Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Our Story Part 5

Coming home

I don't remember the drive home, but I do remember walking in the door. We were greeted by a very eager puppy. She wiggled, and jumped, and spun in circles over and over. I knelt down, very slowly, sat on the floor and let her climb all over and lick me. It felt good. It felt like coming home.

We had gotten her in December of 05. I was about 4 months pregnant and everyone thought I was crazy to get a puppy in the dead of winter AND with a new baby on the way. People told me I wouldn't have time for her when the baby would be born. That my priorities would shift. That she wouldn't get any attention. She would get lonely and be destructive.

Needless to say, they were wrong. Very wrong.

My parents had stopped over the night before to let her out. They offered to take her back to their place since we would be gone over night. As selfish as it was, I said no. Even though it meant she would be locked up in our kitchen, I wanted to come home to her. I wanted the puppy licks. Coming home to an empty silent house would have been too much too handle.

I had asked my parents to remove the major baby items from the living room. The boppy, the swing, and whatever else I had left laying about. I didn't expect them to go through my cupboards or anything, but I just wanted things tossed into the nursery.

What ached the most? The handmade, family heirloom cradle was noticeably gone. My grandfather made it about 10 years earlier and gave it to my mom to loan to each of her grandchildren to sleep in. My brother's three kids had all used it. Curtis was to be the fourth. It had been in our living room. I remember the day my mom brought it over. She took a picture of Craig and I standing next to the cradle. She said "I can put these pictures side by side. You and Craig and the empty cradle. And then you, Craig, and the baby in the cradle."

Talk about a haunting statement. I wonder what ever happened to that picture? I never saw it.

Craig and I fell into our normal "at home" routine. I sat down at my computer to check my email and message boards. I have tons of online friends and communities I belong to. I wanted to post, I wanted to tell people I was okay, I wanted their words of comfort. I wanted them to know my anger and hurt....but I wanted them to know my son. Craig made a few phone calls, letting people know we were home.

While I was posting online and sending out email when Craig's phone rang.

It was the funeral home.

They asked to meet with us to go over our wishes and thoughts.

Good lord. I could barely spell my own name at this point. We were so exhausted. We agreed to a later afternoon meeting.

We decided to try to take a nap before meeting with the funeral home. One of the things I remember most about the first few days, heck week, after losing Curtis was Craig and I glued to each other's sides. He went into the kitchen, so did I. One of us woke up, we stayed by the other's side until the other woke up.

We laid down in the bed together. Tears falling from both of our eyes. I used to lay in bed and not be able to see down to the bedpost. Now that my stomach was deflated, I could see it again. Out of habit, I rubbed my hand over my stomach. If felt squishy and flabby, where it used to feel hard and firm. I jerked it away and started to sob.

We fell into a restless sleep.

Our parents wanted to come to the funeral home with us. We still hadn't discussed what we were going to do. In Craig's Catholic family the norm is a viewing of the body, full burial, cemetery plot, the whole nine yards.

I knew Craig and I were not prepared, financially or emotionally, to decide where Curtis' resting place would be...forever. The only thing I knew for sure was wherever he ended up, I wanted to be next to him sometime in the future. I didn't want to decide that right that second. I knew we couldn't afford 3 cemetery plots. Craig and I had never even discussed OUR wishes in the event of our deaths.

When we were getting dressed, an idea came to me. I wanted Curtis to come home with us. It wasn't the way we had wanted, but I couldn't stand him buried away from me.

I approached Craig with my idea. We have Curtis cremated and his ashes come home with us. Then, we take a small amount of those ashes up to Craig's family cabin and spread them on the lake shore. The rest of the ashes stay home with us. Then, in the future when we die, Curtis is placed with us. Wherever that may be. Whether we are buried or cremated.

The cabin idea was what sealed it for Craig. His family had owned that property for 30 years. Every summer as a boy, and now adult, he was up there numerous times. He liked the idea of sharing that with Curtis. Of having a piece of him at the place that meant so much to him.

Our in laws had mentioned "Baby Land" at local cemeteries. Rows and rows of babies all placed together at the cemetery. While I think the idea is sweet, I didn't want Curtis away from us. Our in laws were used to having a place to visit their loved one after they died. We solved this problem later, but I stuck firm to wanting his ashes home with us. I know they were just worried that having his ashes would make it hard on us. When, in fact, the thought of it gave me great comfort.

My parents drove us to the funeral home. I remember getting out of the car and my dad a step or two ahead. I was lingering, waiting for Craig to catch up and my dad reached back for my hand and I hesitated. My mom quickly said to him "She wants to hold hands with her husband." My dad's face fell, and he nodded. My heart broke for him. He didn't know how to comfort his daughter. His extending his hand wasn't meant as a replacement for my husband, it was just a dad trying to comfort his daughter.

