We drove to the funeral home mostly in silence. Mike reached over and held my hand. I couldn't wrap my brain around what we were doing. Driving to a funeral home. A funeral home. To pick up our baby's ashes. For an event like this, the weather should be dark and stormy. The wind should be howling, twisting through the bare and bony branches of the broken and gnarled trees. The clouds should be churning angrily in a black and sinister sky. However, life's mastery of irony continues to slap me in the face. The sun is shining. The sky is blue and clear. The temperature is a mild 70 degrees. It's a beautiful day. A day to go to the park, to sit in a hammock, to enjoy a delicious picnic. Not a day for what we had to do.
When we arrived at the funeral home, a soft spoken man in a suit addressed us and Mike let him know why we were there. I know these people are well versed in expressing sympathy in a respectful and professional manner, but there is a certain look that is reserved for the loss of a baby. A brief flash of terrible recognition passes over their eyes. "Oh, you are the ones. You are the parents." I saw it the first time we were there making arrangements for her - and I saw it again today. Yep. That's us. Parents of the dead baby coming through.
We were ushered into a room full of dark furniture - a shiny brown table and thick leather chairs. The man excused himself to go retrieve our daughter. We waited there together for just a few minutes. The reality of the situation creating an unbreakable silence. When the man came back, he held a tiny, velvet blue box in his hands. A box that looks just big enough to hold a pair of those Chinese stress balls - but instead, it holds the ashes of my child. He carefully handed me the box and then gave Mike paperwork to sign. While he was doing that, I eased open the latch and peered inside. Nestled in the soft velvet, is the little pink flowered urn we picked out two weeks ago. It's no bigger than the "C" I can make with my index finger and thumb. I closed the box and Mike and I stood up to leave. We tell the gentleman thank you, and we're on our way. It took all of ten minutes, but felt like an eternity.
On the way home, I clutch the box tightly in my lap. My two hands cradling her like any mother would cradle her baby. And I cry. All the way home, I cry. I know Mike is driving through blurry eyes as well. He is so strong.
As soon as we walk through our front door, I feel a rush of both sadness and relief. Sadness because Kenley shouldn't have to come home this way. Relief because she is home. Finally, my baby is home.
I cleaned out a little area on a built in shelf in the living room and set up a place for her. Last Christmas, a family friend had given us two ornaments to symbolize Mike and myself - one a police officer and one a teacher. I placed these on either side of her urn - because every little girl needs her parents by her side. When I find the right owl figurine, I'll put that in as well.
So, that's that. My Kenley is home. Not in her crib. Not in my arms. But she is home - where she will always be loved. Sleep tight, my little ninja.