Desmond's burial & beyond

After coming home from the hospital on Sunday, July 10th, our next order of business was to make the burial arrangements. We knew wanted  burial in a private place we could visit, near other family members. The hospital offers a free 'common burial' two or three times a year (next one's not until October), but we needed it done soon and knew we needed a physical place to know was his alone. I have several family members (grandparents, great-grandparents, some aunts) buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens on the north side of Evansville, so we decided to go with that. For infant burials they 'give' you the plot for free, but there is a $450 charge for the casket/vault combination, and for the service of setting up the tent and chairs and filing the paperwork. We decided to go with this.

On Monday the 11th, Dave and I had to drive out there and make the decisions and payments. His parents had flown in from California the evening before and stayed here with our kids so at least we didn't have to take any of them. I was actually feeling ok and doing (at least I thought) pretty solid, but then we got to the top of the hill where the funeral home is, I saw the hearse parked there, and all my breath went out of my body. I again pulled myself together, and then we had to go inside a room with casket samples alone one wall, urn samples along another, and headstone samples along a third. I strategically sat so the casket samples were behind me, so at least I did not have to stare at them.



We didn't have to choose a casket because when they are that small, there is only one option - the 19". So we didn't have to face that task. But we did have to look at gravestone brochures which don't have ANY prices on them. We'd been told beforehand that they start at $1,100 and go up from there. Having a fancy stone wasn't important to us, but having one with his name to mark his grave and with a vase so we can leave flowers or toys or whatever was important to us. So for the smallest (12"x12") stone with a vase, was close to $1,600. We set up a payment plan with $300-ish down and then $60 a month for 20 months. Both my mom and Dave's parents had offered to help pay for this though so we weren't too concerned - it would have to be paid for before it was ordered, and if it wasn't paid and ordered and arrived by November, they wouldn't place it until April because of the weather. And so we were feeling in a hurry to get it done soon so that he can have it in place before winter.

Then the funeral lady took us out to the graves to show us where he'd be. At first I was kind of bummed that he'd have a neighbor on both sides, but later when I saw how they dig up the graves, I changed my mind. Being in between two existing graves means his will never be disturbed by digging one next to him. It's a beautiful place, at the very back of the cemetery, with statues, benches, and trees. I was feeling shaky in the knees and overcome with things and so we said goodbye.

That night, we took the kids out to their grandparents' hotel to swim for a little while. Their hotel was near the cemetery so we decided to show the kids where we'd be going the next day, try to make it a little less weird for them. In the time since Dave and I had left that afternoon, they had dug the grave. There was also a freshly dug grave a few rows over in the baby section. My heart ached for this other mother who was going through the same exact thing as me. I wanted to find her and hold her. The kids thought it was a nice place and were happy to see all the toys and trinkets people leave and were planning the types of things they might bring and leave for Desmond. Then we went swimming.

Tuesday morning was hard. Some ladies from church wanted to prepare lunch for us before the burial service so we needed to be there at noon, then on to the cemetery for the burial at 2pm. We had made a plan for a simple service, with each of the kids reading scriptures and then we would play a song, then David would give a prayer and we'd wait for them to do the burial.

The lunch the ladies provided was wonderful, very thoughtful in every way. They even had brought a high chair and baby foods and snacks for Jacinda which she loved. There was gluten free foods for my mom, veggies for my mother-in-law, and bread rolls for my carb-loving children.



Then it was time to head out to the cemetery. I was doing much better than I thought I would be. I think by this point I was pretty much cried-out about most of it and had gotten to the point of feeling numb. We only invited family - my mom and stepdad, my dad and stepmom, David's mom and dad, my sister, and my niece. My niece got lost and was a little late but she did make it. My sister never showed and I never heard from her, but she has a lot of problems so I'm not angry. 

The weather had been stormy all morning. Pouring down rain for hours and hours. When we got to the cemetery, it had finally cleared, but dark clouds were rolling in from the west again as it it might start storming again at any moment. We sat in a little tent and did our program and David said a prayer which was exactly perfect, and then there were hugs and photos, and we asked them to do the burial.







I really held it together pretty good. The grandparents were bawling and crying, which is understandable. My big kids were crying a lot, which was in a way a relief to me, because there hadn't been much crying at our house before then and I was happy to see them letting it out and we were all together to hold each other and cry together. 