We met a young man named Colin. He couldn't have been more than 24. I wanted to ask him how in the world was he in the funeral home business. I was fairly sure he was an intern of some sort as he stumbled his way through helping us. He was never unprofessional, and he did look completely comfortable helping us, but his choice of words and almost....happy....way of dealing with us was a little odd.

We sat down and he asked what we were thinking. I took a deep breath and explained to our families what we were thinking. Cremation. Small, close family and friends service, ashes home with us, spreading some at the lake. Everyone nodded, eyes being dabbed. "I...I ...we....just need him home. "

With Colin's help, we came up with a small obituary. This is another regret. He gave us one that we modeled Curtis' after. Now, I wish it had more details. I wish it had said how much we loved him. I wish it said I was pregnant 40 weeks.

Only living people get obituaries. This was one of the few pieces of evidence that I would have that Curtis was a living human being. And I mucked it up.

We agreed to a small service on Saturday. I had stated close friends and family. So, essentially, Curtis' funeral was invitation only. Colin encouraged us to bring music we like, he encouraged us to bring special items of his. He said the ashes could be on display.

Craig looked confused. I realized he thought there would be a viewing. He didn't fully understand that cremation is instead of a viewing. I touched his arm and shook my head no. My heart ached. I thought he knew when we said goodbye to him in the hospital, that was the last time. With the way Craig had been a part of funerals in the past, there had always been a viewing. He had assumed that with Curtis. Craig nodded. To this day, the look on his face haunts me. He looked stunned, but agreed. For me.

Colin pulled out a catalogue and wanted us to pick out an urn. He said there wasn't much for children and we were welcomed to pick an adult one though it may be very big. He flipped to the back page and showed us the 4 urns we had to pick from. Two were very girly. One was a blue box with an angel boy engraved on it. One was a teddy bear. I looked at the prices. The blue box one was $150, the teddy bear was $500. I pointed to the blue box one, despite the fact I didn't really like it.

Money had been tight for Craig and I. We were deeply in debt and struggling to make ends meet. I felt guilty for wanting the $500 urn. Craig shook his head and said he really wanted the teddy bear one.

I couldn't help but sob. Here I was, so concerned about the prices. I didn't even realize how I had been planning on dropping $1,000 a month in daycare, and I felt guilty about spending $500 on my son's urn. I agreed to the teddy bear. In a weird way, I was excited about that urn.

We didn't have a priest local and Colin said he could arrange someone to come and say a few words, if we liked. We agreed, thankful for not having to go through the work of it ourselves. He said he would make a few phone calls and we should expect the priest to be calling us within the next day.

We left the funeral home and my parents dropped us off, hugged us, and left. They were drained. I have no idea how it feels to be them, they were grieving their grandchild, but they also ached so much for us.

I saw something sitting outside our front door and went to look. There, all over our front patio, were 4 or 5 flower deliveries.

"Why in the world are people sending us flowers?" I wondered to myself. I was truly baffled.

Then it hit me. People send flowers when someone had died. I was still in shock.

My son had died. People send flowers when someone has died.

My son was dead.

5 comments:

Paige said...

A parent should never have to attend their child's funeral. (((HUGS)))

eggorchicken said...

I'm so sorry that Curtis died - it's so unfair.

But this is an incredible tribute to him. We can all see how much he was loved. This is a wonderful testament of his life, and his presence in your lives.

Yvonne
x

Anonymous said...

I must admit, I think we preferred the plants we received when Hope died. The flowers all just died, and it was horrible throwing them out. At least the potplants, like the children's rose bush we were given, will live on...
Your story is so well written, you sound like an amazing person. I hope your daughter is brining much love and laughter back to your life.
Sally

Cara said...

I, like Sally, feel a strong connection to your story. My Emma Grace was born still on September 8, 2000. We have traditions around her birthday as well and will celebrate on Monday. I have also gone on to have more children. They are currently 5 and 3. They are the lights of my life...but they are not their sister. She still lives on for us in a myriad of ways.

Thank you for bravely sharing your story and your heart. You are an amazing mother to both your kids and it shows through your writing. Healing is a lifetime process and sharing it with common souls is a wonderful way to feel supported.

We, childless mothers, are lucky to have each other.

Nathansma said...

You have such a way with words. I can so relate to the emotions that you have shared here. One of my favorite lines you used was about "needing an epidural for your heart." My daughter was born at 20 weeks. Like yours, I had a wonderful pregnancy with no warning signs of trouble whatsoever. So, a shock it was! By the third day, the morning of her funeral, when I thought I was finally getting a handle on the loss, my milk came in and I realized I didn't have a baby to nurse. Although she wasn't still born she only lived for about an hour. Our very large family was able to hold and love her. And we took lots of pictures as well. We celebrate her life every year. Unlike you though, since we already had a one year old son, I was never able to chance having another child and possibly reliving that hell. I salute you.

If you or others would like to read more about my daughter you can at:

http://nathansma.blogspot.com/2008/07/angel-ruths-ma-too.html

(you may have to copy and paste)

Looking forward to your next post. I am still healing after 6 years.