Thursday, April 21, 2011

Formerly Creepy

I have to be honest. There are a few things I always thought were creepy: cemeteries, urns in homes, open caskets, and thrift stores. Wouldn't you know that I'd have experience with each one of these in my life. Such is life (or death).

I'll start with the easier of the four, thrift stores. My understanding as a child was that people died and then their items were donated to thrift stores. I felt they were dead as they wore the clothing and it was gross to wear dead-person clothing. Obviously, that's ridiculous. I know that. While I know (as an adult) that I was misinformed despite my mom telling me repeatedly that was not the case, I had developed my own {albeit stubborn} opinion. Now I'm not creeped out and have actually purchased some items from thrift stores.

Cemeteries are next up. Two of my blog friends recently posted about cemeteries and their visits. I don't handle death well and always thought it was gross to be in the presence of a bunch of dead people. The whole idea of maggots, formaldehyde, velvet-lined boxes just made me all sick inside. Blame it on Hollywood movies, zombies, grave-diggers? Maybe. I have not experienced many deaths in my family. Though grandparents have died, I've only attended one funeral for them and two total funerals in my life. I've been to two graves in my entire life that I can remember: a friend's mother, and my great-grandfather. I was itching to get out of that dead park ASAP each time. I now understand that people visit cemeteries because people they love are there (well, their bodies) and it makes them feel a bit closer to them. My friend Keleen who lost her baby Addi the same day we lost Andrew to stillbirth wrote about visiting a cemetery on her blog today. Cemeteries are less creepy to me now. I drive by one quite close to our home often (and ironically right next to my OB and the hospital where I gave birth to Andrew) and look at the ground differently. I see all these headstones and inscriptions as tributes to loved ones. It's a place full of love, really. There is someone out there missing a loved one and that was how they decided to remember them.

Next, obviously, are open caskets. My great-grandfather had one and I did not attend the viewing. My personal interest was to remember him as he was living. I didn't need to see him again when I knew it was just a body. To an extent, I still agree with this. Not only do I really dislike the idea of my loved one being preserved, beautified, and pumped full of chemicals, but it's just a body. It's not the person I knew and they are no longer able to communicate with me. I understand why people prefer this method, but I never attached myself to the whole idea. I will not have an open casket at my own funeral. Both Ray and I want to be cremated, just as our son has been. Unless you've had a child cremated, you can't even come close to imagining what it felt as I just typed those words. It's heart wrenching. We've always wanted to be cremated, so when we had to sign over our son's body in the hospital {seriously!?}, we knew he would also be cremated. Do I understand more the interest to see our loves ones and touch/hold/be in the presence of, absolutely. I held my deceased child and took photos with him. I touched his cool skin. Having been dealt this awful card, I would've wanted nothing more than to spend time with his body though knowing "he" was no longer with us. If there were a house fire, my son and our photographs would be the two things I'd desperately want to save. There's irony in there, but I'm not willing to point it out.

Now on to cremation. My mom used to work in a funeral home that had a crematorium inside. I always thought it was disgusting! My former self would've said, "Gross, that's a dead person in a jar?! In your HOUSE?!" And now... now I'm the person who wants nothing more than to have her son in her home where he belongs. He may not be alive, but it's his home and he is our son. It may be gross, but this is all we have of him. I don't have a shrine and I don't draw attention to him, but he is there. He belongs here more than anyone else to step foot into our home, so I don't have apologies to make. It's just one of the many ways I've changed throughout the course of these 4 1/2 months.

He's not in a jar. He's in a blue, heart-shaped urn. And the most heart-wrenching thing about it all {as if that's not enough, right?} is that not all of him is in that small urn. I struggle with this thought. It makes me cry--like right now. I guess knowing my son is dead, him being cremated and his body "living" in an urn is enough to make anyone cry, but this makes me cry even harder: he DIDN'T fit. That's right. It turns out that full-term babies don't always "fit" baby urns because they are rare to die at full term. I wouldn't think they were that rare, but it turns out there just isn't a "place" for our babies. They're too large for the "baby" urns that I believe were made in their size for babies born premature {vs. full-term} but the "regular" sized urns are far too large for the amount of mass my cremated child makes up. He still has mass. Still volume. But unfortunately doesn't fit into any category. I hate that he's a bit of an outsider. But not in our home. He is part of us and deserves his place with us. I don't know what we will do with his body once we die eventually, but I do think he will need to be with us, whatever that means.

