Songs for a Funeral
When Nanna, Ryan and Alethea came home from the park for some silly reason I suggest that Ryan and I take Alethea to Lollipops play land (that’s an indoor play area for children, it has jumping castles, ball pits, big slides etc.) I was conscious that Alethea had been shipped from place to place, she had seen everybody she loved upset, she had realised that her baby brother was not coming home and I wanted her to have some fun, she deserved some fun. Although it was good for Alethea, she ran around waving and giggling the whole time to us, it was horrible for both Ryan and me. I hadn’t really thought about what it would be like for us before going there, I had just thought of Alethea. Sitting there we watched all the kids playing, there were little boys around 1 year old, just learning to walk and finding their independence and I looked at all of them with silent tears running down my face thinking that Liam would never be able to do these things, distraught at what we were missing out on, I looked around and saw all the children who had siblings to play with and it hurt my heart that Alethea was still without a sibling, she had patiently waited for a sibling, she had asked for one time and time again, and now that she had one…he wasn’t here.
That Saturday night was horrible, my milk had come in that day and I had hormones surging through my body, I think it was the lowest night that I have ever experienced. I had a shower before I went to bed, my milk was dripping down my body, and I screamed and cried in the shower, knowing that it would drown my sounds, I looked at the shower screen and I wanted to smash it, I wanted to hit my fist so hard against the shower that it would break, I had all this pain inside me that I wanted to get out but instead I stood in the shower trying to control myself, my brain was reasoning with me saying things like ‘if you smash the screen you will have to arrange to replace it, if it smashed you will wake Alethea up and she might come into the bathroom and hurt herself’ I hopped out of the shower and sobbed, without the shower on and the fan going, Ryan could hear me and he came straight in and cuddled me and I told him that I didn’t think I was going to cope, I didn’t think that I could go on. Rather than telling me that of course I would cope and of course I would go on, Ryan just looked at me and told me I was doing wonderful and I was coping better than he expected me to and he was proud of me and he loved me. We went to bed and again I took some pain tablets and a sleeping tablet, but this night they did little to help me sleep, I tossed and turned and kept having to tell myself ‘Liam’s death is not my fault’ my mind was playing horrible games with me telling me that I was a bad mum, that I had done something to cause Liam’s death and I had to mentally picture the paediatrician sitting opposite me in the hospital saying to me ‘Liam’s death is not your fault’ guilt is a horrible thing, and makes you feel sick down to the bottom of your stomach. When I wasn’t blaming myself for Liam’s death I was deciding on whether or not I should still be living, looking back I know that I wasn’t suicidal but I did think to myself ‘If I died I wouldn’t feel this pain that I am feeling now’ but then my mind would tell me that that was a very selfish thing to think, that would devastate Alethea and affect her for the rest of her life, and also Ryan. I then thought about a calendar that we had at work, it was a Chinese calendar written in French (figure that one?!) and it basically said that a person born in the year Ryan was born in was not really compatible with a person born in the year I was born in, when we had read it at work I had laughed at it and mocked it, and I said to the girls ‘Well I am married to him, we have a daughter together and we are soon to have our next baby and we can’t wait and we are still in love, so this can’t be right’ but lying in bed that night I was thinking to myself ‘what if love is not enough, what if you need more than love, you need some sort of luck to go with your love that Ryan and I don’t have’ and I thought about leaving in the middle of the night, I thought about all the places that I could go, to friend’s houses, to motels etc. but I knew no matter where I went Ryan would find me or I would stay there a day and then come back, I knew that there was no way that I could live without my rock, my love, my protector but it didn’t stop the thoughts from coming.
Sunday morning comes and Ryan and I are both exhausted, neither of us had slept very well and we had Alethea to entertain, generally we limit the amount of television that she watches, most days she doesn’t watch TV but if she does it is usually about 30mins to a maximum of 1 hour, so Ryan and I fulfil the role of the entertainers. The thought of having to play with her all day was exhausting, she is a very full on little girl, you know, play dough, then colouring then tea parties then Thomas train tracks, painting the list goes on and on, and usually we love doing it, that is the reason why we chose to have children, but today I was in tears thinking about having to look after her. It was going to take all my energy to look after me let alone think about her. Thank goodness that Ryan’s mum and dad called in the morning and didn’t offer but insisted that they take Alethea that day and leave us to be until the Tuesday morning, as much as I love my little girl this was exactly what Ryan and I needed, our sorrow was too much and having a 3 year old there, was not only hard on us, but unfair to her, we were not capable of being the parents she required, we were only just existing. Ryan’s parents came to our house around 10am to pick her up, and didn’t stay they left with her straight away, she cheerily waved to us yelling ‘bye mummy, bye daddy I am having a sleep over at nanna’s house’ Left alone Ryan and I sink into the lounge and turn the television on, we spent most of the day watching movies, we were too tired to do anything else, the life in us had gone, I remember looking at Ryan and saying to him ‘When we got married I felt so young, beautiful, so carefree, so fit, it has only been 6 years and I feel anything but those things, I feel as though I am 100’ he looked at me and pressed his lips together and nodded his head with tears in his eyes and then he apologised to me saying ‘I am sorry that I have made you feel so old, I am sorry our life together has not gone how we planned it to go, I am sorry I have not made you feel beautiful and carefree’ and I told him that of course it wasn’t his fault, that these things had just happened and our time for happiness would come again. He too sat next to me and told me that he felt a lot older than what he should do. I remember sitting on the lounge thinking about how much energy it would require for me to get up and go to the toilet, my body felt like a dead weight, that’s how old and tired I was feeling. Ryan was so good to me, he made my lunch, he made me endless cups of tea and he even made my dinner that night, which was a big deal for him as I could count on 1 or 2 hands how many times he has cooked for me since we have been married, but I didn’t have the strength or the will/want to cook so he stepped up and took charge for me.
