I came as a witness, the extra listener, to deflect and defend, maybe decide what this grief will look like.
The suited man at the table tells us there are options for this sort of thing. My daughter L holds a tissue, I poise my pen at the paper before me.
Burying a child is a delicate matter and his words are quiet and slow. I ache inside as W’s eyes glance at the caskets—small, white, simple décor, as if they might hold a child’s christening dress. But this is not a christening. This is goodbye.
W turns aside, avoiding the display like viewing a deep wound—there is too much pain, and maybe there’s a doctor in the house to bandage the heart.
But it must be done.
The grief care counselor asks him, “Will you be carrying it as we proceed from the chapel to the graveside? We could have one of our staff do that for you.”
The ache splinters my heart and I fear any sound from me will come out in sobs. It is just too much, but the question must be asked.
“I’m not sure,” W replies. “I’ll have to decide that day.”
We walk through more discussion, more decisions, papers are signed and checks exchanged.
“We can drive you ‘round to the space now so you can choose where he’ll be.”
We slide into leather seats, a single comfort on this brutal, bright day; our friend the counselor speaks loudly with his silence which matches the quiet gray green out the window.
I am stunned at this kindness to my children, his knowing it is all just too much to bear; any conversation would tax their ready tears.
I stare ahead through the glass, trees gliding by as we come to our stop.
Pondering the markers as we tiptoe between spaces—Tori and Charles, John and Kenny- maybe this counselor is just as torn in two as we. Managing the emotions of broken parents while guiding them to their child’s resting place takes a remarkable kind of human being.
What a gift he is to brave this biting cold, waving a marker about, landing it “here” as we watch.
His one-of-a-kind manner that validates our needs and responds in a just-right way prompts a desire to hug him like an old friend. But I resist.
We feel safe and sad, cold and comforted, like being wrapped in a quilt as we watch a flooded home come loose from its foundations.
But there is rebuilding in this tragedy, a glimpse of hope; our grief-helping man knows this.
“Wait til you see this place in the Spring. The view of the mountain is really spectacular.”
“It’s lovely, really; why, you could even have a picnic right here next to the spot.”
We gather his words like shells, a memory of washed away dreams and shattered hopes, returning home in silence.
The children will rebuild, one plank and beam, one room at a time.
Meanwhile I stand on the shore, eyes on the horizon and trust in the warmth to come.
This post is from the archives, written in February of 2014 when my daughter and her husband lost their first child at 5 months. The coming holidays can often be a time of grieving and loss for those with deep heart aches. Perhaps these ‘me, too’ words can bring a comfort knowing there are others who feel deep pain in the middle of a season where the rest of the world is announcing peace and joy.