This is not your typical Mothers Day story or tribute. It is a real story of love, tragedy, sorrow and grief. Sadly this isn’t a story at all, it’s a reality, my reality.
I went to school for funeral services, it is a two year program. One year in school and the second year is a paid internship year that you work in funeral services and also complete assignments. To graduate from the program and get your license you must then pass a practical examination and final exams for school and then you have to write board exams. Two days of intense examinations.
During my time as an intern I had to deal with many families and every situation was always emotionally heightened given the circumstances. I often had to dig deep with in myself to deal with the weightiness of what it means to be a funeral director on a daily basis.
The hardest time was when I had to help support a family through infant loss. Their daughter passed away at 21 days old. She was born with a congenital birth disorder. The family knew before her birth and they were prepared, as prepared as one can be for such a thing.
I remember so vividly the feelings that I had when I got the news that I would be working with a baby. It stirred and tugged at my spirit in so many ways. It felt like the weight of a thousand mourning mothers resided inside me. We are told as funeral directors to always remember that the burden of loss is not ours, that the grief is not ours. We are to support families during their time of need but to not let it weigh too heavily on our own lives. This is a great sentiment as it is a challenging industry. As a funeral director you are constantly surrounded with grief, sadness, loss and mourning. I was not meant to be a funeral director, I don’t know how to not carry the ‘burden’ of loss when sitting next to a mourning family or I suppose it could be argued that I was meant to be the greatest funeral director of all. But it took a toll on me.
I never met with the baby’s family. I went to the Sick Kids Hospital to pick her up after the autopsy was performed. In infant death autopsies are almost always performed even if the cause of death is suspected before hand. Usually we use a stretcher like you see in an ambulance but because the baby was so little we used a special carry case.
From the moment I placed her into that case I wanted to protect her. I didn’t want to let anyone else near her. I wanted to be alone with her, selfishly, feeling that I was the only one that could give her the tender care that her mother would give to her if only she was allowed to be in the room.
She was so small and so beautiful. Her family was of the Baha’i faith. At the core of this faith is the belief that there is unity in one God, unity of religion and the unity of mankind. This faith does not believe in embalming unless deemed necessary by medical practitioners or by the law.
The family provided three linens to swaddle the baby in, along with a pin to fasten the blanket over her heart and gems and beads and jewels to place around her. I placed each one just so taking the up most care on the placement along side her. I valued and hated each piece as I placed it. Conflicted with the overwhelming desire to make sure things were perfect for both the baby and the Mother and a deep rooted lack of understanding at the ways of the world. Each bead placed with a woe of why? I then placed her in the smallest of caskets made for the smallest of girls. I think I placed a piece of me in there with her as well. Actually, I know that I did.
So while my children jumped into my bed this morning placing beautiful kisses and gifts gingerly around me, I am reminded of this family, that I never met, that I never got to tell how much care and love went from me to them during their most devastating time of loss.
Motherhood is such a gift. Embrace the time that you have with your children no matter how much or how little of it you have. Make the time matter. Make the time count.
This Mother’s Day I only want the cherished gift of time. And maybe a relief from the house work.
Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.