Ryan and I both took sleeping tablets that night and as we had slept so little the night before, sleep came to both of us that night. Monday morning came and I opened my eyes, as I had been in a deep sleep I had that feeling that I’d had a bad dream and wanted so badly to feel that I was still pregnant, I closed my eyes ‘Please God let it be a bad dream’ and slowly moved my hand down to my stomach willing Liam to still be in there, but as I ran my hand over it, it was empty, soft and without life, I closed my eyes again and wanted to go back to sleep, I didn’t want to be awake dealing with life, I wanted it to pass me by. Ryan and I needed to sort out what we wanted for Liam’s funeral and give instructions to the funeral home the next day. I asked Ryan if he wanted to say anything, I had the poem to say, but I thought that Ryan might like to say something as well, and surprisingly he said that he might ask my brother to say something instead of him, which I agreed with because I wanted him to do whatever made him the most comfortable. We sat and listened to some songs to choose for the funeral, we were told that we needed 1 on entry, 1 for the middle and 1 for the end. The one on entry was easy, we chose Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, the song for the middle was a hard one to choose, we ended up choosing Sarah McLachlan’s Angel, this was a tough decision for us, because although it is a lovely heartfelt ‘tragic’ song it was a song that Ryan and I had such fond memories of…we had performed our bridal waltz to this song, Ryan’s best friends mum had choreographed a whole waltz for us to dance to and we had practised and practised and it was one of our fondest memories of our wedding and brought such joy to us that we were not sure we wanted to remember it with any sadness, but I said to Ryan ‘If I can give our little boy only one thing, because that is all that we are capable of doing, I can give him our song, he needs to know how much we love him, and if I can give him a song that has memories full of love to him then I think that is what we need to do’ We listened to Angel, and rather than making us sad thinking about Liam, it brought us peace knowing that our song had so much love with it, so many happy memories and I said to Ryan ‘If this is played in the middle of the service, it will give me peace, it will steady my soul and I will be able to cope, this will always be our love song, but we can give it to our little boy with love’ and Ryan looked at me and agreed, we could be selfless and share our song with our little man. The song that we chose for the end was by Savage Garden ‘I knew I loved you’ it was slightly more upbeat then the other songs and it had beautiful lyrics ‘I knew I loved you before I met you I think I dreamed you into my life’ which is exactly how we felt about Liam. We let the funeral home know about our song choice so that they could arrange the music to be played and they asked us again (which they had also asked us when we went to see them) if we would like a viewing of Liam, when they had first asked we had both said no, we had beautiful memories of Liam and we didn’t want that to change, but when they asked us again both of us had changed our minds. It’s a hard thing not to want to see your baby again, given the opportunity we decided that we would like to know that he was comfortable, clothed nicely and had all the things that we had given the funeral home in with him, we wanted to see that he was ‘safe’ and we couldn’t give up the opportunity to say goodbye to him again, to see and to touch him that one last time, he was our baby, who would give up the opportunity of seeing their baby again? So we said yes and they told us that we would be able to see him the next morning and I anticipated seeing him, I yearned to see him, I needed him.
