A Tiny White Coffin
After seeing Liam in the funeral home, Ryan and I returned home as we had our pastor Sylvia coming to our house to go over what was going to happen the next day at the funeral. We didn’t do an order of service, I’m not sure why we didn’t, maybe it was because there was only going to be family there, maybe it was because arranging one seemed like too much effort for Ryan and I to manage, but by the time she had left we knew exactly what would happen and were content with everything.
That afternoon we visited the local mall, we wanted to print and frame a photo of Liam to put next to his casket, some of our family had not seen Liam, and some had only seen him for a couple of minutes, so we wanted to share with everyone just how beautiful he was. We also wanted to buy Alethea something special to wear for the day, which was very hard, we went from shop to shop searching for a beautiful dress for her but even though it was the middle of winter, most of the winter dresses had already been replaced with summer ones and the winter ones that were left were horrible. After visiting what seemed like every shop in the mall we finally found her a gorgeous tan coloured dress with a beautiful light pink coat, and we bought her little pink boots with a butterfly on the side of them to match. After all that walking I was quite fatigued and sore (being only 7 days since my Caesar) so went home for a lie down on the lounge, before our little bundle of energy returned to us that afternoon, we needed to be mummy and daddy for her, she needed us, and we had to step up and be there for her. Ryan also decided that afternoon that rather than getting my brother to say something at the funeral (which we hadn’t even asked him to do yet) that he needed to say something, he said to me ‘I am Liam’s dad, if I can’t say something at my sons funeral no one should, I would regret not saying something for the rest of my life’ so he sat down and prepared his speech.
I had been in contact with my sister in law to ask if she was bringing my nieces (I have 3 adorable nieces aged at the time 8, 6 and 4) I told her it was totally up to her if they came, I understood if they were not there because death at any age is hard to handle, let alone for 3 little girls. She asked me if Alethea was going which I replied yes, she told me that they felt the girls would be ok if they were at the funeral but said ‘I will take them straight out of the service if they muck around at all’ I tried but failed to let her know it really didn’t bother me if they “mucked around” because kids will be kids, and this was Liam’s funeral and he was only a baby and I understood that kids aren’t always well behaved, I was unsure even how Alethea was going to go. I was very happy that my nieces would be there because I was quite conscious that although I wanted Alethea to be at the funeral, she would also see Ryan and I very upset, along with her grandparents, and I thought that her nieces would be a good distraction for her afterwards when we came home from the cemetery. I was very lucky that both Ryan’s and my family were happy to provide all the food for after the funeral, catering for people was definitely something that I wasn’t capable of at that point. In a way I went to bed slightly anticipating/looking forward to the next day, I thought that once we had said our final goodbyes to Liam and put him to rest I would be able to start the “healing” process, but I was also dreading it, I tried to envisage in my mind the coffin in the chapel, and I tried to envisage watching Liam’s coffin being lowered in to the ground just so that it would be a little easier for me tomorrow, but each time I thought about it I started to cry and nothing could have prepared me for exactly what it felt like.
We woke early on July 4th to get ready for the funeral, I had written a list the night before of things that I didn’t want to forget, my brain was such a mess that even simple things were easy forgotten, they included flowers (family had given 30 beautiful white roses and we wanted to hand them out to everyone to lay on Liam’s coffin) Alethea’s envelope, she had drawn a picture for Liam, it was of mummy, daddy and her and baby Liam in the sky and she had written “to Liam, love Alethea” on it, she had spent a long time the evening before preparing it (most of her drawings now include Liam as part of our family which is lovely). I also needed the poem I was going to say and the letter that I had written to Liam to place in with his casket, we needed to remember the photo, Ryan’s speech, sunglasses and tissues. My parents had told us that they would arrive at our house really early that morning, because we live around 50km away from each other, and given that 9am was the only service time available for that day they needed to leave their house very early in the morning to avoid peak hour, so I had figured that while Ryan and I got ready that they would be helping us get Alethea ready and looking after her while we gathered our thoughts. I’m not sure what kept them that morning, probably the traffic I forgot to ask, but they arrived with only around 5 minutes to spare before we needed to leave, so Ryan and I had to get everything ready as well as look after our little munchkin and try to calm her, she was nervous because she could tell that we were nervous, and she was excited because she was going to see her cousins who she adored, and she was excited because we had let her chose a bag of lollies and some chips that she could share with her cousins after the funeral, back at our house.
