For the little ones.
I was standing near the front door of the funeral home when I saw their car pull in. Our doors have these little window panels so I quickly moved away. That’s all they needed right now, to see a person glaring through the funeral home at them. They shouldn’t even be here, I thought to myself, so try not to make them more uncomfortable than they already are.
My heart broke as they walked through the doors. I quickly introduced myself as I lead them to the lounge. I tried to not stare at her stomach as she sat down, still swollen, but now just a symbol of an empty tomb. I don’t pretend to know why things happen. Things like this shouldn’t happen.
How do you not cry with these families? At one moment, I had to catch my breath to stop my own tears from falling. The moment she just broke down as she laid her head on his shoulder. He had his arms around her and hugged her tight. I sometimes think that I don’t have the right to cry. I didn’t carry this life inside of me. How can I possibly be sad that a life has ended that I never even knew? But I still mourn with them. I said a prayer that they would always lean on each other.
In the hospital morgue, they have the little body rolled tight in a blanket. The mothers name identifies who this child is, but this child has a name. It always annoyed me that the hospitals don’t use the child’s name. If you wanted to, you could pick up this baby with one hand, but we don’t. We cradle this little body in both hands, the same as the mother would if she’d be whispering lullabies into their ear. None of this makes any sense.
The part that I hate the most comes when we arrive back at the funeral home. We unwrap this little body, and look upon this little face. It’s perfect. Tiny lips that are perfectly close, and the cutest little button nose. There is a little hat on the baby’s head. Something that the mother would have probably chosen as she took her child home. Instead, I took the child with me. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
When we arrive the next morning at the cemetery, I have everything all set up. The mother and father arrive with a teddy bear in hand. I give them time as they place the stuffed animal in the casket. I wonder if she’ll ask to hold her baby, but she doesn’t. When it’s time, I ask the father if he wants to carry the casket to the grave. He looks at me confused, saying he didn’t think he could do that. Of course he can, I assure him. He holds his baby’s casket as we walk over. He places his child into the freshly dug grave. The priest blesses the ground and speaks the most beautiful words to the family. I didn’t think it was possible, for someone to know what to say at a time like this. But he did. His words didn’t take the pain away, nor did they bring this child back, but somehow, his words brought a little comfort.
It was actually a beautiful day for a burial. It would have been perfect funeral weather, as I describe it, expect for the fact that we were burying someone who we shouldn’t have been.
In the seven years that I’ve been a funeral director, I’ve buried more babies that I should have. In mortuary school, they talk about these things. Suicides, car accidents, illnesses. They talk about how these deaths are the hard ones, and they are, but these little babies, I lose a little bit of my heart with each one that I care for.
I have no words of comfort for these families. No answers to their questions. All I have are open arms and ears. I care for these babies as if they’re my own. And I mourn each death. A fellow funeral director commented to me the other day how she remembers each baby she’s buried. I do as well. I carry these children with me.
I really love what I do, but on these days, I wish with my entire heart that I’d never became a funeral director. I wish that I never knew this life.
Every time I bury a baby, I think about my future. I don’t have any children. I want a baby, more than anything, but I am also terrified.
A baby is brought into this world by love and a baby symbolizes hope. With these precious little lives, we hope that they will know nothing but love and never have to feel any pain. We want these babies to grow into good people and live wonderful lives, so we place our own dreams and wishes into them. And when a baby dies, suddenly, the world doesn’t make any sense.
I have seen things that no one should have to see. I have cared for little ones when their mothers should have been instead. These deaths cannot be justified. This heartache has no words.
If there is one thing that I can tell to women out there who have lost a baby it is this – you are still a mother, even if your arms are empty. If you have carried life inside of you, not even death can take that title away. Your grief is real and I wish more than anything that I could fix it. But since I can’t, I will continue to do my job as best as I can. And I will pray that I never have to do a funeral for another little one. But if I do, I will take care of them and love them as if they are my own. Because these little babies deserve to be loved, even in death, even by a funeral director.