That Monday night we both took sleeping tablets again, but this night they did nothing for us. We went to bed, but both Ryan and I relived the hours of Liam’s death over and over. We had gone into labour last Monday night, it had only been 1 week, but it had seemed like an eternity. Both of us were silent in bed, we each thought the other was sleeping, but both of us watched the clock 11pm waters broke, 12 midnight arrive at hospital, 115am doctor says we will have a Caesar, 244am Liam is born, 5am they tell us he won’t make it then we cuddle our baby to sleep. Liam’s whole birth and death plays over and over in our minds, we relive every detail, every word spoken to us, every emotion felt. I get really distraught at the fact that the hospital staff insisted on moving me and my baby seconds before he dies, why would they do that? All I can think is that they weren’t thinking, they wanted to clean the operating suite and wanted us out of the room, why would they do that, why couldn’t they wait just a few more minutes, that’s all he had in him, that’s all he could give, yet they insisted on moving us, poor little boy. I relive Liam’s last breath over and over and I keep wondering to myself if he was in pain, if he could feel my love, if he was scared. Just before 6am we both fell asleep, we were able to sleep in because Alethea was still at Nanna’s house, so we didn’t get up until 8am, we needed to get to the funeral home by 10am otherwise both of us would have stayed asleep. Nanna had called us and we had told her that we were going to see Liam and she asked if she should bring Alethea, we were unsure what to do, we had told Alethea that she wasn’t going to see her brother again, and we didn’t know what Liam would look like, but we did know that if she saw him again, she would realise that he was dead and have a better understanding of it. We decided to ask Nanna to bring her near the funeral home but not to bring her in unless we called her and said it was ok. We were given only a 30 minute bracket to see our little baby, we were told that there was going to be a funeral held at the home and they needed to set up for it. We arrived really early and I realised that I hadn’t given Liam a dummy, (or more to the point Alethea hadn’t given Liam a dummy, and this was one of the jobs that we had given her to do for when the baby came) so we quickly went to a pharmacy and bought a couple just in case we let Alethea see him and she could then choose which one she wanted to give to him. We returned to the funeral home and a big man Alan opened the door for us he had tears in his eyes as we entered and I realised that seeing a big healthy looking beautiful but dead baby was not something that even people in the funeral industry were immune to. Alan directed us to a kind of chapel where Liam was, we entered and there were empty chairs set up for the next funeral, it was a cavernous room and there was a tiny white coffin in the middle down the front, I burst into tears seeing such a tiny coffin, no baby should die and be buried before their parents. We walk down the aisle and the lid to his coffin is open and there lay our beautiful little boy. He had red rosy cheeks, blonde hair, and white skin and apart from his dark little lips looked as though he could just be sleeping, he was beautiful. I leant over to stoke his little head, his hair and skin were still so very soft but icy cold ‘Oh beautiful boy I am so sorry this has happened to you’ my tears fell onto his little face. Ryan looked at him ‘My poor little man, this is so very wrong, we shouldn’t be here, he shouldn’t be here, he should be with us at home.’ We called Ryan’s mum to say it was ok for Alethea to see Liam and she was in the room about 1 minute later, she walked up and said ‘what is this mummy’ and I told her that baby Liam was here, he was in what we call a coffin, but he was still dead and wasn’t breathing, I told her that it was just his body that we could see, that what was inside, who he was, was in heaven and she understood very well. I picked her up to show her little Liam and she leant over to touch his face ‘He is very cold mummy’ and I tell her ‘that’s because he is not alive, he is not breathing like you or me’ I ask her if she would like to give Liam a dummy and she says yes, I tell her that she can’t put it in his mouth, but he would be able to see if from heaven and he would know that it was there and that she had given it to him. She looks very carefully at the dummies and chooses a green one to give him and places it to the right of his head and says ‘there you go Liam, there is your dum dum, just like I had when I was a baby’ she gently strokes his head again; she knows that he is dead. I explain to her that ‘tomorrow we are going to do something called burying baby Liam, that is where the coffin (and I show her the coffin) is put into the ground, and it is a place that we can visit when we want to talk to or think about baby Liam, it is a place where we put his body, but it is only his body because what is inside of him is already in heaven’ she nods and tells me ‘ok mummy’ just like that. (I think it is a very personal choice to what you do with children, but Alethea was going to be present at Liam’s funeral and for us it was important that she realised what was happening, and also realised why we would visit his grave in the future) Ryan’s mum comes from the back of the chapel up to where we were and looks at Liam with tears in her eyes she says ‘It’s just not fair little man is it’ she then took a couple of photos, which I hadn’t thought about doing and then Alethea and her said goodbye to Liam and left the room. Ryan and I also took a couple of photos of Liam in his coffin, it felt really wrong to take a photo of a baby in a coffin, but I am so glad that we did, he was so beautiful in his coffin and it gives me comfort to remember and see all the things that we placed in his coffin with him. Before we went to see Liam, they had warned us that we were only allowed 30mins with him because of the next funeral that day, at the time Ryan and I had thought that 30mins was plenty of time, our purpose for going was to see that he was ok and to make sure he had everything that we wanted him to have, however now that we were there it was the quickest 30mins of our lives, we wanted more, we needed more, but we looked at our watches and with time up we didn’t want to be told or asked to leave, we wanted to leave on our terms, so we both kissed our little boy for the final time told him that we loved him to the stars and back and turned and left him there. We exited the room without a word holding hands as tight as we could. Our little boy in a coffin, our little boy cold as ice, our little boy dead.
Because our little boy was like a sleeping baby, I was tempted to put a photo of how we left him in his coffin here, however I feel it is too heartbreaking for most people to see, so I haven’t
- Posted in: The First Weeks