Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where all sparrows get to fly

I'm writing this post on my daughter's burial (a couple hours ago) from my husband's work. Naturally. It's a small company, and they really need him, you see. Heap big meeting tomorrow morning and all.   Since a couple of very good friends have (again) taken initiative to watch my kids so we could recover from the events of the day, I figured the least I could do is go to the office with Dan and make everyone feel blisteringly uncomfortable by my quiet grieving presence. I'm in a rule-breaking mood anyway. Though hubby was able to talk me out of serenely telling his co-workers that I was on suicide watch and could not be left alone; nor was I allowed to start wailing in the elevator on the way up to the top floor downtown. Too bad... It seemed pretty funny to me. It's hard not to take advantage of such rich opportunities for practical jokes to create something to smile about.

To be fair, there were genuine smiles today. It was the first day of spring weather in Cranston, first that I had noticed anyway.  I wasn't looking for it; it was just there. Warm sun. Singing birds. My first sighting of butterflies this year. Two flickered right in front of my face, so close I heard their wings. Of course I took it as a sign... How could I not?

I admit I woke this morning in a cold sweat.  Doing something tragic every day for the past five days has taken its toll.  But I was quickly distracted by a bustling morning of breakfast for six, five darker blue and purple dresses and one suit (okay, four darkish dresses... Cecilia, who is happy as a clam in this atmosphere of extra outings and attention, announced "The baby wants me to wear pink! PINK!!" I wasn't going to argue.)  I put on makeup wondering why the heck I bothered when I knew I was going to cry it all off anyway. But on it went, because hope springs eternal. 
Our arrival at the cemetery chapel only five minutes late (a miracle in itself), met up with my parents, and finally found our chapel was Chapel 4 (with all the saints in heaven, you use numbers, really?? Okay fine.) We entered an empty stone chapel with all of two chairs, and a small table before an enormous crucifix.  And then without warning or ceremony, the funeral personnel walked in carrying a familiar white box and placed it on the table.  And then departed.

The priest was late.  Perpetua was there.  My kids were curious, and immediately dumped all their prepared artwork on top of the coffin. Cecilia was attempting to climb the crucifix.
So what do you do? Take pictures with your iPhone of course! A time-honored ritual for grieving.  Gosh, it's hard to know what's right to do when everything feels so wrong... I kept trying to document whatever I would wish I had done looking back when I'm 70 and thinking of the little one I lost. I hope I did it. Golly, I sure tried.

Fr. Wilson finally came, the same priest who had baptized my oldest when she was born at 32 weeks. So glad he could come! Prayerful and compassionate, he began the prayers for the dead; subsection, the death of a child.

The comfort of the familiar ritual was blessedly soothing. Greeting each other with "the Lord be with you; and with your spirit." The prayers for comfort of the bereaved parents, with a slight hiccup when he prayed for "Katie and Paul" (naturally my husband chimed in, "Uh Katie, who's Paul?") Then the reading of the scripture of how not a sparrow falls without the Father's notice.

The pastor then spoke to my children about how much much more we are worth than sparrows. How it is sad when a sparrow dies, especially before it could fly. How we all wished Perpetua could have had her chance to "fly" in this world. But how she was meant for heaven, was born into heaven, to fly in heaven and live the life God has planned for her.

Gosh I'm glad we believe in heaven.

The short service was ended.  I would have had a Mass said if I knew we had a chapel to use, but everything has been so rushed... and perhaps it's for the best since Cecilia would have most certainly scaled the crucifix.  I asked if I could take Perpetua to her final resting place.  The coffin was small, easily portable, the gravesite a stone's throw away.  But naturally, regulations said no. Thankfully it was the last time they could mess with her. I sighed, picking her up for the last time in a quick hug.

Then we made our way to the burial site at the children's section, a.k.a. "Babyland."  (Yep, "Babyland." Good grief.... Filled with spots which, to any child, were awesome outdoor play stations.

