Those following days after we got home from the hospital were a blur. I'm still clearing out from the haze of everything that happened, and I'm pretty positive that haze is going to be a pretty permanent part of my life--our lives-- for awhile.
Coming home that day was surreal. Never. Not once, did I picture that trip home from the hospital being without our baby. Never. I was in pretty bad shape, physically. I could hardly walk up the stairs. I remember walking into our house and just...feeling that hole. This was the hole that's going to be in me for the rest of my life. And the first of many emotional meltdowns. I was exhausted. And our brains still hadn't processed what had happened. Jeff closed the door to Luke's room, and we went upstairs and collapsed into bed. I think it was about 2 in the afternoon.
Later, when we woke up, we sat together in Luke's room. There's nothing in the world that's more sad than a child's room that will never have that child in it. I had told Jeff earlier that I wasn't sure how I felt about going in there when we got home...but I realized that was all that we had left of him. Of our preparation for him. Our hopes and dreams for his future were all that we were ever going to have. His Star Wars quilt that I got made for him. The wampa rug. The crib. The outfit that we'd picked out for him to wear home from the hospital. The closet, full of clothes and toys. The diapers sat quietly in the dresser, along with his sleepsacks and onesies. Luke would never get to see them or wear them. Accepting this...still hasn't happened.
When I think about it, I get that terrible fullness in my throat and gut. And then I burst out into tears. It's uncontrollable.
The day after we got home, we had to take the next awful step in our journey--Going to the mortuary. Again, another place we never pictured ourselves in. Surely, we wouldn't have to deal with mortuaries until much later--probably with one of Jeff's parents. But no. There we were. Meeting with Denise. Denise...was a godsend. When you think of people at mortuaries...she's the opposite of what you'd imagine. She was warm. And so helpful. And understanding. The whole family came with us, and I'm sure we were a mortuary's worst nightmare. These are things that just...shouldn't happen. Death is understandable when someone's lived their life--at least had a chance to BE something. Death of a child...Is the definition of unfair. I don't know how there's people in the world who deal with death on a daily basis. And child death?
Denise told us not to worry. That they'd already picked up Luke from the hospital and that he was with them right now. We went over all of the options we needed to go through. We decided to have a viewing for family Wednesday and a small service with family and a few friends on Thursday. Then...he'd be cremated...and we could bring him home in a tiny urn zippered into a teddy bear. But we'd be able to bring him home. Not the way we wanted...but this was as good as it was going to get for us.
Decisions like this...seemed to come to us easily. All we wanted was to bring him home.
The next amazing thing Denise did was call up a pastor for us. We'd had Luke baptized at the hospital, but we really wanted someone to speak at the service, and Jeff and I weren't the people for that, obviously. Enter Pastor Rick. He's the pastor at a Congregational Church down the street, which is Unitarian, and frankly, probably the type of church I personally most identify with anyway at this point in my life. He agrees to come down and meet with us--that day. We were surprised by that--and he also tells us that he won't be charging us for doing the service or anything...But he just wants to come down and chat with us and get to know us. One of the first things he says? He asks Jeff how we're doing. Jeff...doesn't really have words. But he says...Maybe God needed Luke more than us...he's in a better place now.
And Pastor Rick calls him out and says, "No, I don't really believe that. Luke should be with you, in his parents' arms. That's where he SHOULD be."
I pretty much lost my shit right there. A pastor who's not preachy. Who's a human and doesn't tell us that there's a reason for this--Who doesn't believe that God needed Luke more than us. THANK YOU LORD. We chatted with Rick for over an hour. He was probably the most comforting person we've spoken to since this happened. He told us that his wife lost a child before they were married...He tells us that it doesn't get better, it just gets different. Easier. He tells us that it never goes away, and that's going to be the hardest part of this whole situation. We're forever different people than we were just the other day. "It's crazy-making stuff", he says. He's so right.
The next day was hard. Ali came over in the morning, and my milk had come in, bad. I'd been drinking some tea that was supposed to help. And I'd been taking Sudafed to dry myself out. But it was Wednesday when we had to tell people. I'd pretty much fallen off the planet, which is rare for me...and people were checking on me constantly. To not answer was just...torture. Erin had emailed me and was freaking out because I wouldn't answer her. Ali called Erin that morning, and then let the news out on Facebook for us, and we just...felt like it was happening all over again.
And then she set up the fundraising page for us on OC Walk to Remember.
