Everything I’m going to write here is with full permission from the family, I will refrain from using names, dates and locations to protect privacy also there WILL be a second part to this blog, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the parents for their continued friendship and incredible strength, above are the prints from their beautiful little girl! god bless you both.
Some things are easy to write they simply flow and you use the opportunity to open up, writing this will no doubt be one of the hardest things I ever write, it was one of the hardest moments in my funeral director journey, I want to share how I felt through this time as well as share the incredible strength shown by the parents of this truly beautiful little girl, who melted hearts around her and left a last impression on me that I will never allow to leave me, as I wander through this period, I intend to be as honest and open as I can, many may disagree with the way I handled these moments or in fact how I conducted myself, but it’s important to me to allow you to share my feelings (if you can?)
“There is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on this world.” author Unknown
As a funeral director to be told that a child, a baby had sadly passed away, is one of the most awful feelings one can experience, yes we are professional and we know what we have to do, but those qualities are always overtaken be immense sadness, those of us that have children immediately think of them, those planning a family feel an air of fear, those without children often feel profound sadness at not knowing how on earth the parents could be feeling in such sad tragic times, when anybody passes away it leaves a cloudy layer of upset and sadness, but when its a child it’s amplified and the magnitude echos around us all, even those who proclaim to be Thick Skinned are affected, for me it was everything and then some! I had no idea just what an impression this family was going to leave on me and just how much this beautiful little girl would touch my life, as I’m sat her now thinking of her and the time I spent with her, a lone tear has run down my cheek and dripped ever so gently onto my keyboard, leaving a solitary droplet of water which I’m sure won’t remain solitary for long.
I’m going back a few years when I was advised that a baby girl had sadly fallen asleep, before she had the opportunity to embrace life, as the immediate wave of sorrow and sadness began to cloud my thoughts, I managed to write down all the information I needed, her name, where she was, who her parents are, whats she is wearing etc. its at that point I slumped into my chair, closed my eyes and pictured my son, playing with his things, for a moment I silently thanked God for keeping him safe, that is a parents job right? to ensure their children are safe, I immediately, on that thought moved my mind to the parents of this little girl, starting there journey as mum & dad only for it to be stopped in its tracks, and tore away from them, for reasons I was unsure of at that moment, I began to wonder what I could say to these strangers I’d never met, who undoubtedly are going through the worst time of their entire lives, what do I say to make them feel at ease? How do I address the their little girl? by her name? I didn’t want to upset them, all these things race around your head, because this is not normal, there is no script to follow! There are no guidelines! I’m dealing with two parents who’s child has been taken from them, at that point the sadness consumes you, I remember my hand trembling as I wrote some notes, this was wrong why does this have to happen? Echoing around in my head.
Then came the day of meeting the parents of this little girl, I cannot describe the feelings you have going through your body, you tell yourself how strong you will be, and how you will bring this family through this tragic period, It all sounds great as you tell yourself, but putting it into practice is another task on its own, I was actually quivering inside, a mixture of not knowing just how they will be when they arrive? coupled with an overwhelming feeling of sadness for this little girl, I felt my eyes well up, but I quickly composed myself, I knew I needed to be strong for these guys, they needed that composure to help them through this terrible period of their lives, I got everything ready I needed before they arrived, I didn’t want to be fumbling for paperwork, or not have what I needed close to hand, once I’d arranged myself and gotten to a place of calm, I waited watching the seconds hand of the clock going around, the tick tock was deafening in the empty room as I sat silently for them to arrive.
I remember greeting both of them as they came into my arranging room, introducing myself and asking them their names, I could hear the anguish in mum’s voice as she trembled her name to me, dad shook my hand, i could feel the lack of strength he had as we shook hands, I could see the strain etched into their faces, red eyes through endless tears, pale complexion through no doubt lack of sleep and zero appetite, my heart went out to both of them, I started feeling weak inside struggling, yet here they are in front of me summoning up all the courage they had, to come to a funeral home to arrange their daughters funeral, I had no right to struggle when they were being so incredibly brave, and digging into every ounce of strength to do what needed to be done, I admired both of them so much for their unwavering courage at just making it to the see me let alone open and discuss what we needed to, I think the manner they conducted themselves in those darkest moments, is an example we should all emulate! They faced the most horrific time of their lives, with determination, calm, constructively and with so much love for their daughter it was overwhelming to see. We slowly and carefully went through the details that were needed, their daughter was always referred to by her name nothing else, as the story unfolded, and mum opened her heart to me, and dad told me of the days leading up to the sad moment their little girl fell asleep, I won’t lie and won’t hide the fact that my eyes were red and tears dripped off my chin, the impact of their words and their experience was incredibly hard to absorb, but I needed to stand where they were, so hearing what had happened, gave me a better understanding on what I needed to do both for their daughter and for mum and dad.
I’m not going to delve into what was arranged and what was chosen, as that isn’t the objective of what I’m writing, one of the key things for mum was that her little girl was dressed in her little baby clothes, they had gotten ready for her, whilst she was sleeping, I remember when she finally arrived into my care, seeing her for the first time, this perfect beautiful little girl, she had such a pretty face, and the sweetest little cheeks, and tiny little ears perfect in every way, I remember her little sleep suit with stars on and she was accompanied by her two little teddies that were keeping her company, I remember introducing myself to her telling her who I was, and what I was going to do whilst I looked after her, I did promise her that I’d ensure she was comfortable and that her teddies would stay with her at all times, I remember wiping my eyes as I sat and talked to her, there was no way to avoid becoming upset it is human nature, it is empathy it’s it’s what you do in this moment! I didn’t speak as a funeral director, I spoke to her softly as you would normally speak to a baby, it was a new place to her perhaps scary so I wanted her to be at ease.