We drove in silence to the cemetery; it’s an eerie feeling driving to your baby’s funeral. It was a really cold day. I looked nice, Alethea looked very gorgeous, and Ryan as always looked fantastic. The drive up to Frenchs Forest took a lot less time than we anticipated so we were around half an hour early. My aunty and uncle were already there, they hugged us and told us how sorry they were for our loss, I thanked them both for coming (it’s a very long way from their house) then whispered to my aunty that I had asked her there mainly because I needed her to be strong for my mum, I needed her to look after mum because I was not capable of doing it, she nodded with tears in her eyes knowing exactly what to do. It was so very cold; steam was coming out of our mouths when we breathed. Alethea wanted to go inside, so I walked up the small hill to the chapel with her. Alan stood at the door with a little book to write our names in. I wrote mine (Amanda-mummy) and then asked Alethea to write hers as well. The entrance to the chapel was not at the back, but at the front. Liam’s coffin was right in front of us as we entered and you had to walk by it to sit down. I placed his photo right next to his coffin and Alethea asked me which side his head was. I pointed out where his head was and told her to remember it was only his body, that who he was inside was already in heaven ‘Ok mummy’. I felt very relieved that I had seen Liam in the coffin the day before; I knew he was comfortable, and as I had already seen the coffin it was not as much of a shock as it would have been if I had seen it for the first time that morning. Slowly more people arrived, Ryan was still outside, he had not yet ventured in, he had thought the longer he waited outside the longer it took for him to face reality, he did not want to enter the chapel, he couldn’t bear to witness what was about to happen. Our pastor was the last person to arrive and we met her outside and had to tell her that instead of asking my brother to say something, Ryan had decided that he would take that place and talk to his little boy. I could see that people were settling themselves inside so I went back in, to my surprise as I entered in, Alethea was telling anyone who would listen what was happening in her own way ‘Liam is in the coffin, this is where his head is and this is where his feet are, I have given him a dum dum and it’s here, I have given him a blue teddy as well, and we are going to bury baby Liam, but don’t worry it’s only his body in the coffin, Liam has gone to heaven, but he will always be in here’ and as she said that she put her hand on her heart, and she repeated it a few times ‘Liam is here, he will always be in here’ holding her hand on her heart the whole time, I have asked all our family if they had told her that and everyone denies having said that to her, we had only told her that he was in heaven, we never said that he would be in her heart, but this is how she understood it, and this is how she told everyone, she was so loving in the way she said it and for those few minutes she was the proud big sister introducing everyone to her baby brother, she showed them the photo of Liam and said ‘this is Liam, my brother’ poor little poppet, what 3 year old should have to proudly present their baby brother to the family in a coffin…it’s not right.
We sit down, there were four chairs to a row and I offer Alethea to sit with her cousins up the back, it didn’t bother me if they were a little noisy, I just wanted her there, but instead of sitting with her cousins (which she thinks the world of) she chose to sit at the front with Ryan and I, my brother asked my 8yr old niece (Brielle) if she would sit up the front next to Alethea to keep her company and she agrees, so it went in order me, Ryan, Alethea then Brielle. Alethea knew that we were upset and hardly said a word throughout the whole service (except for asking Ryan if she was allowed to dance when the first song was played, to which Ryan answered ‘not here’) she did however sit on either Ryan’s or my lap for the whole service, trying to feel safe and secure, so for most of the time my 8 year old niece sat by herself with an empty chair next to her, right up the front of the chapel, right next to Liam’s coffin, not saying a word, which I think is an extremely brave and courageous thing to do, whether she realised just how horrible this funeral was or what was happening, being only 8 I am not sure, but she sat there and didn’t say a word and didn’t move or cry, she was so extremely brave for her age, and I was extremely proud of her.
