It's an amazing honor to be able to share in such a sacred time with a family who is saying goodbye to their child. The mom had been standing off to the side greeting people and when I got up to her, she wanted to go sit by her baby so she could show me her... because she knew I knew. As I told her how beautiful and amazing she is, other people started to gather around. They started to do the same. It was beautiful.
I only have a couple things, that when I look back, I would say I would do differently. I planned so precisely that there isn't much I left out. But the one thing I was unsure of was whether or not I should have an open casket. I wanted it. I wanted to hold her until I wasn't able to anymore. To see her until that last minute when it was no longer my choice. But it was recommended to me by the funeral director that I not. She said that she had been to baby funerals before where people actually left early because they couldn't handle it. She said it makes them too uncomfortable. Because I had not decided before she was born, I was in the fog that comes (both from the shock of death and because I was on pain killers from my c-section) and I just did whatever she told me to. I trusted her judgement and I knew she cared about my experience, so I closed her casket before everyone got there - and then opened it up to say goodbye and kiss her again before I shut it for the last time.
I regret it.
I had a chance to show off my girl to over 130 people all at once. The only chance I had. I lost it because of fear. The truth is that their imaginations were probably doing a much worse thing. Rachel was beautiful. Even so many days after she had died, she looked.... beautiful. Perfect. When I got there that morning, I was afraid of what I would see... but she looked amazing. They hadn't put any make up on her because we decided on closed casket, and even still, she was way prettier than many 'normal' adults I see in caskets... and we don't close theirs. People don't run out of their funerals.
I try to remind myself that God was in all of those details - in every decision I made. Different people need different things. That decision might have had nothing to do with me. Maybe He was protecting someone there who couldn't have handled it. The following year of my life pretty much confirms that.... people didn't even know how to handle ME after she was gone, never mind a baby in a casket.... but she was so pretty. And I wish I would have just done it... let the people who would leave, leave. They are probably gone by now anyway.
I also know that part of it is that I wasn't ready to share her. I felt very protective over her. And maybe it wouldn't have been good for me at that point. Or maybe the message we shared about God and how He provided for us would have been missed if people were distracted by the tiny baby behind us. A huge purpose of her service was sharing to the unbelivers we are surrounded by - as well as the believers there - who were struggling with what was happening, that God is GOOD and that He had done great things. That Rachel was a blessing. God knew it all. I have to trust that.
One of my pastors came last night as well - it was really nice to see him there and since he was one of the few people we had with us at the hospital with Rachel, it's comforting to have him around. He had asked me if it brought back a lot of memories... In those moments, I wasn't really feeling like it had...because our service for Rachel was so completely different - and I had a closed casket. The only thing I could think at that time was "these memories are with me every. single. day of my life - not just at another baby's service". But today, I found myself feeling depressed, edgy, sad, angry. I was at the gym and in the middle of working out, I found myself in tears. I hate that babies die. I hate that anyone has to put their baby in the ground. I hate that my baby is dead and in the ground. I hate that I made decisions based on fear. I hate that there are no do-overs.
As pretty as her casket was, and it was gorgeous.... it didn't compare to her. So, I feel like I need to do this. To open her casket and let the world see... not the edited photos that I have found so much comfort in....but the unedited version of what I love so dearly. My baby girl... just the way she was. I think there is a bit of healing that comes in being able to share these hard moments with others... and I missed that part. Here I am almost 2 1/2 years later still wishing I could have. And this is as close as I can get....
|And because you can't see her face well in the others, here is a pic of her whole face.|
This was taken about 24 hours after she was born. And I was still staring at her. ♥
I remember saying while I was pregnant (the day I got her casket in the mail and posted the blog titled "Rachel's Cradle") that "the day I have to shut this forever will be the worse day of my life."
And it was. Truly worse than any other day. Ever. Nothing could come close to that pain. That horrible feeling of making my arms do something that my heart was refusing to do. Knowing I had no choice. Knowing it was for the rest of my life. Knowing it had to be me.
The kids were asking to hold her again. I was knelt down talking to Isaiah and I looked up at Tammy (the funeral director) for approval. I remember her face like it was yesterday... she just shook her head "no" with a solemn face as if to say "not a good idea" - and I just told them "I'm sorry, you can't..." and my heart broke right along with theirs... I can't hold her again. The furrow in my brow as Matt picked her up and carried her out said it all.
|I also noticed in this photo how Tammy is looking at me... and I'm holding Rachel's other little lamb. I carried that lamb and the photo of her hand and foot print around for months. I think this was one of the hardest parts for Matt.|
|I have the cross that was carved out from the top of her casket.|
|And this was the last time I saw her above ground. She is now directly below where she is in this photo.|
Next on my list is to share her cute little ears.... which ironically resemble lambs ears - seems fitting for my "innocent lamb" (that's what Rachel means) I used to try to hide them... you know, because they aren't 'normal' and someone might think they are "yucky".... well, I happen to really think they are cute now. My only regret is trying so hard to hide them that I covered up her beauty. But I'm sure I can fix that too.
It's been a long, hard day. But I've had worse. The first time around was harder. Maybe I'm glad there are no do-overs.....