We were sitting on our couch, and everything just started pouring in. The emails...the messages, the texts. Then donations. People just wanted to DO something for us. It was such a helpless feeling...there was nothing anyone could do for us that would bring Luke back. We were going back to the mortuary in a few hours...to say our real goodbyes to him. And there was everyone we know...asking what they could do. I will say, seeing over $1000 donated just that DAY because of what happened to US...was the most humbling experience in the world. You go through life feeling...I'm just me. I have my family and friends, sure. And I love them, yes. And sure, they probably love me, too. And Jeff. But the outpouring of love and support...some even from complete strangers commenting on friends' pages...I bawled the entire day. There aren't words to describe that emotional rollercoaster.
We spent over 3 hours that night at the mortuary. Just the family. As morbid as it sounds, we sat in the room with the coffin holding Luke's tiny body--dressed in a onesie we chose for him that said "Mommy Loves Me." At first, it was terrible. Only us and Mom and Ali had seen him that morning. Everyone else finally got to meet him...or see what he looked like, anyway. And he was still perfect. I just wish there was a way for us to have seen his blue eyes again. I never got to see them for myself...and it will hurt forever knowing that I never will.
Eventually we just sat down and started chatting together. My Dad got all existential eventually. Chris joined him. We joked that Luke had gotten his first taste of my Dad and the conversations we have. And before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to him again. Until the service the next morning, anyway. And Jeff and I said goodbye to our son...again.
Thursday morning was rough again. We pulled up to the mortuary, and this was going to be the first time we'd see people outside of just the immediate family. We went inside to find Denise, and she told us that she'd found the version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow that we wanted to play in the chapel. We found Pastor Rick and gave him the readings we'd found.
If I Were Here What Would I Say? - Lorraine Lehman-Jones
Yes it is true that I never got to see all that this world holds. The flowers, the trees, grass - or a bright sunny day.
Not even the smiling faces of my loving family.
But in my heart I have seen all of these things, even in my short time.
It is also true that I never got to feel the many things that you take for granted ...
The heat on my face on a hot summer's day,
Finger paints and crayons I will never hold in my hands.
But I did feel the loving arms of my Mummy and Daddy cradling me gently.
I never got to hear all the sounds that make most hearts sing,
The laughter of a loved one, or the sweet song of a bird,
Songs on the radio and the words "I love you" are to me a mystery.
But the soft touch of my Mummy and Daddy's hands shouts to me all of this and more.
I will never know the joy of running through a field of flowers,
Never will I roll down the side of a hill, too dizzy to stand.
Hide and seek, tag and catching ball I will have missed,
But in my mind I will do all of these things and more.
You all may see it as me missing out on all these things by leaving you so soon,
But where I am going I will do, see and hear everything you do and more.
I will only think of good things - for in my short existence that is all I have known.
So don't cry for me, I will do all that you have wished for me and more.
One thing I want you to hold on to is that I have not known how to hate, how to feel jealous, or anguish or any of those emotions that can eat away at your soul.
My soul is set free with only one feeling - for in my short time here with you I only knew love.
And that is what I take with me now.
Gone Too Soon by Mary Yarnall
This was a life that had hardly begun
No time to find your place in the sun
No time to do all you could have done
But we loved you enough for a lifetime.</p>
No time to enjoy the world and its wealth
No time to take life down from the shelf
No time to sing the song of yourself
Though you had enough love for a lifetime.
Those who live long endure sadness and tears
But you'll never suffer the sorrowing years
No betrayal, no anger, no hatred, no fears
Just love , only love , in your lifetime
And then we walked into the chapel. I felt like we'd walked into our own funeral, except we were still alive. There was everyone. We hugged each of them, individually, and cried on each other. It was overwhelming. We sat down...and there was Luke's tiny casket, with flowers on it. And it was all so real. Pastor Rick opened...saying they should never have to make caskets this small. His sermon was perfect. And then he said a prayer...and in it, he asked for healing for me...because I had now experienced both life and death inside of me...And I don't remember much past that. I remember bawling. Hearing everyone else crying. Hearts breaking all over again. It was over...and then we all walked up and laid daisies on his tiny casket. And everyone else left the chapel, and there we were again--our tiny family. Me, Jeff, and Luke. And we were saying goodbye to Luke again. For the last time, this time.
In the program that Denise printed for the service, we had the lyrics to Light Years printed inside. Light Years has always been my favorite song on Binaural, but now it had a completely new meaning to me. To us.