The text means: ‘From mommy’s belly straight into the arms of her heavenly Father’ and below Amanda’s name: ‘From old days God is a shelter. His arms carry you forever’

And there we were again. After a year of postponing it, jotting it down month after month on our ‘need to discuss-list’. Again and again there had been more important, more urgent, and most of all: easier matters to talk about then this: choosing a tombstone.

But finally we were there. At the stonemason and in the showroom with all kinds of natural stone graves. I felt a continuous nausea. A bizar resistance, duality, aversion inside of me. There I sat down with my love and someone we barely knew, talking about how we wanted our daughters grave to look like. As if we were choosing a new kitchen. What kind of measures, material, lettertype do you want? As if we were talking business with the most neutral faces. No emotions, please. Not because it’s not allowed, I guess, but because I don’t want to allow them. Let us decide rationally, as wise parents, what needs to be done.

In my journey through grieve, I’ve found that I am pretty good at suppressing my emotions. I am not proud of that, because it is actually not that nice. I often do it without being aware of it and usually I found out later, in no pleasant way, that something does actually touch me quite deeply. Too late, because first I do stupid things, become ill, or have problems with my temper. ‘What’s the matter?’ I wonder, and after a few days, when I finally burst into tears or anger, I realize: ‘Oh! I am just sad!’ ‘I feel hurt’, or, in this case: ‘I was just so nervous for today’. I think that I even made myself sicker then I was when battling flu by not wanting to feel this nagging feeling deep down inside of me. This nagging feeling of disgust to finally make this purchase.

But it had to be done. The wooden plate our dear eldest made, is almost unreadable now. Amanda is worth a beautiful grave, my Love says. And I want to see it when I am there, because I still can’t believe nor grasp it: Here lies our daughter, who went straight from momma’s belly into the arms of her heavenly father. Susan Amanda Marsman.

I still often can not believe that I do have a fifth child, but I can not take care of her. I feel it sometimes, because I feel panic when we are going somewhere together, feeling incomplete, I still feel confused when someone asks me how many children I have and because the pain unexpectedly comes when I walk on the street, when I am at home or when I wake up.

So this is part of it too. Rationally choosing a stone while your whole soul resists. Coping with nausea when you try to man up. It is like giving birth to a dead baby: you don’t want to do  it, but you have to. Just like burying your own child: you don’t want it, but you have to. So it is again, though some people might think that you don’t have to do it, we think we should: putting a dignified stone on her grave. So that is what we did.

First published in Dutch on January 12, 2019

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