Friday, May 19, 2006

Funeral description (with pics)

On Monday, April 17, 2006, we began the task of planning our son’s funeral. We went to the funeral home to begin deciding on things and to see Drew.

The funeral home had a list of their services with prices listed. That helped make the process go more quickly. The cost for an infant’s funeral was 10% of the listed prices on most things (i.e. chapel, cars, embalming, etc.). We had to decide on a cemetery also.

We decided to hold the service in the chapel at the funeral home; it was a lovely facility.


We chose a memory book, service folders and what to print in them:

Memory book pages

Service folder

And a casket. We were a bit disappointed in the casket choices for infants. There were only four—two ugly cloth covered, a simple pine box and an ivory casket/vault combination with a subtle floral design on the top. Yes, we could have looked elsewhere for more choices but we didn’t feel like it and we liked the ivory one. The most expensive one, of course!

We then saw Drew.

On Tuesday, we went to purchase a burial plot and to pick out flowers. When we walked into the flower shop, I immediately saw some beautiful light blue hydrangea. I knew that’s what I wanted. We ordered the casket blanket, flowers from Elizabeth and flowers for the NICU.

Casket and casket blanket

Elizabeth peeking from behind the flowers from her

Throughout the entire process of Drew’s death and funeral, things kept happening that would seem to have deeper meaning. While deciding on flowers from Elizabeth, the florist suggested putting a stuffed animal in the arrangement and brought out a Peter Rabbit. I had to hold back tears because the blanket that I was making Drew was centered around Peter Rabbit. Little things like that just kept happening and would catch me off guard.

Anyway, we went back to spend time with Drew’s body every day. I had made a mold of his right hand before he died and we did the molds of his other hand and his feet at the funeral home.

We decided to wear blue to the funeral so I went shopping. A little retail therapy never hurts, right? Even though I hated the event that I was shopping for, I did it without breaking down too often. I purchased an outfit for me and then decided that I didn’t like it so I went back and got something that I liked better. Pretty typical for me.

In preparation for the service, we met with Brother Tom a couple of times, just reminiscing about Drew’s short life. I chose a quote by Victor Frankl to be read.

"We cannot judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents. Sometimes the unfinisheds are among the most beautiful symphonies."

We also wanted the following poem read:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight.
I am in the starshine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in everything.

Do not stand at my grave & cry,
I am not there, I do not die.

Raymond and I each chose one song to be played during the service. There were so many that I wanted to include but I didn’t want the service to drag on. Raymond chose Creed, "With Arms Wide Open." It was written by an expectant father welcoming his son to the world and talking about what he wants to teach his son. I had a more difficult time deciding on my song but finally settled on "You Raise Me Up" sung by Josh Grobin. I find the song inspirational, not sad.

We had lullabies and children’s songs played as people were being seated, comforting us and leaving. I will never forget what was playing as Drew’s casket was sealed—"Nighty Night." The sealing of the casket was very hard for me knowing that I would not ever see my son’s body again.

Included in the casket with Drew was a picture of our family placed on his chest, with his hands resting on it; Raymond’s bracelets—one on each wrist; my wedding band placed on Drew’s left index finger; and Winky, his stuffed lamb at his feet. He was wrapped in the blanket that we covered him with most often in the NICU, the one he loved to feel with his little hands.

Drew’s funeral was held on Thursday, April 20, 2006.

We had three pictures of Drew and our family placed around his casket, as well as a table with some of his blankets and stuffed animals.

Some of Drew’s things

We spent a lot of time in the chapel with Drew prior to the service. I didn’t know that our time with him was being broadcast via closed circuit television with no sound. I didn’t know that would start prior to the service. Oh well.

I thought that the service was nice; Brother Tom did a great job and he sang "Jesus Loves Me." I remember Raymond asking me if the poem had been read—yes, about 5 minutes earlier!

Raymond got up at the end to say a few words. After his initial difficulties—I thought that he was just going to sit back down—he did excellent. He spoke from the heart; nothing had been prepared in advance. He described Elizabeth as a bag of Skittles: bright, colorful and full of sugar. What an accurate analogy!

I admire Raymond’s strength in being able to speak, there’s no way I could have done it. Everything was (and still is) just too raw and fresh for me and the tears would have come too easily. I can write everything out with no problem but I couldn’t speak at my son’s funeral. I hope that I don’t eventually regret that decision.

Raymond acted as Drew’s sole pallbearer. He picked up Drew’s casket to carry it out to the car and all I could think was, "I certainly hope it stays sealed." He was carrying it under the top, not by the handles!

We chose not to have a hearse. Instead, Drew rode between me and Raymond in the back of the limousine. We had a police escort to the cemetery as it was quit a few miles from the funeral home.

The graveside service was very short. I didn’t worry about the top of the casket coming off as Raymond moved it out of the car to the grave; I made sure that he had the handles that time! We spent some time visiting with friends and family at the cemetery, many of who made the long drive from Texas. Honestly, I don’t remember much of that. I was kind of numb and in a daze. I appeared to be doing ok but it felt like a dream to me. I do know that Elizabeth and her cousins had fun running around.

Drew’s final resting place

After the funeral, the families went out to eat but I decided to spend some time alone at home. The funeral home brought all of the flowers to the house. I checked the mail. Drew’s birth certificate had finally arrived on the day of his funeral.

When the family came back to the house after eating, my brother-in-law noticed that our last name was misspelled in the service folders. It was also misspelled in Drew’s memory book. The funeral home printed us corrected folders and pages for the book. That shows how out of it Raymond and I were; we had approved the spelling of everything.

About a week later, I noticed that Drew’s age was incorrect on the new memory book pages. They had put that he was 5 months old instead of 5 weeks old. They fixed that as well, with apologies. I wasn’t upset about any of it, surprising because a couple of months ago I probably would have been. But the funeral home was very good about everything so there’s no need to get upset.

And that’s the shortened (ha!) version of how we planned our son’s funeral and how it went. It was as nice as an event of that nature can be. We thank everyone that took the time and made the trip to attend and to all of those that kept our family in their thoughts that day.


Anonymous said...

I really admire your strength. I know I said this once before but it's true. The service sounds like it was absolutely beautiful but I know I would have been a wreck throughout the whole thing. Don't beat yourself up for not speaking at his funeral. I promise you there is no way I could have done so either! I cried just reading your description of everything so I can only imagine how much harder it must have been and still is on you! I know Drew understands and is looking down on you with a smile right now! I really wish I had words that could ease your pain and make this time easier on you but I know there simply isn't. You will remain in my prayers!


April said...

everyday I am more amazed at how strong you are.

Anonymous said...

My cousin and his wife are the parents of a CDH baby born on May 17, 2006. I had never heard of CDH until Jolee was diagnosed prenatally. I am just so saddened to learn about all of the babies who have suffered from this condition. I am addicted to checking all the websites now to see how all the babies are doing. I am so very sorry for your loss. I pray for strength for you as you mourn the loss of your beautiful baby boy.