Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Story: The Funeral

On Thursday my Dad, Sisters, Jamel, and his girlfriend met Mike and I at the funeral home. I was wearing a pair of Mike's sweatpants and tennis shoes, I had no make-up on, and my hair was in a messy ponytail. I didn't care what I looked like, it took all the energy I had to even take a shower that morning. The funeral director led us into a small room with an oval table that not all of us could fit around so some of us had to tuck away in corners of the room. He told us that Olivia would be arriving anytime, but I still hadn't heard from the medical examiner.

The first thing he wanted us to do was pick out the plot. He pulled out a map of the cemetery and explained the cost of each area, the benefits, and the availability. I just remember being amazed at all of the different options and prices. This was the money I thought I would be spending on Olivia's schooling or wedding, not her grave site. I kept telling him that I didn't want anything fancy, I didn't want a funeral, I didn't want this to be sad, and that I just wanted close family to say goodbye and be done with it. I mean, how do you have a funeral for an 11 month old who's biggest accomplishment was patty cake? I knew inside that I was being ridiculous, but it was how I felt. No one should have to plan a funeral after something so traumatic... you're just not in your right mind.

The director drove Jamel, Mike, Chelsea, and I around the cemetery so we could physically see the spots and I chose a plot halfway up the hill next to a tree. It would be an easy spot for people to remember when they came to visit. Then we went went back inside the room to discuss headstones and I chose one that had a baby rocking in a tree. The medical examiner called during the process and told us that she didn't find anything, that it would more than likely be ruled as SIDS, and that the detective would call me once the case was closed and everything was finalized. The last thing we needed to decide on was the casket. They had two options. The first casket made everyone break into tears. It was shaped like a regular casket and when you opened it, it was covered in bright pink silk. I don't know who would be able to bury their child in something like that. I chose a more simple rectangular casket that looked more like a bassinet. We were there for over 8 hours so I had plenty of time to think, and by the end of the day I had decided that Olivia deserved a proper service and burial. 

After everything was planned and we were free to go, I thought it would be a good idea to stop by my place real quick to grab some things since we were so close. Mike went in first and removed everything that was hers. Her highchair, rocking chair, books, photos, clothes, anything that I would see that would make me think of her, and put it in her room. It was as hard as I had thought it would be going into that house so I grabbed what I could see, fed the cat, and got out as fast as I could. We were hungry so we went out for dinner. It was the worst experience of my life. Everyone around us was happy and going on with life like nothing had happened. Families were playing and feeding their little ones, and I just wanted to go up to them and tell them how lucky they were and to appreciate every moment with their kids. Mike and I felt like we were in a dream.

The morning of the funeral was an okay day. I was actually excited to see Olivia one last time. I had made a beautiful video of her for the viewing, and had watched it enough times that it shouldn't make me cry anymore. My friends and my family had come from Utah and that had helped, and I wanted to dress up. It was the most normal I had felt in a while.

The funeral home did a great job at making her look beautiful. She was wearing the dress I had bought her for Easter and the turquoise cardigan I had bought the night before she passed away. She had a pink bow in her hair, and was holding her favorite doll (her bath time baby). She was surrounded by a few of her favorite toys and some of my favorite pictures of her. The DVD was playing in the background. So many people came. People who I had just met, people who I had known for a while, and people who had come from other states. I can't even explain how much the support meant to me and helped me get through that moment. The hardest part was closing the casket. I couldn't breath, my knees wouldn't hold up, and I just remember my Dad holding me up and crying in his arms. My Baby. Jamel and I rode together in the backseat of the car. Olivia was in between us. The bishop said a few words and then my Dad dedicated the grave.

As we were leaving, I felt relieved. That past few days had been horrible. We had been reuniting with friends and family, having dinners, and going about life while Olivia was in a room somewhere with someone doing who knows what. I finally knew where she was, what was happening to her, and that I could visit anytime I wanted. I could finally leave town without feeling like we were leaving her alone.

Someone had mentioned in a conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that one of the parents wasn't acting like someone who lost a child should be acting. He said that he was caught smiling on camera and that there was just no way a parent would smile after losing their child. It made me really annoyed. No one knows how they would act in that situation until it happens. Before Olivia passed away I had thought about what I would do if something ever happened to her. I thought that I would kill myself, never get out of bed, or cry until I died. That's not real life. When something like this happens, especially unexpected like this, you do the opposite. At first you're in shock, then disbelief and denial, then the friends come around to distract you and keep you happy. The first week after Olivia passed away was all business... I was going through the motions entertaining family and planning a funeral. It was after the family and friends had left and Mike had gone back to work that I actually realized what had happened. That's when the grieving really began.

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