Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Filling in the blanks

Katie's niche at Eastertime.
There's now a plaque at the right.
The bunny was a gift from her uncle, aunt & cousins.
We knew this day was coming, eventually.

Who knew it would be today?

When we lost Katie, and suddenly found ourselves with a funeral to plan, we decided to have her tiny body cremated, and the ashes (such as there were) interred at a local cemetery. We checked out the various options available -- cremation burial plot? Garden of Angels (section specifically for babies) burial plot? Columbarium niche? 

We settled on the niche -- a hole at eye level in a low marble wall (big enough to hold up to two urns), marked by a bronze plaque with a small bud vase attached. It was less expensive than a burial plot, but still a pretty big chunk of change to hand over, especially coming so unexpectedly and on top of the other funeral expenses (followed shortly thereafter by the sudden urgent need for a new furnace). The salesman made some noises about how we should buy the niche beside hers for ourselves -- but that was something we simply couldn't afford at the time. "Someday," we said, putting it at the back of our minds.

Nobody likes to think about their own demise (let alone their baby's), and so the weeks and months stretched into years. Eventually, we cleared our debts and started accumulating some savings, but still we did nothing. "One of these days, we're going to drive up here and there will be a plaque on that niche beside Katie's, and we're going to regret it," I remember saying to dh.

Finally, with the 10-year mark rapidly approaching, I put my foot down. "It's time," I said to dh. So 10 years to the day after I went for that fateful ultrasound and learned that my daughter's heart had stopped beating, we drove to the cemetery office and asked about purchasing the niche next to hers for ourselves.

We didn't expect to hear that it had already been purchased, by someone else. I guess since there wasn't a marker up, we thought it was still available. Live and learn.

The salesman showed us what else was available. In the columbarium block where Katie was, exactly two spots were still unspoken for, neither of them particularly close to her or otherwise "desirable." But there was a newly built columbarium just a few yards away, and that's where we picked out a spot for ourselves. The salesman suggested we could move Katie over there beside us, and I suppose we could have done that -- but I didn't want to move her. I figured that if we couldn't be right beside her where she was, this would have to be close enough. (I was already blogging by then, and wrote about this experience at the time, here.)

(We were amused awhile later to find a marker on the niche above ours, with an inscription that included a few lines from Pink Floyd's "Time":  "The time is gone, the song is over/Thought I'd something more to say."  I suppose there are worse ways for a couple of baby boomers to spend eternity than in close proximity to Pink Floyd, lol.) 

More than six years has passed since then -- we're coming up to 17 years this summer, since we lost Katie.

And today, we went to visit the cemetery.

I was the first to notice it. "Look!"  I said. A bronze plaque marker had materialized on the once-empty spot next to Katie's. It hadn't been there the last time we visited, last week. No end dates filled in (yet?), so we don't know whether someone's ashes were recently interred there, or if they just decided to order the plaque now, or what.

It was weird to see it there. But we knew it was going to happen, someday. And now it has.

The blank spots on the marble walls have slowly been filling up over the years;  only a handful of vacancies remain. The babies of 1998 are turning 17 this year, and will be starting their final year of high school this fall. Their parents -- including dh & me -- are 17 years older, and greyer, and closer to filling those empty niches ourselves.

Time marches on, relentlessly.


  1. Its crazy to see how much time has passed. I was only a month past my 18th birthday when we married, making us pretty much the 1st in our age group to get married. We've been married 14 years now. I can't believe that my friends are now starting into the "teenage years" of parenting. It was also surreal when the kids I used to babysit started having babies.
    And yet, I'm sure it all still feels like yesterday that your loss happened. Some things never leave us.

  2. Wow lady. How is it possible for time to fly and yet not? So many things you're dealing with. Decisions so many are not even considering. And yet, it leaves me in awe with how eloquently you are tackling this.

    Sending you so much love and many hugs as you plan for the future.

  3. So much to think of here. But my first thought was that Katie now has another companion through the years. And yes, in 17 years we are all greyer and older and wiser and closer to those niches (or whatever we choose). I don't want to think about the next 17 years.
    Sending you 17 years worth of hugs.

  4. Hugs, Loribeth. Time does march on. Confronting mortality isn't an easy thing to do, but I suppose it's even more important for those of us with no children.

  5. Being of your cohort, this post takes deep root in me.


  6. Oh, tears. I admire your bold confrontation of, well, everything. Thanks for sharing the sweet picture of Katie's niche. I'll be holding this post close.....