Wednesday, May 29, 2013
"I'll Love You Forever, I'll Like you For Always...." **PHOTOS**
On November 28, 2000, we filed into a medium sized room at Olinger Magnolia Funeral Home. I was dressed in black from head to toe, my husband was wearing a suit with a tie. I vaguely remember the day, I vaguely remember the drive to the funeral home. When we arrived, the wonderful Funeral Home Director escorted us to our viewing location for Hunter. The flowers that were sent were already displayed but I was told that I could move them anywhere I would like. To the left and behind Hunter's tiny open casket was a ficus tree my OB/GYN had personally sent in Hunter's memory. There were air-brushed carnations, a Peace Lily from my favorite Aunt-in-law and a little pot with a variety of plants from my husband's employers. When I went to kneel down beside Hunter's casket, I took a deep breath in. No one had told me that the mortician was unable to embalm Hunter's tiny body so they had to wrap his precious little body in cotton dipped in Formaldehyde. Hunter's face was also wrapped in some kind of paper like substance that had been touched up with peach make-up. Hunter's chin was the only feature I could distinguish and it shocked me. With that deep breath, I nearly passed out. For an hour and half, I sat next to Hunter's casket. I was talking to him in a voice just above a whisper, describing each item I was including with him in his casket. I could hear the funeral home trying to get the music we had chosen set up and it kept skipping. After about the fifth time, I stood and walked to the sound room. We managed to get it settled. Our pastor finally arrived and asked us to take our seats. I honestly can't remember who was at the funeral but I do know that a friend of mine had to leave mid-service because it was too much for her to bear. I sat there, once again disconnected from this body. I could hear the pastor speaking but all I could focus on was Hunter's tiny blue and white checkered casket and the shape of his tiny, perfect head poking out of the top. At one point, my husband grabbed my hand and said the pastor wanted us to stand up and say what we would say to Hunter if he were still here. My husband walked me up to the podium, put my hands on it, reminded me of the paper I was holding that I had stayed up for nearly two nights writing and told me to go ahead. At some point, I will post that letter here but not for now. I remember being unsteady on my feet and my husband holding onto me as if I would blow away like a dead, crunchy leaf in October floats to the furthest limits in the sky if he let go. I was not eating at that point, I wasn't really hydrating. I didn't WANT to be here. I didn't WANT to eat. Food did nothing for me, I could hear the noise on t.v.'s and radio stations but it was in a language I couldn't understand, the screens were blank. As blank and hollow as my heart, just like my dreams and hopes for the future. Just like all of the plans for my baby who was now laying in a beautiful casket, just a little larger than he. When everyone had spoken and the pastor finished his sermon, we all stood and I was motioned to Hunter's casket. You see, I had asked beforehand if I could carry my precious boy to the limo waiting outside. I approached Hunter's final crib, gently closed the lid after kissing his head and lifted the tiny tomb my baby would forever rest in. My husband was there, he made sure I was steady before he let me out of arm's reach. Everyone filed behind us, my husband on my right and my best friend on my left, as we exited the funeral home through the back doors to the limo waiting outside. As we exited the life celebration room, my pastor began to pray, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..". As he continued, I was thinking about what I was going to do next. I was going to commit my precious baby, my perfect baby in the perfect blue and white checkered casket to the ground. I almost fell and nearly dropped Hunter. My husband and best friend grabbed each arm, supporting Hunter as we walked to the limo just outside the doors. The black limo, dark as night when the moon is switched off and there are no clouds to illuminate your way. It was sort of appropriate I suppose. My heart was now as black as that dark limo waiting to carry me in the last ride I would ever share with my baby. Steering me toward Hunter's new home, for eternity. On the way to the cemetery, my husband, my best friend and I were seated in the furthest cushioned leather bunch seat in the back of the limo. In the middle was Hunter. I kept my hand on his tiny casket, a casket that shouldn't exist in this size, a casket that now held a baby who NEVER should have died, the entire ride. I recall that our driver was an elderly man who, I think with Hunter's gentle guidance, brought the three of us to sudden, ridiculous laughter with his INCREDIBLY slow driving. I remember thinking after the laughter vanished and maddening silence returned that I must be going mad. How else could a mother who is about to bury her child POSSIBLY laugh. Especially now, as I held on to what I could of Hunter as we drove to the plot we had chosen for him in the 'Baby Land' section of the cemetery just off Tower Road, next to the train tracks where the only frequent guests are broken hearts and small wildlife. When we reached Baby Land, I exited the limo and asked to carry Hunter to his final resting place. Just feet away Mary stood with her arms outstretched in a gesture to comfort the now childless, fractured, hopeless shell of parents who encountered her. My request was denied, I can now assume the gentle denial was because of the very near miss at the funeral home. I wasn't in the mood to argue and I didn't have the strength or will anymore so I watched as the Funeral Director picked my adorable cherub baby up and carried him to the green tent surrounding the spot we had chosen for Hunter. I was instructed to sit in the first row of strategically aligned chairs, just across from the unit my baby would be laid on just before he was lowered into the cold, frozen, crisp ground. The November air was so crisp that it burned your lungs as you drew a breath. I sat there, motionless and without a sound as the graveside memorial begin. Halfway through the service, as planned, I stood, walked to Hunter and sat down. I read aloud, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." No one else was there and I was still watching myself from afar, perhaps from a branch on the large, crooked Oak Tree next to Mary. The entire service, all I could think about was how I wanted to climb in with my son, my cherished baby boy and leave this painful, barren existence. I was slapped out of my day dreams of ending this pain by the pastor saying, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...". I remained still and quiet as others came up to hug me, tell me how sorry they were, to call if I needed anything, kiss my forehead or hand and tell me they had to get back to work. When everyone was gone, I remained seated and said I wanted to stay as my baby was committed to the earth forever. Once again, my demand was denied. We were escorted to our waiting limo and told we could come back in an hour and half. As we drove around the half circle to the exit, past Mary with her beckoning arms and the bronze statue of the Bible, I never took my eyes off of Hunter's 'spot'. I knew I would be back soon and in no time at all, I would join my baby boy. I kept my eyes fixed to the spot where Hunter remains today as if I were trying to memorize the last image that would ever be burned into my crying, swollen eyes until long after we drove down the road that held my former future from me like a mean spirited child playing keep-away. The road that would forever hold the shreds of what my life as a Mom could have been until I couldn't see Hunter's plot any more. As I watched Hunter and Baby Land disappear, with the last grain I had to fight, I whispered to him under my breath, "I love you baby! I'll be with you soon".