Final 2

Tomorrow the tombstone will be placed on the grave of our little girl. The time has finally come. At this moment nothing on her grave is readable anymore. Even the letters on the temporary stone can no longer be distinguished. We put off choosing a stone for a long time and then we was a delay in the process. In the end we had to sort out everything all over again. But now it is done. We selected a stone type and color, chose the way in which the soil has to be divided, a text, a font and finally a font color.

The message that the stone has been made and will be placed does a lot to me. I hate the idea that tough workers are going to pour concrete on my child’s grave. Because that has to be done first. Concrete is covering the place where she lies. Our precious girl.

It makes her even more inaccessible.

The lady who helped us choose everything concerning the gravestone asked if we would like to be there when the stone will be laid. I thought back to when we buried her and how I had to keep myself from doing irrational things, like wanting to climb back into the hole to get my child out and take her home with me. I fought that urge for weeks. I kept thinking: ‘How can I leave her alone in that cold?’

I don’t like to think about the fact that my daughter is laying there. So I decided to not be there when the stone is placed. Still, I have the feeling that I should be there. It’s like when my other kids go through something important or bad. In those times you pack yourself back together and just come along to assist your child in what it has to undergo, whether you can take it or not. You don’t leave your child alone.

But this child does not need this. She is safe in the arms of her Heavenly Father, as we wrote on her stone. She doesn’t need her mother to come over. She doesn’t need her mother to be there when her place is made beautiful. She doesn’t need anything from me.

A sob wells up. The craving for my little girl is still there. The desire to be there for her, to care for her, to stand up for her remains. Tomorrow the gravestone will be placed and she finally has a beautiful place with her name written on it legibly. With words that remind me and everyone who comes there that there are eternal arms around us.

It was the last thing we could do, I wrote almost two years ago. And now the time has come. Tomorrow the stone will be placed and the grave will be closed for good.

First published in Dutch on November 21, 2019

This is how it looked after the stone was placed. The text means: ‘From mommy’s belly straight into the arms of her heavenly Father.’ And then: ‘From old God is a hiding place. His arms carry you forever.’

Remembering

So there we were again. Not to bury this time, but to remember. After the kids came home from school and we finished our tea, we went to the cemetery and walked to her grave again. With a fake-birthday cake made of stone, just as one of our children had proposed. And a babypink candle in the shape of a ‘1’. The cake was actually a thrift-box so we used the slot for a candle stand. We lightened the candle and all of us hold a sparkler while I read the poem I wrote earlier that day out loud:

A year ago she was born
We didn’t hear her voice
Today we remember her life so short
Mostly hidden from our sight
We are glad she existed
Grateful for what God did in our hearts

Her life was not in vain
She means something to us, and to God
Amanda: wanted and loved
switched earth for heaven

She went before us,
she is where she has to be
and when we die later,
she too will welcome us.

One of children cried. Another started to throw some little stones around. And then another came with arms full of daffodils and cried out proudly: ‘Look mum! These still have their roots!’ hoping these would last while planting them on Amanda’s grave. Scoop and rake where brought along and two of our children started digging and planting fervently. My Swedish friend told me that in Swedish daffodils were called ‘Easter lilies’ so daffodils are now also related to Amanda as her name is fully Susan Amanda and Susan means ‘lily’.

After everyone did what her or she wanted to do, we walked back to our car and drove to a restaurant. To celebrate the day of birth of our third daughter. Without her being present. Very strange. But also very good to do. And also very strange.

Tomorrow it will be a year ago that she was buried: the closing of a very intense week of welcoming and saying goodbye and the deep hole after that. Literally and as a matter of speaking. ‘We are still combing the beach’, my Love said while we took a long walk on her birthday, a year after. And that’s it, all though I’ve found out that faith, hope and love will be there always, even though we don’t feel that all the time.

These words in my poem: ‘and when we die later, she too will welcome us’, I really mean them. I always looked forward to meeting Jesus, my savior who is risen from the dead. But now there is an extra dimension to that. We will see each other again. It took a while before I was convinced of that. The weeks after her death I was so confused. But now I am sure of it. Death does not have the final word. Remembering is more than looking back to how things were. I am also looking ahead. To what is to come.

