When you are expecting a baby you don't think about having to make arrangements with a funeral home. When I knew that Alexander wouldn't come home with us from the hospital I still didn't think about having to make arrangements for his little body. The nurses gave us a list of funeral homes in the area and asked us who to call. I didn't even know where to begin. Thankfully my pastor stepped in and told us about a few on the list, to help us make our decision.
We had decided we wanted him cremated and we wanted to scatter his ashes someplace natural and beautiful. Its what we both wanted to happen to our bodies when we die, so it was a natural choice for our son.
We were able to pick up Alexander's ashes a few weeks later. They were in a box, wrapped in paper, placed in a velvet bag. I placed his ashes in his crib, his room still set up to welcome him home, and covered them with the blanket I had made. We told him good night every night before bed.
In April during spring break we made the 8 hour drive up to Humboldt county. Alexander's ashes resting in his box, bundled up in his blanket, and placed in my backpack. We had decided to scatter Alexander's ashes in the redwood forests that we loved, had studied under, and met under. We picked up a friend along the way, stayed with yet another friend, and two more friends joined us to scatter his ashes.
It was Palm Sunday April 17, 2011, the beginning of holy week, a time of remembering Christ's death on the cross but also a time for remembering his resurrection. The very same death and resurrection that assured me that Alexander was in Christ's arms the second his heart stopped. It was also April, in Humboldt, which meant it was raining. The rain fit, like the sky was weeping with us as we said goodbye. We drove out to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and hiked up the the West Ridge Trail. My husband carrying Alexander's ashes in the backpack. Oh how I wished that it was a healthy, happy little boy he was carrying in a child carrier on a warm sunny day.
We hiked a ways with our 4 friends, then went a bit off the trail. We came to a clearing, made by a fallen giant. It was beautiful, the new life that sprung up from that fallen tree. We walked out onto the log and we unwrapped Alexander's ashes. My husband scattered the ashes throughout the clearing, flinging them in one wide ark as the rain quietly fell. I held Alexander's blanket. I had chosen some verses and a poem to read. I knew I would not be able to get through them myself. I asked our friends, Alexander's god parents to read them.
When we lose someone we love it seems that time stands still. What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness. A longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch, We may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget. We will see you again someday, in a heavenly place where there is no parting. A place where there are no words that mean good-bye. ~Irish funeral prayer
We held each other as these verses were read:
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22
Psalm 461 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
My husband said some words to Alexander. He told his son about the forest, how much it meant to us, how beautiful it was even when it was raining, and how he could enjoy running through it or just sitting peacefully. We said goodbye and walked away. A weight had been lifted off of our shoulders. We still missed our baby boy, but there was a letting go, an acknowledgement that he was gone, he was no longer ours to take care of.
We decided not to have a memorial service. I felt the prayer in the hospital and the scattering of ashes was enough. I wasn't sure how I could celebrate the memory of a baby that never took a breath at the time. I know now how to remember his life with love, even a sort of happiness, and a definite peace. And we will be celebrating his life on his first birthday in just a few weeks with friends and family that have been supportive this past year. People we know who have been affected by Alexander's death but more importantly have been affected by his life.
Please join us in celebrating the memory of Alexander's life in just a couple weeks on Friday, February 10 by committing a random act of kindness. It could be something big or small as long as its kindness in memory of Alexander. If you do do something let us know what you did.