Saturday, August 28, 2010

In My Arms

In the hours and days after our Claire died I was in a fog of numb denial.  I was honestly expecting to wake up from this horrid nightmare at any moment.  In my mind, none of what had happened could actually be true.  It was far too awful to really be true.  Yet, it was.  My mind just needed to protect myself from the reality in order to preserve any amount of sanity.

Anything that could go wrong that day did and I lived in what I could only describe as a walking coma in those first days.  I was fully functional and at the same time completely nonfunctional.  Life was just motion.  There was no food needed for fuel or sleep to end weariness.  There were only to-do lists carried out in a mechanical fashion.  There was only the natural anesthetic of denial.

On the day of Claire's wake, my sister took me to accomplish the to-dos of the day.  I needed to go buy a dress.  There was nothing in my closet that would fit.  I bought a red one.  I couldn't wear black, there was no need to.  After all, this really couldn't have happened.  Black would make it real.  There would be no black.

Next we had to go pick some flower bouquets on a slim budget.  Our local grocery store had a nice floral department and we walked in to the aroma and beauty of nature's bright colors.  "Ooh, these are pretty!  Oh, what do you think about these?  These would look nice with those!" and suddenly reality began to peek through my psyche like the first rays of sunlight on the dawn.  I froze as grief flooded in and shook my body in heaving sobs.  What was I doing here?  Why was I buying flowers for her funeral.  It felt as unnatural and immoral an act as committing a violent crime.  I had to leave.

My sister and I returned home to a flutter of activity of friends and family members helping to dress and ready the other kids for Claire's wake.  I sat, still unshowered, on the back porch and painted my nails.  Mr. W gently reminded me of the time as I continued to procrastinate.  Softly and kindly, friends tried to move me from the porch and upstairs to ready myself.  I just quietly sat, responding that 'I know', yet I did not move.  After an hour or two, Mr. Weasel came to me a little more firmly and with more urgency about our lack of time and told me that I had to get ready now.  I said "no" very matter of factly.  "I can't.  If I shower, then I will have to get dressed.  If I dress, then we will go to the funeral home.  If we go to the funeral home, then this will be real.  I can't let this be real.  I can't go.  I can't do this".  He then held me tight as I shook and sobbed before guiding me upstairs to prepare.

We arrived at the funeral home with my heart racing in fear of the reality that I was about to face.  I trembled with dread and the knowledge that this was not a bad dream.  Family were already gathered in the common areas.  I could not look to them.  I could only look through them and past them.  I couldn't do this. 

The funeral director approached and took Mr. W and I privately into the viewing room, so that we may have a few moments alone and make sure that all was how we asked it be.  She then sat us down and performed the kindest act that anyone has ever done for us.  She picked up Claire's lifeless little body and placed her in my arms.  We sat and cried and held each other as we held Claire.

The thought of holding a corpse may sound morbid and creepy to some of you, but to us she was not a corpse, she was our little girl and we needed to hold her and to kiss her.  Tears ran down my cheeks and trickled onto the blanket she was swaddled in.  She would be buried with the tears of a mother's love.  A short while later, it was time to place her back in her miniature casket and to open the doors to the crowd that had now formed outside of them.

Holding my child gave me the strength to not only face that crowd, but to do the hardest thing that I have ever been tasked with in my life, say goodbye to her.

*I was inspired to write this post after having read a beautiful post by PJ Mullen about how when you hold your child, all is right with the world.  No doubt that the love we have for our children can carry us through the darkest of times.

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