I remember calling mum to tell her, her daughter was in my care and when she was ready she could come and spend time with her, hearing her sob down the phone was absolutely heartbreaking nothing prepares you for that, was it relief her daughter was close by? was it profound sadness that she was going to see her daughter in a way no parent should? I’ll never know what her uncontrolled tears were, as i never asked but I’ll always remember it always. When mum and dad came to see their little girl, before we went in I explained what I’d done etc. Mum hugged me before I took her to the chapel, I remember her trembling as I heard her tears in my ear, dad put his arms around me I remember hugging him like we were related for a moment, this was not professional, this was not a funeral home, it was two parents about to face something we all pray we will never have to experience in our lifetime, I was at that moment i was the closest link to their daughter so I understand totally, what they needed, I battled back the tears at that point I can tell you, it was so difficult I cannot begin to explain!
Once they entered the chapel where their daughter was sleeping, seeing the color disappear from mum’s face was so sad to see, I stayed close for fear of her perhaps passing out though the sheer emotion that was engulfing her, it was awful to watch knowing there was nothing at all I could do, no way of easing the pain they were both suffering, I hated myself for an instant because I didn’t have the answers, I couldn’t wave the magic wand to make it better for them, sadly they were on there own and needed to find, their own approach, their own way to come to terms with their profound grief and loss, I remember walking out and leaving them alone with her, going to the arranging room and sitting quietly head in hands, unable to speak unable to think, just a moment of emptiness, knowing one room down from where i was sat a family was being tore apart being pushed to the very limits of their emotions, life is bloody cruel and somethings that happen beggar belief! wrong wrong wrong this!
Dad came out and asked me if mum could hold her little girl? I immediately said “yes” but had to explain that when holding her, keep her arms tucked in as she can no longer support them herself, as well as holding her head just as you normally would, when I went into the chapel mum asked me to lift her out of her Moses basket as it would be to much for her to handle at that moment, I ever so gently lifted her out of her Moses basket, my hand cradling her head as my other hand held her little body safely as I placed her into her mothers arms where she belonged, I remember mum looking into my eyes through her tear glazed eyes, as she wrapped her arms around her daughter, she didn’t need to say anything I knew how profoundly important this was to all three of them, I left them alone with their daughter to have all the private time they needed.
Over the course of the next few days, they visited several times, then asked if grandparents could visit, which of course was agreed without hesitation, I remember so well the day Grandma and Grandpa arrived, as was our now routine, mum sat on the chair waiting for her daughter, I gently lifted her out of her Moses basket, ready to place into Mum’s arms, as I turned mum had moved on her chair as she wasn’t comfortable, at that moment instinctively I put her little head to my shoulder, and stood patting her as we waited, just habit I think or the fact that she was so beautiful a little girl you forget the moment you are placed in, I remember turning around to see the four of them staringat me, I’m unsure what I felt? Part of me thought I’d done wrong, then part of me looked at Mum’s face and saw the look she had which was so heart warming, I handed her daughter to her and again left them alone to be with her, this was to be the last time at the funeral home as the funeral was the day after, the tears and the anguish as those goodbyes were said in that chapel, will stay with me always, I’ll never forget hearing the hurt and sorrow it was absolutely heartbreaking!
I’m not going to detail the funeral as this was the personal time between parents, grandparents family and friends, I was in the service and as did everybody in the chapel I stood there tears streaming down my face, as I listened to the service and the music and said my own personal goodbyes to this exceptional little girl who had touched everybody that met her, it was a privilege to be entrusted to look after her, and to be able to bond with the family, to of had the opportunity to hold her as I passed her to her mum, are moments I won’t forget, her perfect little finger and cute little feet, are memories I’ll hold for ever, she will always be remembered and forever loved and missed by her parents and family, for me I will always remember her and will always take what I can from the strength shown by her parents throughout, her memory will always live on, whenever I hold a memorial evening her name is always mentioned, as I will never forget her.
In writing this piece has stirred so many emotions so many thoughts, I remember her as if it was yesterday, I remember the details of her teddies and what they were, I remember what she was wearing so clearly, her passing and funeral did affect me, I won’t lie and say it didn’t but I cherish that I got to play a small part in her journey, even though I wish I didn’t have to, none of us can relate to losing a child, only those that have know exactly the impact and emptiness it leaves on you, none of us should try and put ourselves in the shoes of a grieving parent as we simply can’t, if I could offer any advice to anybody dealing with a childs funeral or looking after a grieving family, it is so important to be yourself, put the manuals down and do everything from the heart, remember you are the closest link to their baby, that link needs to be personal, I hope sharing my thoughts provides you further insight into why I’m writing my comments down, I thank you for reading my thoughts and hope there might be something from my experience that might help, or hold something you can relate to. stay safe Paul 04.02.21
“A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam, and for a
brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world:
but then it flies again. And though we wish it could
have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it.”