In Remembrance

When I woke up that morning I half expected it to be raining. The rain would have fit my frame of mind, perhaps all of ours, the cold wet drops falling silently from the dark sky and breaking into a thousand pieces each time they hit the ground. Since the news of your passing less than two weeks prior my soul felt like a soft gray cloud that was filled with cold rain, and so I was surprised on this morning when we woke to blue skies and sunshine.

I wore yellow to your funeral. I didn’t know you, but it seemed to me like yellow is a color you would have liked.

I held onto Dan’s arm at the cemetery, letting him take some of my weight so I could step lightly across the spongy grass which happened to be the sacred resting place of many sweet babies. They call this section of the cemetery "Babyland". My eyes scanned the tombstones surrounding us as we walked, cold polished stones covered in flowers and soft blankets, tiny dolls and firetrucks . I was grateful right then that I didn’t bring my children, as I pictured my youngest wiggling out of my arms and running to play with the toys that didn’t belong to him.

I mentally kicked myself for forgetting to bring flowers.

Your sister Elizabeth skipped over to me merrily in her pretty princess dress, wrapped her arms around my knee and with her sweet little smile she exclaimed, “Our baby died!” Children are so resilient and strong and very, very frank, and I have always loved that and envied that about them. I ran my fingers through her soft silky hair and replied tenderly, “I know honey.”

The sun was beating down on us and Dan was turning sticky in his heavy suit coat, so we found a spot of shade beneath a small tree and stood in it's coolness. I watched as more cars arrived and familiar faces filed out of them. The pace was slow that morning. Everyone smiled and hugged each other unhurriedly while tears brimmed in their eyes. It was a small, strong, loving group of people, all gathered for the same purpose: to comfort your family and to celebrate you.

Your casket was so tiny, like you. It was white and sat atop a blue crocheted blanket. Staring at your casket created a knot in my stomach and a large lump in my throat, both a direct result of the voice in my head that kept reminding me of how unfair this was, how you didn’t belong in that casket. You belonged next to us instead, living and breathing and letting us hold you and love you. Even so, as the knot in my stomach tightened a bit more I thought about how perfectly uncomplicated and simple and lovely your casket was. I asked your mom who made the blanket beneath you and she told me about the kind elderly women who made it, the same women who make and donate blankets like yours for more babies who, like you, had passed before their time.

I walked with Dan and watched him sign our names in the registry book. I picked up a square of white paper that held a colored picture of Christ holding a group of children on his lap, cupping his hands over one of their smiling faces. It was a picture I had grown up seeing every Sunday in church as a child. Beneath the picture in bold black scroll lettering it read: In Remembrance. I flipped the paper over. I read your name and I smiled.

Benjamin Rich Croft.

Facing your casket were four chairs draped in royal red velvet. These chairs were special, just for your family. We found our seats behind them and sat quietly, listening to the birds singing and soaking in the sunshine of the day. I caught sight of a headstone close to us that read a boys name followed by date of birth and death. He was born in 2013 and died in 2014. He was one year old, just like my sweet boy, your cousin Beck. I nuzzled my cheek into Dan's shoulder and I wept.

The service was short and perfect. At the pulpit next to your casket your Grandpa said a prayer. Your other Grandpa proceeded with words on the spirit and the body and the plan of salvation. And then your father stood over your casket and beautifully, solemnly, dedicated your grave.

We all chanted Amen quietly and wiped tears from our cheeks.

Dan and I walked to your casket to say one last good-bye. I mentally kicked myself again for not bringing flowers. Instead, I pressed my fingertips to my lips and then lightly brushed them over your casket while Dan whispered, "see you later buddy." I loved that moment and the thought of it in my head, of seeing you and meeting you one day. I turned then and went to your mother who stood there bravely, who has stood bravely from the beginning of it all, her face continually glowing despite her trials.

It is always in moments like these, in moments so important and so real and so raw, when I can not find words. They are there, thoughts in my head that stem from my heart, but on their road somewhere between my head and my mouth, they get lost and I can't find them.

Words aren't enough anyhow. They never have been.

After your service, while your sweet mother and father spoke with the rest of the family in quiet tones, saying their thank yous and I love yous and crying their quiet tears, I stood with Dan one last time in that patch of shade beneath the tree, and I watched.

I watched all of the younger kids playing tag, so cheerful and carefree, unable to bear the significance of the situation while also being a perfect example of purity and innocence and faith. I stared at the cluster of tombstones filled with colored presents, balloons and flowers, and I imagined all of those sweet babies whose lives were cut short, dancing and laughing and preparing for you to join them in their resting place. I imagined you were making wonderful friends there.

I didn't know you, but I loved you the same. Rest in peace sweet Benjamin.

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