June 17th, 2016. This is a date that has been etched in our minds and hearts since last September. The date that we expected to deliver our third baby. There is a very small percentage of woman who deliver on their actual due date and both of my older boys came earlier than expected but non the less this is the date that we held onto as the time that we would be welcoming our newest blessing into our family.
Well June 17th came and instead of cuddling our new son we spent the day grieving what should have been.
January 6th we officially met and said goodbye to our son face to face. That day will always hold a special place in our hearts and it is a time that we will never forget. We were offered a free funeral service by one of the local funeral homes after Nathaniel was born. however we decided that we weren’t ready for that. Instead we decided that we needed to bring him home…but not the way we imagined. I am able to look up at his urn every day and know that his sweet perfect body is cremated inside along with his blankey. This brings comfort to me. Justin and I knew that we wanted to honor and remember Nathaniel in a proper memorial and decided that there would be no other day more appropriate than the day that he was due to arrive. June 17th wasn’t a date that we picked out of thin air, this was a date that has been on our minds every day since September and it is a date that will always remain a happy one when thinking of our sweet boy.
It is hard to explain how it feels to lose a baby so young and have to continue life for months knowing that he should have still been growing inside of you. Not only was June 17th a date to spend in memory of our boy but it was a date that we were able to face head on and go through new feelings of grief and realize that we can now “let him go”. When the sunset last Friday and the day was coming to a close I had an overwhelming sense of “it’s over”. I know that right now, in this moment, I would have not still been pregnant with Nathaniel. This was a moment that I had been both dreading and needing since January.
Throughout the years I have had the privilege of throwing 8 birthday parties for my older boys. I have been able to plan, organize and enjoy picking out decorations activities and treats that I know they would enjoy. I do all of this because I love to see that smile on their faces knowing that we are celebrating them on their special day. I do not do these things for any other reason than for the sole purpose of showing my babies they are loved. I do not believe that love is shown by gifts, I am not trying to allude to that. I am simply stating that one of the parenting blessings that I have enjoyed every year is spending time on creating special memories for my boys when they celebrate another year that has passed.
For Nathaniel, having a memorial was the one “parenting” thing Justin and I could do for him. It was the ONE thing that we could plan in honor of him. There are no words that can express how important this day was for our family. Many tears were shed leading up to the day. We had planned a couple months ago from the suggestion of my mom to release butterflies in memory of him. Although I knew for months that we were going to do this, it wasn’t until one week before June 17th that I was finally able to place the order. Well to be honest Justin had to place the order. I couldn’t bring myself to click on the options, to know that once it was placed it was official that these beautiful butterflies would arrive at my doorstep one day before Nathaniel’s due date. To know that the following day I would hold that envelop in my hand and release the beautiful creature knowing that it was representing our boy who has been released from us here on earth.
June 16th I had to run out to get a couple last minute things for the meal we were going to have in honor of Nathaniel and as I was walking in a daze through the store I knew that I wanted to make a place setting that represented Nathaniel, the way that we will always think of him, white and pure…taken to heaven before he could sin. I decided to keep it simple. Getting ready for a birthday party or other events was always about the colors, the decorations, the balloons, the DIY wall art and projects that I’d spend hours on. This memorial was in essence a “party” for Nathaniel but it was something more meaningful than that. It was and is THE ONLY “party” that we will or can have for our boy.
Funerals and memorials are for the living. I wholeheartedly agree with that. I do however believe that Nathaniel knows what we did for him. I do believe that it was not gone unnoticed but I also know that it was something that Justin and I, as his parents, needed to do in order to have closure. We have been hurt deeply by the response to needing June 17th. Our son’s memorial was not something trivial or meaningless to us. In fact it was the most meaningful even that we have had for any of our boys. It was a “funeral”. The simple fact that we did not bury his urn at the end of the day does not make it any less significant.
We have been faced with an extremely unspoken life experience that others simply do not understand. This is why I have tried to be as vocal and honest as I can be while going through it all. I pray that if I am ever in a situation where someone I love is dealing with something that I cannot relate to first hand, that I can put their emotional needs above my own idea on what those hurting should be doing. I pray that I do not choose self over family. To turn a blind eye to the raw emotions and needs of someone you care for causes a pain that cannot be erased. Justin and I had a very dark and painful conversation during the planning of the memorial. We wondering if it would have been better if Nathaniel made his way into this world full term. If he would have taken a breath or two, if others would have seen him as a person in “real life” if then he would have been acknowledged as someone worth taking time away from everyday life to mourn. If the loss would have seemed more real and more “appropriate” to memorialize. Please do not assume that a loss any earlier than “viable” brings any less pain. Every loss is personal. To some, they may not be as grief stricken by it as we have been…but I do not think we are alone in knowing that a life that once had a beating heart which was later silenced, is a life worth cherishing and remembering.
On June 17th, we were able to go buy a tree and plant it in Nathaniel’s honor. We picked out flowers the night before and last weekend we finished a garden area for him that we are able to see from multiple windows in our home. When we sit outside we are faced with a beautiful reminder of our boy that was lost. We are not faced with a fetus that didn’t make it. We are not faced with an imaginary life that had no meaning. We are faced with the reminder of that tiny face that we were able to kiss and love on, if only for a short while.
Justin and I are so thankful that my parents made the trip here on Friday to be with us and help us morn our son. There are no words that can express our sincere appreciation that they not only drove 5 hours to get here but also helped us with the tree and were able to say some words about Nathaniel as they each released a butterfly.
To those who sent us messages, phone-calls, cards and just let us know that you were thinking of us last weekend, we thank you. To those who have shown support to us through words of encouragement as we planned Nathaniel’s memorial, we thank you. To those who have reached out to us and let us know that we are not alone over these last few months, we thank you. The simplest acknowledgment that what we have been faced with is worthy of being mourned has not gone unnoticed and has made our journey much easier. All we ever hoped for and can ask for is that Nathaniel not be forgotten. That is all any parent in our situation can pray and hope for.
The first butterfly that we released immediately went to one of the flowers in “Nathaniel’s Garden” and stayed there for a while. I was able to capture a picture which will hold such dear memories for the rest of my years here on earth. When it was Ethan’s turn to release a butterfly he said “Nathaniel, I wish that I could go to heaven now and give you a hug and a kiss, I miss you”. I had no words that I could say, the emotional toll it took on me at that moment was too much. The butterfly that I released flew and hit me in the face and then took off to the sky. I like the idea that my mom suggested “it’s like Nathaniel gave you a kiss and then flew off”. The moment cannot be re-lived. I pray that I never have to go through anything like June 17th ever again. Although the day was extremely emotional and hard from sun-up to sun-down I have no regrets on taking the time and energy to properly say “goodbye” to my baby. We “buried” our son on June 17th. June 18th marked a new start in our lives as a family. One that we wholeheartedly did not want to have to take but we are thankful for the sweet boy that God blessed us with for a short time. It will be such an amazing day when I get to see him again, hug him again and tell him again how much he is loved.
Until we meet again, my sweet boy.