First published in Dutch on March 26, 2018

Final

This week it was time to choose a gravestone. We had postponed to do this for quite some time. And now that we started to search for one, this appears to be a process too. At this moment, there is a temporary wooden plank on the grave, lovingly and beautifully made by our eldest daughter. But wind and rain are affecting it, making it less readable. Something permanent needs to replace it. Something final. What a horrible word that is.

The last couple of days, before we went to the stonemason, I was restless. Busy, busy, busy, alternated with Netflix. As long as I did not have to dwell by what I was feeling. But in the meantime I was restless, petulant, not really myself. That does not add well to the atmosphere at home, but only that morning, the morning that we were about to go, I could finally sat myself down and quietly write and by that find out what is really going on.

It is the last thing we can do. It is the last thing that needs to be done for her. And maybe that is the reason why this weighs so heavy on me. I don’t want to do this.

I don’t want to do this.

I don’t want to do this. While I allow the feelings to come up. The feelings this awareness brings to the surface, again that feeling of huge resistance comes up. Resistance against that what is so obvious but what I apparently still cannot and do not want to accept. She is not here anymore and she will never come back. We buried her body knowing that we will see her again when Jesus returns or when we ourselves die. But here we will not see each other anymore and realizing this again hurts so much that I can barely breathe. This is breath taking in a very negative way and what can I do about it? I want to scream, kick, curse, punch, but I know of course that it won’t help in any way. It won’t solve, change or take away the pain.

We need to do this and again I speak firmly to myself, trying to bring my emotions and brains at the same level by writing, giving words, reasoning. It doesn’t really ease the pain. But by writing about it, it gets more clear and that what is unreachable comes more within reach so I can deal with it better.

Words are really essential in this process of accepting what has happened. When I give words to what I feel, unravel by describing it, I find out what’s really going on inside. And when I read it again, I can cry over it, I can begin to accept that this is a part of the big ball of grief that needs to be taken in. I can process, I can weave it into my life. Allowing others to read it, means I acknowledging that this exists and of course I also hope that others can benefit from it in their own journey through grief or supporting others in their journey.

I didn’t expect this choosing of a gravestone would be so challenging. That it would be this painful. But now that I think about it, it makes so much sense. Putting a stone on the grave is like putting a lid on something or like closing the book. It reminds me of putting a dot after a sentence or press send when you signed your email. It symbolizes closing, finishing off. You put a stone (something that can endure the weather and the wind) on a grave and you try to put words on it that describe who the person was to you to mark where she has been laid down to rest. And then you walk away. You’re shutting it down, make it final. The grave. The chapter. But not your heart. That would be too final.

First published in Dutch on February 1, 2018

Live Forever

Today I went to the grave of my little daughter again. When biking to the cemetery I realized again the bizarre reality that she really is my child, my baby. And that she is laying there, in the ground.

Last week someone send me a picture of her little baby, who has the same age my daughter would have. Suddenly my loss became much more real and concrete. First, I was living towards my due date. Now that date has passed and I don’t have another thing to live forward to. I can’t say: if only this date has passed, then…

First there was me missing the baby in my belly, now it is me missing the baby that should have been in my arms, the arms of my husband and my other children. And in the arms of her grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and nieces. This is a new kind of pain and I don’t know how to cope with it. I need to find my way in this too, to learn to live with it.

‘Cemetery closes at 5 pm’ says the sign at the entrance. I think back at that time that I went to her grave, but the cemetery was closed. I had felt panic: I can not go to my daughter! ‘How can it be that you can’t visit your own child’, I thought, and when cycling back I corrected my way of thinking. It is only her body that is laying there. Amanda herself is not there anymore. Not here in anymore.

I kneel down at her grave, get rid of weeds, make her little place neat again. For a short time, I allow my tears to rain down and I realize that this is a new layer. I didn’t cry this way before. Quietly I pray to my God: Please help me. Help me to carry this loss and to really go through it. And show me that there is an end to this deep valley of shadow of death.

The sun bursts through the clouds and warms my back. It feels as if it’s a wink of the eye. Words of a song I loved to sing when growing up, and suddenly heard again last week pop up in my head: ‘Death has been annuled, Jesus has risen. Jesus, the Lion of Judah, conquered death.’’

And I suddenly remember words someone texted me that morning: ‘God is your Lord! He will not let go and He will not allow that you will be overcome by this. With Him you will go through this and you, together with Amanda will live forever!!!’

I am encouraged to go on.

First published in Dutch on July 28, 2017