.

Jay said...

Well I'm glad others did it. I had no idea what to do. No clue at all - I didn't help with the funeral arrangements at all...

Emerging Butterfly said...

Sweet Jay Jay....I'm sitting here in Montana with tears running down my cheeks. I'm sitting here asking why it is that you aren't running after a newly walking baby with your pregnant belly full of life! I'm sitting here wanting to know why I have time to sit here instead of being overwhelmed by the joys of beautiful nursing twin babies.

There are no answers...only questions. I want something that isn't, and therefore, I am sad. But, your beauty of soul and raw perfect honesty has given me so much hope in the past 6 months. Because you have lived through such a terrible hell and are still finding reasons to smile, it assures me that I can make it too.

Thank you.

There is a reason you are so loved by so many. Its as clear as a sky on a sunny day.

(hugs)

Jay said...

Sara, you are the sweetest. My cheeks are blushing. I want to give you a hug... XXX