Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Our Story

The Service, Part 7

The night before the service, Craig and I sat down to fill out his memory book. The hospital had given it to us. It asked us questions like "Would I have had a nickname?" "What would we have done at Christmas?" "What color was my hair going to be?" It was heartbreaking creating a fake life for our very real son. But at the same time, it was nice to sit through and do this with my husband. There was a section to write letters to our baby boy. To this day, what my husband wrote is one of the most touching and most heartbreaking things I have ever read. We wanted this book on display at his funeral. I wanted everyone to read what Craig had written.

We headed into Saturday, the day of his funeral, without ever hearing from the priest. I had picked out a few readings I wanted read and a poem I wanted to read. It was going to be a small service, so I wasn't overly concerned about never having talked to the priest. I should have been, but, regrets will get you no matter what, right?

The service was around noon. I don't remember the exact time. How weird is that? I remember having to be at the funeral home early to set up our cherished items. Craig and I woke up, got dressed, packed the few bags of stuff in the car, and stopped at a gas station. While standing in line to buy ourselves a couple of caffeinated beverages (not a lot of sleep was being had) I noticed the early edition of the Sunday paper.

"Should we get one?" I asked

"Do you want one?"

"Yeah."

"You don't ever buy the paper."

I looked at him, and looked away.

"His obituary will be in this paper."

"Oh."

We bought the paper.

We get the funeral home and lug in the bags of stuff. My parents had brought that hand made cradle and it was in front of the little room where his service would be held. My mom had her photo album she had made and 2 framed pictures. An 8x10 of Curtis and a 5x7 of the three of us. I started unpacking the bags we had brought when I realized a crucial one was missing. The one with the outfits we had picked out. The one with his teddy bear blanket.

"Craig!" I cried out, in desperation. "It isn't here, all of his stuff, it is at home." All of a sudden it was like it was crashing all down on me.

We had been on "go" since the minute we found out he was gone. Must call people. Must deliver. Must spend time with him. Must get pictures. Must go home. Must plan the funeral. Must have the funeral. All of a sudden I knew it was coming to an end. Everything I could do for Curtis would be over soon and I would be left with myself to grieve. Having things to do for him took away the time to sit and think. And I had forgotten something.

Craig raced home and grabbed the extra bag we had forgotten. We had so many things on display. Ultrasound photos. An angel figurine my aunt had sent. Flowers that had been arriving non stop at my door step and at the funeral home. His cradle. The handmade quilt. The book we wrote. Pictures, the photo album, and....the temporary urn that houses his ashes.

Of course, in typical fashion, the teddy bear urn we had ordered was on back order. We were given a temporary huge brass urn that was about as ugly as they come. I didn't care, I had bigger fish to fry, but it was just typical of the way things were going for us.

People started to arrive. You can feel the awkwardness. They never knew Curtis like we knew Curtis. I wanted people to look at the items. I encouraged them to read our letters to him. I let them cling to me and sob. I asked my mom to ask people NOT to hug me. I was in a ton of pain. My milk had come in and I was just aching when anyone slightly brushed against me. So having people cling to me and cry was not something I found comfort in. I wanted nothing more than to shove them back, but figured that may not be appropriate behavior at my son's funeral. So I let them cling to me and popped a few more Advil.

I remember Craig's gram hugging me, crying, saying "It shouldn't be like this." I remember my grandma telling me we could try again. And, one image burned into my memory is Craig's "second mom" Diane, whom he had known his whole life, reaching up, touching his face, and saying "Oh sweetie," Our son's funeral was the last day we would ever see her alive. The next time would be at her funeral a shocking 10 days later.

There were people at his service that I was just baffled by. I am not close with my some of my aunts and uncles, yet they attended. I remember thinking "I said close friends and close family. Why in the world are people I see MAYBE once a year here and I don't have others here who I see weekly?" That was, and still is, frustrating for me. I understand they are family, but some of them didn't even talk to me at my son's funeral. Craig has a family large extended family and some close relatives were not invited. It is a point of contention with me. Looking back, if I had to do it over, we would have had a large service, open to anyone.