The service began with Tears in Heaven, then there was a quick welcome followed by me, and I got up to say the poem. As I stood there, saying a poem didn’t feel like enough, I looked at the people in the room and I said ‘what can I say at the funeral of my baby, I find it so hard to believe he is not here and can’t understand how something so perfect could be taken from us I have no words to describe what I feel’ I looked at Liam’s casket and said ‘You tell everyone up there that mummy says take good care of you and give you cuddles and kisses, but you tell them that their time with you is short, and when mummy gets up there look out… I will cuddle and kiss you forever and never let you go’ and I start to read my poem, and as I did I forget all the rest of the people in the room and it was just me and my little boy, I was talking to him, I don’t remember looking at anyone, I don’t know if anyone was crying, I don’t know of anything else that happened while I talked, I just remember the silence, the coldness and me and my boy. I finished and sat down and then Ryan was invited up to say what he had prepared. I nursed Alethea on my lap while her daddy bravely stood up, and for the second time in my life I saw a broken dad. My husband is very tall, and normally holds his height very well, but looking at him here he was hunched, deflated, broken. He spoke to my little boy with tears in his eyes the whole time, telling him all the things he wanted to do with him, telling him how perfect he was and how much he loved him, how much his sister loved him and had looked forward to him being here and how much his mum loved him, this time I had eyes only for my husband, feeling his pain, wanting to take it away, and eyes for my little boy who daddy was talking to and my little girl who watched not quite understanding why her dad looked so upset, yet she sat totally still and didn’t say a word, again I had no idea what the rest of the people in the room were doing, I was in a cocoon of just me, Ryan, Alethea and Liam and noticed nothing else. Ryan finishes and sits back down next to me and our love song starts “Angel” I had hoped that this wouldn’t make me sad, that it would steady me, and to my surprise that is exactly what it did, I had been a mess when Ryan was talking, but hearing our song, calmed me, it steadied my soul and warmed me all the way to my bones, and I closed my eyes thinking about our love, Ryan’s and my love for each other, our love for Alethea and our love for our little boy Liam. The pastor Sylvia rose to give her message, and I don’t remember too much of it, only her saying that Liam was already safe in heaven and that we would see him again one day and I sat looking at my little boys coffin and felt the numbness overtake my whole body again, the day did not feel real, the chapel was surreal, the coldness was overbearing, the coffin was not right it was too tiny, too white, who has a dead baby, who does this? My ears start to ring and I can hear nothing. I don’t know what happened for the rest of the service, I really don’t, but I was brought back to reality when Savage Garden started over the stereo, and I was aware that people around me were starting to rise….that was it, my little boys service was over, that was all he was given, it wasn’t long, it wasn’t filled with hundreds of people, there were no long eulogies given, he was denied the right to shine in this world, he was denied the right to life-long friendships, to happiness, to life itself, but he did have a mum and dad and big sister who loved him for all of his life, loved for every movement inside me, and for the hours that he lived outside of my tummy he had a mummy and daddy who willed him to live, who sent all their love to him across the room to the table where they worked on him, and he had a mummy and daddy who because they loved him so much kissed him and cuddled him goodbye and told him it was ok to go, and poured a lifetime of love into 20 short minutes.
Ryan walks a metre in front of him and lifts Liam’s tiny coffin, he cradles his little boy in his arms one last time and walks out to the awaiting funeral car, slowly and gently he lays his little boy down in the car, kisses his fingers and places them upon Liam’s casket, no daddy should have to carry their sons coffin, ever. Ryan, Alethea and I hop into the car and drive around to the baby lawn while the rest of the family walked slowly behind the car carrying Liam. It wasn’t a long walk, but a walk that I was not capable of doing for 2 reasons; firstly because I had the Caesar only 1 week ago and secondly my legs would not have held me up for that walk, I would have collapsed en-route. We arrive at the baby lawn and there are a few chairs set up and a small marquee, and at the spot where we chose to put Liam to rest a rectangular hole had been dug. White roses are handed to everyone and Ryan places Liam’s casket over the hole on some makeshift platform and the pastor again says some words, I cannot focus on what she says, Ryan has Alethea in his arms and uses his left arm to embrace me, then we watch as Alan lowers Liam’s coffin into the ground and I scream with pain and burst into tears, ‘no, no, no’ I hysterically sob into Ryan’s chest and can’t control myself at all, I had tried to envisage this over the past 24hrs but now that it is here no amount of thinking about it could prepare me for the devastation that I feel, my heart was torn in 2 at that moment and the pain is something that cannot be described in words.
Everyone takes turns putting their rose in with Liam’s coffin, I give Alethea her letter that she wrote to Liam and she took that and her white rose and let it fall from her hands onto the coffin, ‘there you go baby Liam, that’s my letter to you’ I stand with her and my husband and place my letter in with my little boy, kiss my rose and let if fall, Ryan does the same with his, I look down to his tiny coffin and see his name engraved on a silver tab, my little Liam, and it hits me, we are leaving our baby in a coffin in the ground, how did it come to this.
Realising that the “official” part to the funeral is now finished, Alethea becomes a 3 year old again and runs up excitedly to her cousins and Ryan and I are left alone, he supported me more than I did him, and he used his strength to guide me away, I was not even capable of supporting my own weight, and the coldness stayed with us that whole day.
- Posted in: The First Weeks