The one thing I could not handle was when they removed the board (visible in one of the above photos) that covered the grave, the sight of that gaping open hole in the ground was too much for me. I could not look at it. More horrifying than a micro preemie deceased baby, more horrifying than my sweet sad husband carrying his son's casket in his arms, that hole was terrifying to me. My child who had left the safety and security of my body only two days before being put into the ground was almost more than I could bear. I had to turn my back and just weep while the burial was happening. Once it was done, I could turn back around and I was okay again.



All this time, the skies got dark and thunder rumbled, but it never rained. We rearranged all of the flowers over the top of the grave. My mom brought a rose from my grandma's rose bush and little night light to leave there. Then, once it was all arranged - the rains came again. It was like God was saying, ok, time to go home now. 

I've always hated cemeteries and funerals but this one was oddly comforting. We have felt all along that taking care of Desmond's body was our job, and it felt like we are pretty much done with that job. Now our job is grieving and figuring out what 'normal' looks like for us. 

Later that evening, we took some white balloons that my friend Stacy had given us, to the riverfront. We all tied notes and pictures to the balloons and we released them. I was nervous they might get tangled in trees or slump into someone's yard, but they sailed off so high, we couldn't see them anymore.


Afterwards, we decided to stop at a local ice cream shop for some dessert. I was feeling good. Things were going okay and I wasn't crying constantly (finally). I ordered our ice creams and paid, and turned around... and there behind me in line was a woman with an enormous round pregnant belly. And I just lost it. I like to believe I kept it in enough that *most* people around didn't realize I was crying, but David definitely noticed. We got our orders and got into the car as fast as we could. 

In the days since, I am learning this is a pretty common thing, both for me in day to day life, and for all parents who have lost a child. There are triggers you can plan for - when you know you'll see or hear or do something hard. Then there are triggers like a pregnant woman behind you in line, or seeing a little baby boy on a TV show, that you can't plan for, and instantly all the emotion and sadness rushes back into you. I am starting to feel like I can't leave my house. I know I'll see things that are hard for me to deal with. I know I will look like a crazy person crying in public like that. 

Each day is not easier than the one before. It's been a week today - today is Sunday and he was born last Sunday. So I know it's still new and fresh and raw. Parts of days are different. I have not been waking up sad like the first few days. I feel ok for awhile each morning. Then The Sads creep in. It's hard to shake. It comes on at odd times. Jacinda is in many ways a great distraction because she requires so much attention, time, and care. And in other ways, she can be a trigger, because she's still just a ten-month-old baby herself, so the cute little things she does remind me that Desmond won't do those things, that he's not coming, that she's not going to be a big sister. Truman made an offhand comment, which I know he never intended to hurt me, that he "wished he had a brother to wrestle with," when Penny was telling him to stop trying to wrestle her. I know he thought nothing of it, but it cut me deeply and I began to cry (right there in the checkout line of Dick's sporting goods). Standing in line for ice cream the other night one of Lucy's friends was chatting with her and said, "I heard your mom is pregnant again?" and Lucy say, "Well she was... but he died." Then that girl's mother - who I know knows what happened because she posted a "so sorry" on Facebook - never made eye contact me, never spoke a word to me. Which is worse than saying something wrong and putting your foot in your mouth. I get that it's awkward and no one knows what to say or do, but say something, anything. Acknowledge the grief and sadness that consumes me. Ignoring me makes me feel like an outcast, like no one wants to ever talk about my baby and people want me to forget him and 'move on.' 

So that's the very non-sugar-coated version of where I'm at right now. Still lots of crying. Still lots of sadness. I sometimes ask why did this have to happen, but I know there is no answer. Now I just have to figure out how to be semi-normal, how to keep it together enough to take care of my kids and myself, and what comes next for our family.

***

I love you Desmond. You were a surprise, and I admit I was not super excited to have back to back babies again at first, but after you started flipping around and moving, I started to love you. I wanted you, and I would give anything to have you back again. I feel so guilty that I didn't want you at first and I will pray for forgiveness for that for the rest of my life. I'm glad I got to be your mom for 4.5 months and I'm no longer afraid of death because I have someone so amazing waiting for me on the other side of it.

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