One of my aunts pressed a gift into my hand. My cousin clung to me and cried. She told me she didn't usually think baby boys were cute, but Curtis' pictures, he was cute. I stood awkwardly with my friends. Craig and I watched as two friends of ours that had met and dated after our wedding saw each other for the first time since breaking up. Craig and I actually joked to see eachother that they hooked up at our wedding, maybe they would get back together at our son's funeral. Yes, a tasteless joke, but laughter really got us through a lot of these moments.

We were getting close to the time the service was going to start and the priest wasn't there yet. I flagged down Colin to ask him what was going on. He had no idea and would call over the church. I told him it was okay, I had a few things I could read and would do it myself. He said he would check. The priest showed right at noon. I threw a few readings at him as the service was about to start.

The guy was disaster. If it hadn't been Curtis' funeral it would have been comical. I cannot believe this guy is a public speaker for a living. He stammered his way through a few bible passages he had picked out. The beautiful readings I picked out that flowed so beautifully, he stammered through. He forgot my name a handful of times. At one point he said "Craig and .... " turned his head to look at the table with Curtis' ashes on display, trying desperately to see my name somewhere. Someone shouted out my name from the audience.

Finally, the torture of him speaking was over and I stood up to read a poem I had found. I heard someone gasp from the room. I know they couldn't believe I was getting up to speak.

What was funny was that morning while setting up for the service I had mentioned to my mom I had a poem I wanted to read.

"You mean someone else will read it."

"No, me."

"Sweetie, someone else will read it."

"No, ME!"

"Honey..."

"Mom. He is my son. I am reading the damn poem!"

She shut her mouth after that one.

I know it is hard for others to imagine, but he was MY son. I spent 9 months with him. I made him, I grew him, and reading this poem was the only thing I had left.

Craig and I held hands and walked up to the front. I know my voice was shaking, but I barely shed a tear. I told everyone not to feel too sorry for us. Because we would do it all over again to hold our son. It was worth it. Every moment of heartbreak was worth it. Because we had a baby boy. No matter where he was, he was forever with us.

The end of the poem I read sticks with me in my darkest moments to this day:
"We are richer by far
To have held you a moment
Then to have never held you
At All"

5 comments:

sally said...

This is another tragic post, yet beautiful. I know what you mean about running out of things to do for your child, and just running on autopilot those days from finding out and the birth up to the funeral. People stupidly said to me after the funeral - "so are you feeling better now that is behind you" but every day after the funeral I have felt worse. I'm still on that downward spiral. I bet your Curtis was a beautiful boy.
Sally

Sara said...

Over the course of a few visits I've read your story and so appreciate you sharing. I know sometimes the writing process is for yourself, but there is something about being able to share it with you that enhances all of our lives.

My friend lost her 11 year old to cancer, and so much of what you talk about in those days after Curtis died remind me of what they went through. Losing and child and no longer being able to parent them is universal, no matter how old or young they are when they go. I'm thrilled you have your daughter, but no one replaces your son.

You stopped by my site today and left the "Welcome to Holland" writing... thanks for that. She said it so much better than I could recall and I appreciate you taking the time to put it there.

sara (gitz)

Paige said...

I can't understand NOT wanting to speak at your child's funeral.

Cara said...

Again - stunning post. I don't remember much from Emma's funeral either. My mother actually had to remind me that it was raining that day. How does one forget that??

I remember a handful of things. Here are my top four:
1)Sitting on a donut becuase I was in so much physical pain.
2)I asked for the casket to already be in the ground...it wasn't.
3)Standing up in front of everyone to expain the significance of Emma's song. and
4) Watching people process in a long slow line as each put a flower on her tiny white casket.

Your absolutly right. After that day I was left with just empty TIME on "maternity leave" but they might as well have printed "hell" on the memo portion of my pay stubs. The beginning of grief is too raw to remember, maybe that is why we don't.

Nutmeg1976 said...

The service. We decided to do a wake, no viewing since he was only 24 weeks, but we had a wake. It was open to the public, that is what we do in our family. Some people questioned us and thought it was wrong. But he is our son, he lived and he deserved to have his moment too. Reading what other people decided helps me know that we did the best we could for our baby.

We had a funeral for him at our church. THen the funeral home took him and cremated him. We too decided to keep him home since we don't know where we will be in 10 years, and we couldn't leave anyone behind. People questioned us about that decision too. Why can't people et you be and know that you have to do what id right for you, not them.