Friday, May 23, 2014

Picking Lila's new spot and dressing an angel

Quinn and I faced the unimaginable for any parent, planning a funeral for a beloved child. We were in such shock that every meeting or discussion felt out of nightmare. Horrible and yet thankfully not real. I guess that moment of devastating realization was when I saw Lila for the first time since her death. At the mortuary after we had picked out a sweet silver coffin with pink lining and a simple bouquet of tulips we went to see our baby. She was laying on a stretcher, her pajamas from that morning neatly folded at her feet. Dressed in a white robe she still looked peacefully asleep. It wasn't until I touched her that I knew that the Lila that I had spent every moment with for almost four years was gone. She was cold and slightly stiff. Gone was the light that seemed to constantly be  glowing in her face. A bandage was on her chest where they had cut her to prepare her body for the embalming process and a part of me was furious that even in death she still was being poked and prodded. She seemed heavier for some reason, like a statue of angel. I had to control the overwhelming urge to shake her, to plead with her to return. I think that was the moment that the guilt started to creep into my heart. I worried that maybe I should have been a better mother. Not worried so much about the future that will now never be. Maybe  I should have tried CPR or called an ambulance. Tried my best to keep her from heaven. Feeling the guilt was somehow easier than facing the fact that I was standing next to the body of Lila and not Lila herself.
The next day we had to go pick out the final resting spot for our girl. We had long ago thrown around the idea that she would be buried at Wasatch memorial lawn. It's the closest to us and the most central to our families. Quinn told me he didn't want me to go for the business aspect. Talking about the price of a plot and vault was sure to throw me over the edge. And so I met up with him after as he showed me two places Lila could be. The first was nice, a newer part of the cemetery with new little saplings that would eventually become large trees. The next plot was in the south east corner, a little more secluded and quiet. As we talked and walked around I tried to imagine all the time that I would be spending there talking to a girl I could no longer see or touch. When I asked Quinn for his opinion his voice faltered. With tears in his eyes he pointed to the mountains and said, here she has the same view of mount olympus that we have from our front porch. Done. That was the spot that my little lady would wait for me. In view of the same mountain that I could see from my window.
That Thursday before the funeral we had scheduled a time to go and dress Lila. I don't think I have ever been so nervous. I was so focused on the fact that she had to look perfect. It became an obsession and I realize now that it was because this was my last duty as Lila's mother. This was the last thing I could do for her and I was channeling all my grief into making sure that it was done as perfectly as possible. I walked into the mortuary and it took every ounce of my energy not to run away. If she didn't look like the angel that she was I didn't know how to fix that for her. We walked into the room where she was and the moment I saw her I was overcome with relief. She was stunning. Absolutely gorgeous. The mortician had somehow managed to close her little mouth, something that I wasn't even sure was possible, and the subtle make up just made her look like her. A gorgeous little doll. She looked like she was sleeping, that at any moment she would open her eyes and smile. Ruby was able to say hello to her sister and then we handed her off to my mom and sister so that Quinn and I could dress her by ourselves. Our photographer friend Heather stayed in the background quietly capturing the final duties of our parenthood journey with Lila. We put on her undergarments that had a cute little ruffle bum.  Then we slipped on the white dress that her Aunt Kelli had bought her for her fourth birthday. A satin dress with a peter pan collar and a tool skirt. We painted her toe and fingernails, OPI pompeii purple. We  slipped on her ever present bracelets. The ones that I had made her as an infant still somehow fit her tiny wrists. When her toes dried we slipped on her sparkle gold tom shoes, a gift from her grandmother two Christmas's ago that just now fit her slender feet.
Then I got to do something just between Lila and I.  I had found a mother and daughter necklace. A silver disc with a small butterfly cut from the middle. I would wear the disc and Lila's necklace was the tiny butterfly cut from the disc.  I placed that around my neck and then fastened the delicate butterfly around Lila's neck. Butterfly's are significant for me since I think they represent Lila so well.  There was a song that we played for Lila when she was young one of the lyrics was, "You're a butterfly held captive small and safe in your cocoon." Lila was trapped in her small and broken body. Finally she is free. Beautiful and free.
 The last thing to do was her hair in her trademark braids. We decided to do the "heidi" braids that twisted across the top of her head. When we were done I stood back and admired my girl. She looked like Lila. So beautiful and perfect. I realized that in that moment I felt peaceful, I felt very comforted and I felt like I was standing on holy ground.
We had Ruby come back in one last time to see her sister before we placed her in her tiny coffin. Ruby touched her and babbled quietly somehow sensing that this was a tender and dear moment. My sister commented that she didn't see baby Lila anymore but that she had somehow grown up, she was now a little girl. Lila's disabilities were no more. She was no longer our "baby" but a girl now perfect and awaiting her parents. Quinn carefully and tenderly picked up our daughter for the final time. With all the love that a father could have he gently placed her in her petite coffin. I situated her and in my mind I was thinking how best to make her comfortable. I tucked my baby blanket around her and gave her a kiss. She looked so amazing. I felt comfort by that for some reason.
In the weeks since this moment I have imagined her frequently, how she looks now in heaven, she always looks stunning, just like the last moment I saw her. She is a little angel, bent over a flower bed of tulips. Her  blonde hair glowing from the sun. I imagine watching her before she sees me. Smelling the flowers and watching a ladybug walk on a leaf, her perfect eyes now able to take in all the colors and beauty. I want to yell her name but at the same time I don't want to break this beautiful moment. I can now see a working body, legs carrying her and arms reaching. Suddenly she notices me and she breaks into a huge grin, she jumps from where she is and starts to run, her gold toms finally being put to use. She jumps into my arms and is so warm, soft and smells just like Lila, sweet french toast Quinn always says. We just hold each other because its been too long and because now I will never have to let her go.


