The days that followed Boe's passing and the boys' birth were so busy. Everyone kept saying I should rest, I had just had major surgery. Rest?? How was I supposed to do that with 2 newborns, whom I was dying to hold, in the NICU and a service to plan for Boe?
A service. That is something you plan for your parents when they die peacefully in their sleep, not the baby you bore who never opened his eyes, took a breath, squeezed your finger. When Adam and I were first told we would need to plan a service, and therefor make some decisions about Boe's remains, I was very disturbed.
Everyone at the hospital was very helpful and compassionate. They provided us with so many resources for planning Boe's service and navigating through our grief. Family and friends stepped up in so many ways to help ease our burden so that we could get to know Adler and Cameron and grieve Boe properly.
The first decision I really struggled with was whether or not to perform an autopsy. My initial thought was HELL NO! The thought of having my little boy spread on that cold stainless steel table with a Y incision in his tiny chest was just too much to bear. I really did not even want to discuss it with my husband. To me, it was not an option, Boe could not be subjected to that. In hindsight, I should have been more open to the discussion and heard my husband's thoughts. I knew having an autopsy would not change the outcome, Boe would still be gone. Having a why to put with his death might have been healing; now we'll never know.
The next decision was what were we to do with his remains? The thought of a teensy weensy casket and a headstone with 1 single date on it was so heartbreakingly tragic. The thought of cremation brought to light another set of images, also so difficult to picture. In the end, we decided to cremate him and put him in the mausoleum niche with my "Opa" (Dutch for Grandfather). One day, when our other children are old enough to understand what transpired that day, we'll decide, as a family, where Boe should be permanently.
The final task at hand was Boe's service. Adam's cousins are very involved in our local church, and they made sure to set up appointments with the right people, make phone calls and gather paperwork on our behalf, etc. Were it not for them, I do not know how Adam and I could have made it through those first few days after Boe's death and Adler and Cameron's birth. They are our earthly angels, and I know there is a special place in heaven just for them.
In any case, the business of choosing friends and family to do readings, quotes for the program, how we wanted the program arranged, music for the service, began. The one piece that really got to me in all of this was that we needed to choose 4 pallbearers.
Why? I had purposely wanted to avoid a little casket. How could it possibly take 4 adults to carry the remains of a 2lb 13 oz baby into a church? We asked both of our fathers, Adam's Great Uncle, and my dear friend, Desiree. Seeing them carry the tiny little "arc", for lack of a better word, from the vestibule to the altar was one of the saddest, most empty moments of my life. I knew what was in that box, and I knew that, without question, once that box left the church I would never see my Baby Boe again.
The service itself was beautiful; Boe was baptized before it officially began. I was amazed at how many people turned up to grieve with us. Some, whom we barely knew or had never even met were there, and Adam and I were both so touched by the support and love that surrounded us on that day. The priest shared some wonderful words with us, some of which we still ponder when it really hurts to be without Boe.
There were some things that occurred during the service which truly stand out to me. First off, my father was a pallbearer and so he sat in the pew ahead of us. At one point during the service, as I was looking forward, I saw my father's shoulders heaving up and down as he silently cried. I have never told him that I noticed this because I know he would be embarrassed. To me, it was a very bittersweet moment. Bitter because, daddies don't cry. I needed my daddy to be the strongest most steadfast man for me and my husband, and he was crumbling. It was sweet because I knew that this most raw and vulnerable moment was an outpouring of how loved my little boy was and how dearly he would be missed here on Earth. He was loved by not only his parents, but scores of others too. Somehow, I found odd comfort in that.
Another moment which sticks with me is the point during the service where Adam and I had to bring the gifts to the altar for consecration. Gifts, that seemed so ironic and cruel to me. Wasn't the gift supposed to be Boe squirming in our arms, waiting to be baptized?? The gifts were not wine and host being presented at Boe's funeral mass, yet here we were bringing them to the priest like the dutiful little Catholics we are. As we headed back up the aisle a medley of "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" began to play. To this day, that fucking song reduces me to a heap of tears, and I must excuse myself from mass. Jesus loves me... Really? If he loves me so much, then why did he bless me with 3 little boys only to yank one away? If he loves me so damn much, then why was it so difficult for me to conceive in the first place only to have this triple curve ball thrown my way?
The final moment that is frequently at the forefront of my mind is the very end of Boe's service. He was brought back in to the vestibule and his little urn removed from the "arc". We asked his Godfather/Grandpa, Adam's father, to carry him out to the vehicle that would return him to the funeral home for transport to the cemetery. As the little blue urn was placed in his hands, I saw his shoulders cinch up to his ears. I could tell he was trying not to break down as he carried Boe out of the church. That was an incredibly difficult moment, Adam's father is a retired Air Force General. How could a man who has served our country in Qatar, been stationed in Antarctica for months at a time and flown over Ground Zero just hours after the Twin Towers fell on 9/11 be reduced to tears over a baby boy he never saw, never held, would never truly know? In that moment, I realized how many lives my little angel had touched, in how many hearts he would be tucked away, and that although his physical presence may no longer be felt, he would always live on through our love and celebration of him.
I am sure that as my Father-in-Law carried Boe out, that little box must have felt as though made of lead. The sound of the car door shutting was deafening. Louder and more final than any gunshot, explosion or similar sound I could ever imagine. It meant my little boy was gone for good. This was really happening, we had really lost him. I guess I'm supposed to be OK with that, because Jesus loves me, right?