It took three people to prevent her from collapsing and countless family members pressing in as they slowly moved down the aisle towards the casket. Once there, her knees buckled and her sobbing intensified as she cried “No, no, my baby…” She leaned in as if to pick him up from his crib, but all in attendance knew that was no longer an option.
He did not even fill the baby coffin. He wore a white satin suit, probably his Christening outfit, and a small knit hat to keep him warm. His legs were stiff, sticking straight out. My fleeting thought was that a doll had been substituted. He looked so sweet, but lifeless. Dead. A baseball jersey was draped over the side. I wondered if that was his father’s number. He was a junior after all.
The preacher’s gentle, but commanding voice told us to remain standing in support of the family while they grieved. We all heeded her words. Black, white, Christian, Jewish, atheist, the greatest baseball player on the team, the benchwarmer, pro-ball players, amateurs, co-workers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, acquaintances and everything in between, it did not matter. The grief in the room cut deep. The tears flowed.
One of the five preachers stood with the mother to rub her back and whisper words of prayer. A volunteer nurse, in a full white nurse’s uniform complete with cap and sensible shoes, wiped her tears away. Another solicitous volunteer provided ice water and boxes upon boxes of tissues.
I admired greatly the family’s ability to let go and allow the church to take care of them. The stoic Irish Catholic in me would have been mortified by the attention despite the circumstances. The baby’s mother put her head back at one point and welcomed the people consoling her. She gave herself permission to fall apart in public and to me that was absolute strength beyond measure.
Even sitting down, the father was as tall as the nurse standing before him. He too allowed her to wipe his tears, but she did so with a washcloth. Tissues were not enough. He had long dreamed of having a son after his two little girls. His wish came true only to have it ripped away from his calloused hands in 3½ short months. Never one to show emotion, his tears were a clichéd, heady mix of lost dreams, dashed hopes and heartbreaking grief. Everyone knew it. He had lost his only son.
“Like God and Jesus,” proclaimed the preacher while the organist kept up with the pace and volume of her sermon. Such statements elicited amens from the crowd. She spoke of love, heaven and not knowing God’s plan. Music was ever present and boisterous. One particular refrain with the words “happy and free” included standing and clapping and waving hands in the air. Again, I was in awe. The music was uplifting. Uplifting? Wait a second. Are we supposed to actually enjoy the singing during this time of great sadness? I looked over at the baby’s mother. She was gently swaying her head with eyes closed. The songs would come to an end, but their power lingered just a bit.
The whole service was an emotional rollercoaster leaving us completely drained by the time it was over. I am not part of the family or even the inner circle. I am a mom of a player on the team; the baby’s father is my son’s coach. It’s been a week now, but when I think of that day, it still catches in my throat. I felt compelled to write about it; I don’t know why.
During the quiet visiting hour while waiting for the family to arrive, I was mad at myself for crying. I could not understand why my eyes kept filling with tears while everyone else seemed to be sitting quietly. At one point, my son nudged me and told me to Reiki myself. I even thought of waiting in the car until it was over. Instead, I breathed deeply hoping not to draw attention to myself. It took a while to calm down and the stillness caused this concept to surface: we are all one. Even if we are not physically related, we are still energetically connected. That is why the pain of another human being can affect us so deeply.
I would never wish this pain on any one, but because of that day I understood what it meant to be human at the most raw, most vulnerable level. In the mother, I witnessed strength in vulnerability. In the father, I saw love and loss behind the steel exterior. In the audience, I felt connection. It was devastating, humbling, and yes, even uplifting.
We never really know people’s stories or understand their soul lessons here on earth, but in moments when absolutely everything is lost, we can find compassion and, dare I say, love in one another. ❤️
From the baby’s funeral program: “An angel opened the book of life and wrote down my baby’s birth, then whispered as she closed the book…’too beautiful for earth’.”
Please say prayers for the family and send them love.