Well if you're 18 months old, I can see where the confusion set in.  Then Cecilia (extremely proud of herself) found lollipops.  Yes, apparently, from grave decorations.  I found out a bit late... Oh.  Dear.

Assuring nothing else was broken or swapped from grave to grave kept me distracted till the truck came with this enormous cement box, with a hook and crane to transport it.  Perpetua did fly for a couple moments there, from the truck bed to the earth, and swung to her final resting place. Finally.
What a huge box! "I didn't put diamonds in there" I tried to joke to the crew, then was instantly sad again because she's much more precious.

Yes, it was sad to see my child in a box on the ground. But I had to chuckle at the immensity of the hole and iron security of the huge box for my little baby. And I was glad at the amount of respect she was being shown. This was what every baby at any stage deserved if they left this world too soon. I was happy Perpetua got that.

FYI, grave digging and filling seems like a great job. Unionized, you know. They take their time. An hour to place the coffin, and another hour to get the dirt. While we waited, we had a blanket spread over the absurdly huge box, and strew petals from my roses.  

I didn't mind waiting. It was the last earthly waiting I could do for her. I'd expected to do so much more waiting for this baby: in pediatrician's offices, to come out of the bathroom, to get out of class, to call me on the phone. As it was, all I could wait for now was to see she was covered up while I watched and loved her. I was happy to wait for Perpetua.

A visitor came to the gravesite my kids had apparently dubbed "Most Entertaining" due to the collection of cool solar powered little animals that wiggled their ears and arms.  Cecilia was imitating them and if I'd been in a different mood, I would totally have filmed it.  The grave was for a baby named Faith, and her mom had come with flowers.  She saw me by the open grave and so naturally we hugged each other on sight. Yes that's what women do. We briefly shared our stories. Hers is, in some way, twice as sad as mine... Faith was lost at 34 weeks due to "fetal distress" which is apparently a catch-all term for "we really don't know." The woman insisted I call her and gave me her phone number, because it would "help her to help me."
I know exactly as she feels. After this experience, I want my number to be considered a miscarriage hotline. Seriously. Women should have someone to call when they are in all kinds of mental and physical pain, bleeding and praying their baby "stays in," instead of calling in to a nurse who just says "come in if you soak two pads."  There is no good reason anyone should suffer this alone. I'm grateful that at least this time, as awful as this loss has been, I was never alone. Thanks in part, to all of you.

Soon came Cecilia's favorite part in what was--for her--a pretty entertaining day: the dump truck. "Oh wow!" She kept shouting. Oddly enough, I felt some of her joy and a strange relief when the roar of dirt and rocks fell over the cement box. I actually managed a faint "Woo hoo!"  Perpetua was at rest in every way. I had done all I could. Now to go home to tend to the kids who still need me here before Felicity robbed any more graves or the preschooler had to go potty, and time to start saving up for a headstone...

And that's when the biggest sister broke down in long, aching sobs.  "Mommy, it's just so sad seeing my little sister get buried!" Damn straight Annemarie.  This is sad.  This has all been so sad. Dan and I sat her down on the bench and hugged her tight and spoke of things eternal. And cool grave decorations with holiday themes.

I know this grief and the grieving of my family will be a process never fully completed.  And I don't ever want to be completely "over it."  Part of me is "lost" to heaven now... funny how that actually doesn't sound so bad, come to think of it?  Nothing is ever truly lost with the Lord.  I thank you all for being here with me on this journey. I appreciate that others have suffered with me, and many more than me. I will be really reflecting on the sufferings of Jesus these next few days, and recalling how He conquered death so that we don't have to fear it. How He did all this because He loves little Perpetua. And me.

"Oh my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you into the land of Israel... I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land.  Then you shall know that I am the Lord." Ezekiel 37:12,14

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart breaks that another mom joins this sad club that no one should ever be a part of. Praying for you and your family.