Friday, December 28, 2012

Andrew's New Diggs

Yeah, that's totally morbid to write it like that. I'm aware.

For those not so savvy, here's Urban Dictionary's explanation of the word, in case you really hated my choice of a title:

home;place of residence;place of business
"my bro just moved into new diggs across town."
See? Totally fitting.

I wrote a post earlier this month about visiting the funeral home and how our emotions affected the B-man. Here's the full story, for what it's worth.

The day after I delivered Andrew, our nurse came in with a paper of funeral homes we needed to call. Burial or cremation? Funeral or memorial service or not? Such questions we didn't anticipate ever having to answer and yet we were bombarded with decisions. When in a state of shock, you don't make decisions or think clearly through the tough stuff very well. And how were we to know what to do? You never anticipate having to choose where your child's final resting place will be.

Thanks to the nurses, we have professional pictures of Andrew. We would've never known about NILMDTS and yet, they were there for us in time of need. Our nurse on December 6 told us she would handle calling around to make arrangements for us because it was not something we were in a state of mind to be doing. Bless her.

We were discharged on December 7th and went over to select an urn for Andrew. The funeral home is about 2.5 miles from our home and I remember being a complete sobbing mess still swollen from being nearly 39 weeks pregnant just two days prior. I sat in a chair in a room where the walls felt they were suffocating me. We were shown some booklets and steered to select a keepsake urn for our son. I remember vaguely being told that because he was a boy and because he was a baby, that people often choose blue and this small heart urn. At the time, I didn't care much or have any clue how we could even do such a thing as pick out an urn for our son that we thought just 48 hours before, would be coming home with us in a carseat. We went with the blue urn and they told us they'd be picking up our son from the hospital.

He was cremated at a facility somewhere in Chicagoland and I guess the urn was sent to the crematorium for it to be filled.

Days later, we received a phonecall to come pick up our son from the local funeral home where we placed the order for that small, blue heart-shaped urn. We were told on the phone to come anytime. I don't remember when we picked him up, but I know it wasn't right away. We were a mess of emotions and had no real urgency, after all, he was gone.

When we arrived, they told us we could go into a room where his ashes were placed-- the room where they hold funerals. On a table would be his urn. The heart urn was wrapped in a velour black bag with a little Brother P-Touch label on the back of the urn that read, "Baby Wilson" on it. Not even his name. The box next to the heart urn also had his name, date of cremation and location of cremation, all in typewriter font. We were told his remains did not fully fit. Until just weeks ago, I had no idea how much did not fit, because I was too afraid to open that box. It turns out only half of his remains fit into that little urn and the other half were in the box. Sealed with a twist-tie.

I remember sobbing as we drove home. I was holding a heavy urn with my son's ashes, and they couldn't even put all of him inside the container. Insult to injury-- perhaps an understatement of that long-used phrase. I was surprised at how heavy that urn was-- but I know much of it was the urn itself and not my son at all. At the time, it felt like I was holding his full weight, 7lbs. 6oz.

He lived on our bookshelf in the formal living room for two years. His additional ashes were inside a basket underneath and it bothered us that he wasn't ever whole. I was frustrated that we did not receive a phonecall telling us that we should select another urn. Or that they didn't just leave his ashes in one container for us to decide later. What good is an urn with only part of our son? Our intention was never to spread his ashes. I also felt incredibly sad to obviously be an anomaly. Clearly they didn't deal much with dead babies, or they would have this all figured out by now. Lucky us. The anomaly.

For his 2nd birthday, we knew things needed to be made right. I wrote it on the whiteboard in our laundry room and we finally made the trek back to the funeral home the Saturday before Andrew's 2nd birthday. I called ahead of time to schedule an appointment and gave them all of our information. We were told we could come in later that afternoon. I received a phonecall a bit after making the arrangement to tell me they had lost our file.

Lost our file.

You read those words correctly. I can't make this stuff up. {I know my husband is considerably more understanding in this regard, but I'm not and I write this blog, so I'll be carrying on now.}

We arrived at the funeral home and sat down in that very same room, this time with Benjamin in our arms. I sat in the opposite chair I did before, but within those same 4 walls. The funeral home director plops a book down in front of us with urns to choose from. I was instructed to bring all of Andrew's ashes with us, so I brought the two containers. Despite explaining the situation on the phone since he lost our file (dead infant, too small of an urn, cremated, 2010, name, date, etc.), he didn't seem to connect the dots.

Once he saw the containers, he said he understood and started flipping through to show us our options. He sighed here and there, telling us they don't really have a size that would work for Andrew's ashes, at least not in the catalog. There are full-sized options and keepsakes-- primarily used to hold a small portion (about 2-4 cubic inches-- Andrew is about 7.5-- it's nearly a 1:1 ratio. Try Googling that for a good time) and for the rest to be spread or buried.

The he tells us that he'll jump on Google to look at some more for us.

Jump on Google.