Kimberly Cantrell said...

Thank you for sharing all of this Kristi. I love being able to read more about your moments with Lila. It was an honor to be able to see her and also come to the funeral. We love you guys!

Whitney said...

Your love for Lila is evident in every word you write. I admire you and Quinn so much, and grieve with you for the loss of your beautiful baby.

The Allen Family said...

I don't know you. I stumbled onto your blog a couple of years ago from a friend's blog roll. Since then, I have had to go through the death of one of my children. About a year and a half ago. My heart is aching for you. There is an article by Steven Kalas about grieving a child that is wonderful. If you would like to follow my blog, send me an email.
Mommies of angels need to stick together! You have been on my mind and in my prayers.

Kelsey Allen

Brandon and Lindsey B said...

Kristi, this was so beautiful and tender, thank you so much for sharing. I am so excited for that day for you when you get to have your beautiful perfect angel in your arms again.


Rebecca said...

I found your blog through a mutual friend about a year ago and what caught my eye was how stunningly beautiful Lila is! Just the most angelic face, and her sweet disposition shines through the photos. And then reading about your updates and stories always made me want to check back to see how you were doing. You have the most lovely family.
Thank you for sharing your journey with sweet Lila. You are a beautiful writer. I look up to you as a mother, and hope to have the same patience, grace, and joy that you bring into your family's lives.
Love from Texas,

nikki said...

What beautiful moments. Even though you have shared these with me before, they brought tears to my eyes again. I am so glad you have documented it all so eloquently.

You are an AMAZING mother, Kristi. And I think you did everything exactly right that morning - as difficult as it must have been.

I cannot wait to talk to Lila again and remember the fun times we spent at the park, farm and swimming in St. George. They are definitely memories I hold dear. We love your family!

vintageblueballoon said...

We love your family Kristi. Relying on our savior and his promises is the closest feeling to heaven. Thank you for sharing your love of your savior with us and your incredible strength.

Zane and Lexi said...

such sweet memories. thank you for sharing them even though it's hard. You are so strong and such an example of an incredible mother to me. love you kris.

Steve and Liz Evans said...

Kris this is so beautiful! You are an incredible writer! I loved every word. I can only imagine what that sweet reunion will be like for you! Love you sweet friend!

Bryce said...

Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and feelings. Ten years ago this month my wife and I had to say goodbye to our precious little girl, just 5 days old. It was painful reading your blog, reliving the pain vicariously. However, it is important to remember the sadness to make the joy of the time together greater.

My heart is with you and your family.

Lena said...

Kristi, you are incredible in every way. I don't know how you do it. You are a source of strength in my life every day. I love you.

Robbie and Margot said...

Kristi, reading that you ever questioned yourself as a mother truly breaks my heart. You are an awe inspiring mother and person. I truly look up to you each and every day. You gave Lila a truly amazing life full of true love. You and Quinn are amazing.