Has anyone else seen this recent Salon article, "My stillborn child's life after death"? What did you think of it?
OK, I'll admit, the part about taking the baby in a sling for a walk to the park seemed a little bizarre. Not something I would have done. I kept wondering what would have happened if one of the other moms at the playground wanted to take a peek & admire the baby.
But on the whole, I found myself applauding these parents for saying goodbye on their terms, not to mention the funeral director who encouraged them to do so. And maybe just a little bit envious.
I especially liked this line: "This was when I understood: Thor was our baby. He did not belong to the hospital. He did not belong to the funeral home. He was ours." It has taken a long, long time for hospitals and funeral homes to start acting like they understand this. Given the silence that still exists around stillbirth and pregnancy loss, it's something that many bereaved parents don't realize until it is far too late.
It brought back memories of when my grandfather died -- almost exactly 13 years ago this week. I never got to see him again. Before I could arrive for his memorial service, his body was sent away to be cremated. His ashes were returned to us a few days later, after the memorial service had already been held. Returned IN THE MAIL. US Postal Service. (Tell me THAT's not undignified.) I don't remember what the postage was (!) but I can still remember my mom coming into my grandparents' apartment with the parcel under her arm, wiping her eyes. "Here's Grandpa, home for the last time," she sobbed.
My immediate thought? "Oh, and we don't even have his chair here for him!" I said. My grandparents had been living at the seniors care home in town, but we had kept their apartment, partly as a place to stay when we went to visit. Mom had wanted to move Grandpa's easy chair to their room at the home, but he wouldn't hear of it. I think he knew that would mean that he really wasn't going back to the apartment. After he was gone, we took it up there for Grandma to use.
Anyway, it might have seemed weird to some people to give a container of ashes the place of honour in an easy chair. But that's what felt right to me at the time, and I wish we had been able to do it.
Later that afternoon, under gloriously clear & sunny Prairie skies, Mom & I set the container of ashes between us in the front of the car. Together with some other family members, we took Grandpa home, to the site of the farm where he had grown up and, as he had wanted, scattered his ashes on the land that he loved, taking turns reading the service from his mother's Book of Common Prayer. "I love you, Grandpa," I said, as I let a handful of the ashes slide through my fingers. A few generations ago, doing something like that no doubt would have been controversial too.
If you read the article, beware the comments. Some of them are truly awful. It's so obvious that people really don't understand until they have lived through this themselves.