No, sir. We know just how to jump on Google to search for urns ourselves. We were hoping to avoid that whole process, hence the middleman.

We decide on an urn he checked online to see that they had the middle, rare size that would still be far too big for Andrew's ashes. I was sobbing at this point and ready to leave. Benjamin wanted to crawl around and I was not having any of that.

We hurriedly ordered and walked out and I sobbed while holding Benjamin in the parking lot. We left Andrew inside. He wouldn't be with us on December 5th.

Before we got in the car, Ray headed back in because he just couldn't leave Andrew's ashes there on his birthday. He went in to retrieve him and we sat in the car, sobbing some more. We were no more than 2 blocks away before he asked me if I wanted to cancel the order. I hated the urn we chose, again, and really didn't think this was a good solution. But Ray knew that without me saying a word.

He called and canceled everything, stating that we weren't pleased with our options and that we would be handling things on our own from now on. We arrived home and Benjamin wouldn't sleep. He was feeling our grief.

Once he was down to sleep, we researched urns online. Nothing like having a website called "urn" show up in your dropdown menu when typing websites in daily. Note to self: delete history. We found one that was perfect. As perfect as one can be anyway. LuciaUrns is an Etsy shop started by a potter in Massachusetts. People loved her pots so much, that they often asked her if she made urns for their loved ones-- as the current options on the market are not personal, warm and artist-made. Dealing with a rare size issue, it was fitting that she created urns that would meet the needs of any size, including babies.

We selected the smallest size, suitable for 10 cubic inches. Ordered, shipped and to our home the day after his birthday. I spent the rest of that day during naps figuring out what we would do about his ashes. I knew we'd pour them ourselves, but I was scared. I don't know of what, but I guess the idea of staring down the ashes of your deceased child doesn't exactly warm your heart. I opened his old urn, the heart, with a flathead screwdriver and there was residue. I didn't take the bag out of the urn because it was jam-packed in there and looked quite difficult to handle. But the ashes? They were more coarse than I imagined.

Once Ray came home, he took the additional container, the old urn, and the new urn into the laundry room and performed the switch. With some tears, our firstborn had a final place in our home where he would be whole again. The bag from the old urn with its very own twist-tie (like on your garbage) along with the urn itself, the screws, the "baby wilson" label, and the additional box were placed in the garbage along with dirty diapers and food scraps.

Just another example of the heartbreak of baby loss. The paradox of life and death.

While this post is terribly dark and sad, I do want to update that we are so pleased with the new urn, its beauty, and the daintiness of it. We're thrilled Andrew has a perfectly chosen piece of art as his very own. As sad as it is to have such a thing, we are pleased and feel more at peace with things ever since that package arrived on our doorstep. {I waited to post this on a day that there were no birthdays, to my knowledge. It needed to be in Andrew's birth month.}

We're finally done with that forsaken funeral home.


Brie said... [Reply to comment]

Do you have the etsy shop info? Sadly, our daughter still sits in a box, p-touch label and all inside a velvet bag ( pink for a girl, oh yay).

Renel said... [Reply to comment]

Everything I just wrote got deleted. I'm crying. I'm just so sorry you had to go through this. My heart is so broken for us. The urn, jumping on google, lost files, lost babies, I'm just crying. Probably best my last comment was deleted. There were cuss words. This has dredged up a lot of emotion from me that has been undiscussed by me because it's just so completely mortifying. Baby. Urn. Please not in the same sentence. Please put all the ashes in one container. The pottery piece is really nice... Much more my style than most I've seen. I'm glad you got it. I wish you didn't need it. I'm just crying.

LauraJane said... [Reply to comment]

I love Elliot for knowing the second urn choice wasn't the final one, for making "the switch", and for being so sweet through it all.

And I love Benjamin for knowing his family was hurting and for wanting you to be comforted through your cuddling/wrestling him down for a nap.

What a beautiful family you have.

I'm glad Andrew has a final resting spot that is as beautiful as such a thing can be. And that he's whole again.


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

I'm so glad you finally have some "Digs" that you are happy with. I remember when we scatterd our son's ashes that I was also surprised at how coarse they were. It's not something we should have to know about, the ashes of our children. It's just unbearable.

I love the urn, it's absolutely perfect!

JoyAndSorrow said... [Reply to comment]

So sorry you had to go through all of that. So many things just seem like insult to injury after the loss of a child. It's like, enough already. Hugs, mama.

Emily said... [Reply to comment]

You were brave to stare down those ashes. It's one of my fears that somehow someway Aidan's ashes will escape from his urn or the pendant necklace I have that has a bit of his ashes inside. I'm fine with holding a container that has him inside, but to actually have to SEE the ashes... I don't know, somehow that kind of freaks me out. That something that looks like what we scrape out of the fireplace is HIM. Crazy.

