Probably every person alive remembers the happiest moment of their life and when we recall that moment or occasion or person that brought us such joy that we smile from the inside out and get butterflies in our stomach! Thankfully, I can remember several “happiest moments” in my life, and I hope you can, too!
Our darkest moments — those days when we cannot believe we managed to continue to breathe — are the ones we want to forget, yet these moments seems to plague us forever. These heavy, painful times dig right into the core of our heart and won’t let go. The pain of grief gnaws at us continuously for a long time, and when the grip finally loosens we realize the pain is still there ready to attack us again and again.
I remember so vividly the darkest day of my life. This day stands out among all others, and there was no other time since that moment that I have wished I would have died on the spot. I prayed my heart would stop beating because living felt too painful. It hurt way too much to see what I was seeing and to feel what I was feeling. I’m pretty certain that hell must be much like this kind of pain and torment.
Standing in the cemetery following the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer, my mother whispered to me to place a rose on the casket as my sister was being lowered into the ground. I can feel it now — the racing of my heart, the sweating of my palms, the pounding of my head, and the sick feeling in my stomach like I’m going to pass out and die.
“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed so loud and so long that two men came to my side and gently put their arms around me and carried me away. I kept screaming and thrashing, “NO! Please, NO! Don’t put her in the ground! Please, please don’t do this!”
As I mentioned in the previous post , until my sister Carmella died I really hadn’t had any kind of experience with death other than the death of a pet (we lived on a farm, so losing farm animals was a pretty commonplace thing to happen). Nobody prepared me at all as to what a funeral would be like. How would I know? You have no idea how many times I wish someone — anyone — would have explained what “viewing a body” was like. It was terrifying to me! The moment I saw my sister I ran up to the casket and grabbed hold of her hand and placed my face on hers and began sobbing! Following the sobs were shrieks! My, God! Her body didn’t feel like her soft, warm body any more! I was scared out of my mind and let out such a loud scream that many people left the funeral home because of my uncontrollable sobbing. Again, why didn’t anyone prepare me? I guess death and all that it implies is simply too difficult for most people to talk about.
The climax of this horror came when the casket was being placed into the ground. I can remember laying the single, long-stemmed red rose on top of my sister’s casket and then being walked off by those men. I assume they were from the funeral home. I don’t remember much more after that and I’m glad that I don’t. I don’t want to revisit that deep, dark, pit of hell again.
Sometimes people overlook talking to children when there is a death in the family. They think kids are too young to understand, or that they won’t “get” what’s happening. Or, they are far too upset themselves to talk to children. In my case, I was fifteen — not a young child by any means — but I didn’t have a clue about this thing called death. What I did have is a love for my sister that ran deeper than the ocean. And, now I was looking at her with her eyes shut, laying in something that looked foreign to me, and her body felt hard and cold, and now she was put in the dark (the lid to the casket was closed), and she was being put into the ground — alone. All alone. And, it was traumatizing to me.
If there is one thing I’d like to accomplish with this post it’s this: PLEASE someone — anyone — talk to parents and children alike and help prepare them just a bit for what a funeral is like. Don’t assume that they already know. When a child dies, a parent’s heart is already broken and shredded and pierced too much to do anything other than grieve. So, pastors, funeral directors, clergy, nurses, doctors, friends — anyone — PLEASE talk to the children — the siblings. Please remember that brothers and sisters grieve, too. They grieve long and hard, and they’re so afraid. Afraid to ask questions. Afraid of what is happening. Afraid that this will happen to their parents or to them, too. A sibling has a million and one questions to ask about death, but very rarely do they have anyone who is there to answer the questions!
It was much later in life when I finally came to an “okay place” in my heart, mind, and soul about my sister’s funeral. I understood a bit more about what happens when the physical body dies. I understood more about the traditions that we practice here in the United States when someone dies. I have now gone to many viewings and funerals and I understand a bit better what happens during a funeral and burial. I will never like going to a viewing or a funeral, but I no longer have nightmares or crushing fear.
Child loss is a terrifying, painful thing to go through for families. So many times we focus mainly on the mother of child loss. I’m not sure why, but I suppose mothers most often grieve more openly and it’s easier to identify with their pain. BUT, fathers and siblings grieve, too. Everyone grieves differently, but everyone does grieve the loss of a child.
It is my prayer that we can grow to talk more openly about death, the process of death, the rituals that we practice when someone dies, and the ensuing grief that follows so that together we can provide the support that is needed to endure this pain.
Never do I look at a sunrise or sunset without thinking of my sister Carmella. I picture her sitting in heaven with the angels smiling. I envision her wrapped in so much love that she is warm and feels light as a feather. I see her singing with her mischievous eyes twinkling. I see her not in the ground, but living among the angels with God. I see her waiting in heaven for that grand time when she will welcome me and we will be together forever.
God bless every person who has lived through the pain of child loss. May your sunrises and sunsets be reminders of the beauty of heaven — that wonderful reunion where there will be no more tears ever again!