May 1st, 2015.
It is a day that will be engraved on my heart for the rest of my life. The last day that I saw, held, and kissed my sweet daughter. It was the day of her funeral and burial.
For 10 months, I anxiously and excitedly awaited her arrival. I felt her within me every day. The little tickles of her movements in the second trimester grew into larger kicks, punches, and summersaults that would stop me in my tracks. She hiccuped all the time. She existed and was fully alive within me, enjoying the love and warmth of my womb.
I vividly remember a few months after her death, I was sharing Gianna’s story with a fellow mother. Upon hearing her story, she seemed to light up, smiled, and exclaimed, “Well, aren’t you SO happy you now have an angel in Heaven?” I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to say. I tried to hold back the tears. I had just finished telling the story of my daughter’s tragic death and she didn’t seem to comprehend how painful it was. I now understand that most people don’t know what to say or do facing such a tragic situation. This was apparently one of those saddening moments. And that is when I wanted to scream, “Hello! I am a human! Not a disembodied spirit!”
Upon leaving that situation, my mind went back to the times I was pregnant with my child, when I felt her precious body moving within me. My mind went back to those moments in the NICU when I got to hold her, caress her soft skin, lay her limp little hand in mine and try to curl her limp little fingers around mine. I thought of her sweet locks of curls under all the EEG equipment. I was immediately brought back to her physicality. To her physical body.
Last year I wrote my master’s thesis on grief and came across this C.S. Lewis quote from A Grief Observed that resonated deeply with me:
“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.”
Yes, her soul and spirit live on but her precious body was laid to rest. It was laid to rest in her grave. That precious body that was moving and kicking within me is now underground. It is permanent. I will never hold her precious body again. Ever again. I will never get her back.
After I buried her and we were the last to pull away from the cemetery, I was able to experience exactly how infinitely powerful the bond between mother and child is. It is something otherworldly. Part of me died with her. And that part will never come back. I felt like my body was going to literally die of sadness. I felt crushed. I felt lost. I felt that everything wrong in the world was coming down to suffocate me. And I had my first emotional breakdown. The weight of her death came crashing down and I was drowning.
We are physical people and live in a physical world. We hold hands, embrace, kiss. We enjoy meals together, run, play. We fold our hands in prayer and bow down in worship. We can’t divorce ourselves from our physicality once death comes our way. That buried body is the body that someone rocked to sleep as a infant, threw a ball with when a child, held a hand with in the dating years, and embraced in his older years. That body was loved by someone and missed by many. That body deserves to be memorialized, honored, remembered, cried over, and visited.
May we not forget our loved ones who have passed to the other side. May we honor them by visiting where they are laid to rest and keeping their burial sites clean and full of flowers. May we remember them for surely they remember us.
Until I can see you again, my little love, Gianna, I will be dreaming my dreams with you. And I will honor you in the only way I know possible – keeping your memory alive and honoring your grave.