Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lunch with Pepper

I always come through the back entrance, which sneaks behind a pleasant little elementary school full of noise and life and art projects in classroom windows.  From there, I keep the river on my left for about a quarter of a mile, the lines of gravestones filed up for acres on my right.  Then suddenly, there's some on the left too, right beside the river.  That's where I slow down, and find the one tree to park under for shade.

A statue of Mary overlooks "Babyland," gesturing a quiet, serene surrender with her hands open, palms facing forward.  The mother of Jesus stands watch over these sleeping little ones, including my own.  She's been in that child care position for about three months now.  I wonder when I'll get "used" to that.  

I take a deep, cleansing breath before getting out of the car.  I have learned that I always cry there, so far, but I'm seeking control and calm while doing so.  Particularly this day because, for the first time since I was blissfully pregnant and unaware of trouble, I was going to be alone with her, no other visitors beside me to be strong for.  The kids are in their last week of school, my little ones are being watched, and it's just me and "Pepper," which as you know, we decided was a good nickname for "Perpetua Grace." 

I jump out of the van, carrying an extremely non-glamorous lunch from "Tinkerbell" (the name my three year-old gives "Taco Bell.")  Usually a visit here entails a sigh, crouching down, dusting off and rearranging what the mowers disrupted, leaving something new--a flower from my girls, stopping Cecilia from harvesting cool grave decor from the neighbors, and then running like hell to keep Felicity from prematurely joining her little sister in eternity as she dashes gleefully for the (albeit quiet) road.  

But today, I wanted to have lunch with her.  Just me and her and chirping birds.

So far so good.  It's breezy and sunny.  I'm peaceful.  This was a great idea.  Time to just be present with what was and what is to come.  

I've brought her a toy.  Opening the truck, I groaned.  The large pinwheel had been caught under the stroller.  Dumping my fancy white and purple plastic lunch bag, I struggled to disengage it, finally succeeding.  There was only a small mark on the green petal of the pinwheel.  A mark, I realized, that had been left by my best double stroller, the one that she would have ridden in with Felicity... 

Blinded by tears now, I slam the trunk, grab the bag, and walk choking with sobs towards her site.  I take time to visit "Faith," the girl whose mom I met here the day of the funeral.  Hoping to go to the zoo with my fellow loss mama sometime soon...  And then I make my way to Pepper.  

I love her spot.  Well, as much as one can love one's child's grave.  Great tiny piece of property. It's actually shaded!  Right beside a stone bench, the statue, and the trees that grow beside the river.  

The site is being reseeded, again.  Custodians are determined for grass to grow there despite the shade, so that the bare rectangle of earth will forever blend in with the rest of the yard as soon as possible.  I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad about that.  This is still kinda surreal.

Turns out, it's hard to eat and grieve at the same time, but I had a bite to say I did it.  I dusted off the fake flowers I left last time, shuddered at the bugs scrambling when I moved the damp little statues, arranged the bouquets beside the Stop and Shop cherub on clearance and the stone angel that really looks... stoned.  I mean totally on crack, staring blankly at me.  Cool.  An excuse to shop for her!

Ignoring the noble attempts at reseeding, I lay down on the grave and closed my eyes.  It crossed my mind that someone might see me, and that I might be cutting a pretty pathetically tragic figure out here with this brilliant idea... but you know what they tell you when you give birth?  "Honestly, you won't care who's there at the time."  And I really didn't.  My heart was as close as possible to her, and this was the best I could do. 

The last time I'd spent this much time in a cemetery was in a college class: "Aestheticism and Mysticism," given by Dr. Timothy O'Donnell.  One class we were simply bused to a graveyard, told to walk around in silence, reflect, and pray.  I remembering looking at the stones with names obscured by time, known now only to God.  That each of these markers stands for a life in another world, one even more vibrant and alive than this one.  That she is there, and happy, and knows I am here, thinking of her.

Faith is cool, huh?  :)

It makes all the difference in this world for me now, for sure.  Because you know, I was totally crazy about this 17 week old fetus.  Really adored her.  Forever sad that she is gone.  Cannot imagine the grief of someone who actually chose to be parted from such a small but precious life.  

I pray for them a lot these days, the living victims of abortions: the mothers.  Even the ones who are currently happy with their choice.  Because however many years they are happy, they will never be free of the possibility of sudden and severe regret, and feeling this awful grief.  I pray they find the love of God at the same time.  They are still much-loved mothers, even if their babies are now in eternity.  Like mine.   

I got up eventually, and realized that dirt is dirty, and I was an absolute sight.  And did you know that dirt and tears make mud?  Who would have thunk.  It was melodramatic enough to be humorous, which was helpful.  I smiled and brushed off with brown Taco Bell napkins, pushed the pinwheel in as deep as I could, and stood to admire the set-up. (Note Taco Bell cup behind seriously stoned angel.:)

The pinwheel clattered noisily in the wind.  Now she'll be the loudest one there.  Knowing my kids, I bet she would have been.  

As I drove away, I turned to blow her a kiss. The pinwheel spun joyfully as though she, too, for now, was waving goodbye.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, 
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, 
nor anything else in all creation, 
will be able to separate us from the love of God 
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39


  1. Wow, Kate... I can't even begin to imagine the grief you've been dealing with. I wish there was something I could say or do to take it away; yet I know there is nothing. So, know that as your faith sustains you; I am praying you will be filled with peace, God's peace & that you will sense His loving arms wrapped around you.
    I am so sorry, my friend.

  2. Thank you Gail; I somehow find it very helpful to write it out, and I really appreciate the prayers. I am meaning this to be a reflective piece as opposed to "please feel badly for me" though so... I must clarify that I'm in one piece; it can be very sad, but the grace of God is very strong. :) And I should further clarify that "Tinkerbell" was simply on the way, that there is water in the cup, and that I ordered a chicken cantina bellawhatever: therefore, I am eating healthy. Really. :D

  3. Katie, it is amazing, the gift you have to counsel through the written word; even in the depths if grief. Thank you for sharing this difficult part if your journey here on earth, and using it (or letting yourself be a vessel for) God's grace.

  4. Katie..this made me cry. I'm so sorry again about your loss...prayers and hugs.