16 September 2011

Twenty-Four Inches {A Photo Reflection}

The funeral home asked me to bring with me something for him to wear. Neither of us could stand the thought of buying burial-appropriate baby clothes for our child. In a paper bag, I brought with me a normal little baby outfit I had gotten as a gift at one of my baby showers: a newborn-sized onesie with a smiling monkey stitched on the front, and green and brown striped pants that had a big monkey face on the rear end. I brought socks to match. It was adorable and accomplished our goal: we wanted him to look like a baby -- not a miniature adult.

We sat with the funeral home coordinator and discussed prayer cards and program types and photographs, and I didn't fall apart. We talked about burial options and proofing the death certificate and the best time for the service for all the family members coming from out of town. Then the woman we were working with escorted us to a room in the back to make a choice from a selection of caskets.

That's when I fell apart. I lost it at the sight of these burial boxes in miniature, of white velvety fabric covering twenty-four inches of very classic-looking casket with silver handles. Twenty-four inches made to look pretty that meant something terrible and ugly and wrong had happened. It had me wanting to climb the wood paneling looking for a way out. The first time seeing my baby dressed in anything, and he is laid out in a casket. This had to be a nightmare. Wake up, wake up, wake up! 

This couldn't be real. Please God. Don't let this be real.


We buried him on the day he would have been three weeks old, a day when the sky had the decency to be thick and grey with clouds that were heavy and pregnant with rain. James' dad and mine were the pallbearers, each holding on to one small silver handle to carry Ewan's body into the church and then out again, and then again out of the hearse when we arrived at the cemetery.

We stood under a dark tent together, raindrops gathering like fringe around the edges. The rain thrummed against the thick fabric of the tent as the deacon spoke words of blessing, as he spoke of standing with us through that longest of nights. I stood close to my son, thinking of how much had changed since that day three weeks prior when, like Ewan, my hope was also new and beautiful and alive. I thought of how the list of firsts I anticipated when my belly was full with him was now a list of nevers.


When the words were done, we were quiet for awhile. Someone handed me the crucifix that was resting on his casket. I tucked it inside the pocket of my black wool coat and held on. And then we buried him.

Twenty-four inches and a half-sized plot, a white box lowered into the dirt.


* * * * *

In preparation for Ewan's first birthday, I've been reviewing some of the photos we have of his time with us that have never been processed and have never been seen by anyone else. These are some of those photos. I have one more photo reflection to share, and then have something special planned to share with you for his birthday on Sunday (9/18).