What were you doing this time last year? Do you remember?…Do you remember where you were? who you were with? What you ate, wore or said? can you remember what the weather was doing on September 22nd 2014? If the answer is a big fat “NO”, then I don’t blame you, I can barely remember what I did last weekend or ate 2 days ago, let alone a whole year. But the 22nd of September is not a regular date to me anymore. Approaching it I knew It would be one I would never forget and here looking back its one I remember very vividly,
This time last year I buried my daughter. I had her inside of me for 9 months, held her briefly in my arms/looked at her for only 2 days and then we laid her to rest 5 days later. For many the build up has been all about remembering her birthday and the day we had found out she had passed…whilst these milestones have been anxiously anticipated too, and very hard to relive, they also held brief joyful moments we remember, (mainly being that I got to see what she looked like and hold her in my arms) and I wonder if many realise how terribly hard this anniversary is to face in comparison?
I have been dreading far more the day we had her funeral because it was the end of it all. It was the final day she was physically with all of our family. It was the only day the whole family were in her presence at the same time ever in her life. It was the day I knew I would never see her again in this life and I would never again have the opportunity to hold her or look at her. It was the day my heart properly broke as I watched her daddy, my husband, put that tiny casket into the ground. It was all so final and so that, not giving birth to a sleeping child, was in actual fact the hardest point of my life. So many have focused on the difficulty her birthday might have been, but this day is harder to remember and relive. I kissed her goodnight, Nath laid her down and tucked her in and then we put the lid on the casket late Wednesday night at the hospice and that was the last time we ever saw her.
So what did we plan for this day? What did we choose to do to celebrate and remember her and what did we do to mark the day we would never forget as our last with her? Well…
As we knew she was going to die I had planned a lot of her funeral whilst I was still carrying her. We gave family various assignments and asked them to be involved in different things. It helped a lot to know they were busy doing lovely things for her and felt useful too.
The thing I failed to plan was a funeral home…I found out after that many do baby/infant funerals for FREE, but as we had all that in hand, all we needed was for them to baby sit until the funeral. It took a while and a lot of tears and frustrating phone calls, but my mum was able to arrange with the funeral home that cared for Grandma to have a little space for Poppy to stay till her funeral…they even added the legal plaque to her casket for us with her name and date and this service cost us nothing.
We drove over and picked her up the morning of the funeral in our car and I remember the day was very much how it is today; mild and sunny. I was wearing a black dress with pink polkadots and pink blazer I had borrowed from my mum-in-law. I thought I looked really cool…I didn’t, but I wouldn’t be told by my trendy sister in laws because I thought it was nice and colourful and appropriate and I certainly didn’t want an outfit from my wardrobe that I would always remember I had worn to bury my child.
Being Mormons we held the service in the local LDS church in Beverly and it was packed – a symbol of the love we had around us from friends and family and a sign of all of the lives she had touched. It was a beautiful sight. All the music was a joint decision by Nathan and I and we spent a lot of time meticulously planning every point.
My dad carried her in to the church to Ellie Goulding “How long will I love you” which I know was very hard for him and a sight I hope none of us have to watch again. It was a great service to us though and one I will always be grateful for. We had a little table at the front with a white table cloth and there she sat for the service in her tiny white casket with painted poppies, made by her uncle.
I had a sty in my right eye from the stress of the previous week and being run down with it all, but it didn’t stop me.. I took the opportunity to say a few words as her mummy and Nath said some things too. Her grandma and one of her uncles read poems that I had chosen and we sang hymns that uplifted us and praised the Lord. I didn’t cry much surprisingly.. well not until Naths mum sang “All things bright and Beautiful” by John Rutter – then It got me!
We played “A thousand years” by Christina Perri to leave to and Nathan and I stood up and picked up the coffin and carried it back to our car. This moment was like I was a fly on the wall watching it… it seemed so surreal.
We chose a burial as it seemed right for us. We chose to bury her in Beverly also , near Nathan’s Grandparents and in a place that felt lovely for our family. The burial was family only and as I said, this was the hardest part – Nathan and I carried her from the car to the grave, and that act of love and duty as her parents together has become a deeply intimate part of our marriage. Once there, he said a prayer and then he lowered her in…everyone dropped roses on top and paused to say goodbye. Meanwhile his youngest sister played several hymns on the violin and whilst beautiful it was also all very harrowing.
The kids almost fell in at a few parts and enjoyed playing with the toys left on other graves. It was a reminder of their innocence and ability to accept that death is just a fact of life. As we left my eyes were drawn to a gorgeous butterfly flitting from flower to flower – it made me smile briefly and feel strength.
After the Cemetery we returned to his family home for food and dessert and socialising with friends. It was important to me that it felt like a bit of a birthday party as she would never have one and also because I didn’t want a depressing afternoon.
We had chosen to do Jacket potatoes which had been in the AGA all morning and my uncle made a HUGE pan of chilli to go with it. We then had provided and also asked people to bring desserts so had an immense amount of chocolate and cakes and general sugar overload…it was great and went well with the lovely drinks.
The day before we had made red tissue paper pom poms and hung them with a banner with her name on … I loved to see that and we kept it up at the house for a few days after. Also one of my besties had made a lovely Poppy seed Birthday cake for her – it was gorgeous and great thing she did for us.
It was nice to see everyone talking and enjoying being with one another. It was nice to see friends and catch up, and it was touching to know how far some had travelled.
Afterwards Nath, his brothers and the kids played a bit of footy in the garden and life appeared to return to a normal scene.
We just had a small coffin top made by my sister – we went to Morrisons and chose a variety of pinks, whites and colourful fun flowery things which she beautifully arranged and laughed at too as they didn’t really go together but as it was what I wanted she went with it.
We then had a vase of red poppies on the stand at church that Naths mum had ordered for us and that was all – it was enough, not too extravagant or costly, just beautiful and subtle.
And that was it.. it was over. Her brief encounter with us had passed and there we were, all the formalities of loosing a baby were over and it was time to get on with it..with what exactly? I wondered…Life? but what did that mean now? what was I to do? How would I survive it?
“Get through the first year and then you’ll be okay” seemed to be people’s views..all the 1sts and then life will be easier, but will It? I have made a year now. I am here. I have a check next to every anniversary and I am still sane and in an okay place. I am still finding joy in life, but guess what? It still hurts. I am still very much aware of what I have lost and today everything I try to do just seems a little insignificant when I think of the magnitude of what I was doing last year. I cried this morning as I sat at Ethan’s Welcome assembly as I realised how time has flown by, how special he is and how much of this I will miss in 3 years time when I remember again her burial and funeral instead of celebrating her starting school and a new chapter. How proud of him I felt, how beautiful the whole occasion and how positive it was to counteract that of last years 22nd of September events. But also a reminder of how much we will continue to realise we are missing with her and how special days are often tarnished by the memories of difficulty and loss.
*Special thanks to Nathans wonderful Cousin and her husband for capturing the funeral whilst on holiday from the states…I never realised how much Id want pictures of this day x