So some of you will be aware that before Christmas I finally got the heart operation I have been waiting for and had my huge hole repaired.
Night before my operation
The night before my operation I had a conversation with my husband that no one wants to have but really we all should. We spoke about that if things should go wrong in the operation what my dying and last wishes would be. I told him what I would like for my funeral and that I would like to be cremated with my ashes interred with our daughter in her grave.
We then spoke about what I would like for him and our daughter in terms of the future if I wasn’t to be in it anymore.
It was a huge and emotional conversation but one I realised that we all should really have today with our partners or close family as you really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, without meaning to depress you, we could be run over in the street tomorrow.
Do you have your will sorted too? We wrote ours back before Violet died so we are going to double-check our wishes are still current too.
So my advice to you all is if you haven’t written a will or told a close loved one your last wishes and how you would like your funeral to be, should something happen, then please do this.
Think about the ones you love
Make this conversation your priority if not for your benefit but for that of your loved ones. It is something that needs to happen. If unfortunately the worst should suddenly happen then it will be tough enough on your loved ones without them having to second guess whether you want your organs donated or flowers at your funeral.
Some of you who read this blog, know me or just follow me on social media may be aware that my daughter Violet died at the end of September but what you might not realise is that her funeral coincided with baby loss awareness week 2016. The second anniversary of that is today.
At the start of this week in 2016 we got the news that the coroner was releasing her body so we had to finalise things with the funeral directors and to make arrangements for her funeral, including making decisions like cremation or burial. We decided to bury her because I couldn’t face the idea of my baby being burned. Crazy I know as she was dead already but I still felt as though I was protecting her little body by burying her instead. Then we had to decide where to bury her and to pick a plot.
Choosing a burial plot
We decided on southern cemetery as it was close to where we live and there are lots of important and respected people resting there. I know it seems ridiculous but I felt as though she’d be in good company alongside Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Wilson – if it’s good enough for them then….
I remember us visiting Southern Cemetery and one of their team taking us to show us the baby section of the cemetery. They explained there was only one of these tiny plots left beside the road going through the cemetery. It was a small plot surrounded by other little baby graves. Next to it was a communal baby grave shared by many that must have had them all stacked on top of each other as though they were on a supermarket shelf. It made me feel ill and I decided over my own dead body would she be buried here.
Investing in the future
I asked the cemetery man was there not anywhere else and he said we could have a family burial plot but that would be more expensive. I said “fine she’s not being buried at the side of a road even if I need to put it onto a credit card”. I asked him to show us what they had available. He showed us several plots and one was under a big cherry tree opposite the grave of Kirsty Howard, the amazing girl who was so brave and raised so much money for Francis House. I said that one would do. None of the plots were acceptable or perfect because my baby being dead wasn’t acceptable. Our final choice was simply the least offensive and I strangely felt comforted knowing that Kirsty would be her neighbour. I hoped being kind and compassionate that she would look after my little girl.
The funeral plan
In the middle of Baby Loss Awareness week 2016 I wrote Violet’s eulogy. I wanted to ensure her send off did her memory justice and that everyone would know exactly who she was and would understand why we loved her, as much as we did. We selected her favourite songs for her funeral, a close friend agreed to give the service for us and we thought about what she would like. I know she was only 15 months old but she had very strong opinions and preferences on things. She loved balloons so we asked everyone to bring a balloon to her service. She liked to make people smile so we arranged for all the balloons to be collected then taken to the children’s hospital and her nursery. We set up her fund in this week too for Alder Hey hospital’s cardiac surgery fund and asked people to donate to it.
The day of her funeral, the 14thOctober, was the penultimate day of baby loss week 2016. I remember it was a crisp autumn day with blue skies and sunshine, even though there had been bad weather forecast we only had high winds that day. I went through the day in a bit of a trance almost as though I was an outsider looking in and I carried the angel bear that I had been sent the day before. I cuddled and sobbed into the bear throughout the service. The bear was a gift from an amazing little charity called Heart to Heart UK that also gifts bravery bears to children undergoing heart surgery. Their gift really helped me.
Wave of Light
The day after Violet’s funeral was the last day of baby loss awareness week. All around the world people lit candles at 7pm creating a wave of light in memory of all the babies lost. We lit a candle in our empty quiet house full of sympathy flowers and cards then we cried some more and had a drink.
I decided to write about our week in 2016 because sometimes you don’t think about what parents have to go through logistically just after their baby dies. You almost forget that they have to make important decisions during this most horrendous time. Decisions about choosing a funeral director and whether to bury or cremate? What to do for a service? Whether to ask people to donate to charity and if so which one? All these things would be difficult enough if your child hadn’t just died but they have. The world as you know it has just ended. The most important person in your world has gone and you have to make these decisions.
So please join in with celebrating the end of child loss awareness week by lighting a candle at 7pm on Monday to join the wave of light. Also have a drink with us as we mark the end of the anniversary of probably one of the most difficult weeks of our lives.
Thinking of our lost babies Violet and Arthur this week but about our darling daughter today. The day we laid her to rest with music, balloons and colour just how she would have wanted.