You probably weren't reading my blog at the time, but we had something awful happen at our funeral home too back in the spring of 2010. We picked an urn soon after he died and when we went back to get it they had SPELLED Aidan's NAME wrong. On his freakin' URN!!!! We will never have anything, no school papers or degrees, no marriage certificates, no cards or toys with his name on them, so that really hurt. You think you'd be a little more careful when engraving someone's URN that you double check the spelling. The funeral home fixed it, but man was it painful to have to go back to that place TWICE to pick up our son.

The urn you picked is beautiful. Good choice.

Rachel said... [Reply to comment]

It's beautiful. Kayla's is a similar style, that my husband managed to point out to me in the funeral home while I was looking at the ugly "baby" options. It would be really hard for me to go back to that funeral home now and relive those emotions, I'm sorry you had to go through all of that.

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

Andrew's urn is beautiful. I'm glad you all finally have something that would fit all his ashes. Wow. All that you have had to go through and still go through just shocks me and hurts my heart. I am so sorry you had to be at that funeral home again-but now you're done!

B. Wilson @ Windy {City} Wilsons said... [Reply to comment]

Urn is from:

Brigitte said... [Reply to comment]

I am so sorry.

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

Andrew's new diggs look really beautiful! So much nicer than the funeral home's limited offerings. We found Bear's box on etsy too--a wooden heart box with his name engraved in the bottom. It wasn't intended as an urn, but it works and is so soft and nice to hold.

Ben and Katie said... [Reply to comment]

it is simply beautiful and so andrew! :)

Tiffany said... [Reply to comment]

his new urn is beautiful. of course i'm sorry you have to have an urn for your son at all. i wish he was here with his amazing family.

LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

You are so brave for going through with 'the transfer'. We have a similar thing that needs to be done but I'm too nervous and sad to even start the process. The urn you chose looks pretty and was clearly made with love and care.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

I read this and wept for you my friend. Andrew's new urn is beautiful. Even though I am so very angry and sad for you and your family that this ever had to be something you purchased from Etsy.

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

Light and love to you. I'm so sorry. You've chosen beautifully for your firstborn and I'm glad you don't have to go through that again.

sarah said... [Reply to comment]

Renel and LJ captured my thoughts perfectly, so I'm here just to say that I'm crying and abiding and holding light in the darkness for you and for all of us who have had to deal with situations unimaginable and so then add a bumbling funeral home on top of an already horrifying situation, oh Brandy, I'm so sorry.

love sarah

Nicole said... [Reply to comment]

Ugh. This whole story makes me ache for you. I remember feeling some of these things while picking Caroline's headstone. Baby headstones. A man running the place who just didn't quite get it. And a book, plopped in front of us to choose from. As if any option would seem fitting.

Andrew's new urn is really beautiful. I'm so glad you've found one you can be 'satisfied' with (because you can't really ever be satisfied in this situation, right?).

Jessica said... [Reply to comment]

As if we can ever catch a break...I'm sorry that you had to go through all that. I love what you chose for Andrew's new digs! It feels so much more "cozy" and more personal than whatever the funeral home could have offered.

Flmgodog said... [Reply to comment]

Andrews new diggs are beautiful. It rally sucks that you had to be on that side of the anomly on numerous accounts.
Benjamin is an adorable little cherub. Of course he senses your pain. Hopefully B will always know that his whole brother resides right next to him.
It's not a story I ever want to hear but I am glad you shared it. Big hugs.

Shell said... [Reply to comment]

Love your post. I may get one of these urns.



RyAnne said... [Reply to comment]

This was so heartbreaking, but so real. Thank you for sharing this. SO many people think dealing with the death of our children is just a "one day" or "one week" thing, like once the funeral is over all is taken care of. This just shows the reality of how hard it is to make these final decisions. I am so glad you took the lead and found an urn that was what you wanted. If its alright with you I am going to post this entry as a link on my blog for others who might be struggling with finding an urn.

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

I'm glad Andrew is whole again and I think you picked a gorgeous urn. Love the blend of colors and the classiness of it. Just wish you didn't need the damn thing at all.

Nantucket Daffodil said... [Reply to comment]

My goodness I am sobbing. No one should ever have to go through this. You and your husband are angels. Andrew's physical remains are in the gorgeous, made with love pottery, but his spirit is blowing on the wind: a pretty snowflake that sticks to your nose, the warm sand on a summer beach, a stranger's smile...he will always be there...always remembered. Thanks for sharing. I will give extra hugs tonight.

Becky said... [Reply to comment]

What a perfect urn for Andrew. I agree with the others about how brave you are that you managed to look at his ashes and did the transfer. But it is good that he is whole again.

S. Vaccaro said... [Reply to comment]

This might seem a bit delayed, but I am so sorry you had such an awful experience with the funeral home you worked with. My husband and I also had an awful experience with the funeral home we chose for the burial of our son. It really is just adding insult to injury, another example of how things just don't seem to go write. Again, I'm so sorry for your experience. The urn you have for Andrew now is beautiful. I'm glad you were able to find one fitting for him and to hold him in his entirety. It is beautiful.