When we picked him up from the funeral home on that very gloomy day, he sat on my lap during the drive home. I was surprised how heavy he was. I'd never held a dead person before. I was surprised and disappointed that he had a label on the bottom that read "Baby Wilson" and it didn't say his name. I was disappointed that it was a stupid piece of label tape that someone actually had to type, print out, and peel onto a very small urn. I know labels can't be stupid. Whatever. I hated seeing the beautiful name we chose perfectly for our firstborn printed on another box that held the rest of him that didn't have a place.

So there you have it. My insides, out. Literally and figuratively written about on this very page.


Kelly said... [Reply to comment]

:( Adam's remains are in an urn too big for him. It bothers me to think that his sweet little body isn't filling up the whole area. When I brought him home after the memorial, I told my FIL, hold it *just like this* and don't shift it at all. Like I didn't want Adam to pour out or move around. My former self would have always thought this to be creepy. Now it makes me sad and bothers me in a different way.

LauraJane said... [Reply to comment]

Why do I have a feeling you have the blue heart to the urn set we have for Jack?

I really wanted the heart, but Scott wanted the normal "token" one. Initially we were going to get the token one, which was small and we figured it would be a perfect fit. However, we were called my the funeral director who told us Jack was too big and we would need to go for a size up. So we did.

Ugh, the idea of my sweet, beautiful boy being cremated is enough to make me throw up. It's too much. That's not where he's supposed to be.

Okay, enough. I'm crying too hard to type.


Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Cale's urn is on our dresser in our room. Maybe that's weird to people, but like you mentioned it's where he belongs - at home with us. He is in a "keepsake" urn as the normal one just seemed so big. So we got the "keepsake" edition.

I HATE that we all had to pick out urns (or caskets) for our children. I hate that I can picture what Andrews looks like because I remember seeing it in the catalog. We're all familiar with urns, baby ones in particular, and that's just not right. . .not how it should be. I wish it was still creepy :(

Solange, Nik and Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

I never know what to say with blogs like these. I want you to know that I read them and I want you to know that I'm here. I wish all those things were creepy still. My heart hurts so badly for you and all your other blogger moms who have lost their baby. I love you, friend.

Jill said... [Reply to comment]

Oh, sweetie. It was very hard to read this, it brought back and brings back so many memories.

I remember going in to the place where I had to "pick" an urn for my sweet Naomi Hope to be in. I wanted to get OUT asap. I told my mom I didnt want to go in there, but I had to. My mother and father picked everything for the funeral service and what not because I just could not have anything to do with it I was beyhond heartbroken. But I did happen to do this. I came up to small heart urns and I saw the one I wanted. It was silver and I just fell for it immediately. And I said, I want this one. ugh, speakign and typing this all. I would never in a million years think I would be picking out an urn for my baby girl.

She isnt in alll of it either, but not because she couldn't fit, she was 28 weeks when born and 33 weeks when passeda away but my neighbor bought me a beautiful heart necklace engraved with Naomi on it and well a very small part of her is in there and i have had it on from the day she got it for me and will forever where it. Alot think it is a locket or comment "nice necklace". Well if only they knew.

But yes, and the urn, sits inside my pink painted memorial with my mom did for me to have all her things on and pictures. She stays there. so heart wrenching. breaks me.

My New Normal said... [Reply to comment]

I am so with you on this one. I've always hated funerals and never attend viewings. It's just not for me. We had our son cremated too (very hard to type).

Our choice was to scatter his ashes. But I can see why you would want to keep them close by.

Oh, and I still don't like second hand shops!

Keleen said... [Reply to comment]

I'm not going to lie; I have always been fascinated by cemeteries. I have always known that each stone has a story and that has always intrigued me. I think that’s partly why I am having such a hard time deciding on a stone for Addi. I want it to tell her story, but how do you do that in one sentence?!? I don’t love cemeteries, but I’m not scared of them either…I am little scared of thrift stores though ;)
PS I hate that Addi doesn’t “fit” in her urn either, but now I have some to scatter, some to bury and the urn to keep. The urn is in her room for now, but eventually it will be moved to our room as I don’t want to “share” her with just anyone, then when I go I want it buried with me. I agree with you, I would save her urn and her things if my house were on fire…yes, ironic.