The letter from the local Funeral Services came last Wednesday. Out of the blue. Without warning. I think Karen and I reacted pretty much the same. Shock. An initial inability to process the information contained within.
It's been 5 years since we lost the baby.
Even now we are no wiser as to why or what happened. The post mortem could find nothing wrong at all. His death at 20 weeks was simply put down to unknown causes. It's at that point that you realize that, despite the huge advances made in medical knowledge, the biological act of bringing a child into the world is a patchwork of unknowns and unexplained. The doctors and nurses, the scientists don't have all the answers. Things happen and they are at a loss to prevent, interfere or in anyway explain them.
Life is a chancy thing.
At the time the emotional impact was something like a world destroying meteorite. Karen and I were numb. Our emotional atmosphere flattened out under the weight of this colossal rock of misery that the universe had dropped onto us. Our time in the hospital was a weird blur of camaraderie and fear.
At 20 weeks Karen had no choice but to go through an induced labour. It was both smooth and horrific. And unutterably sad.
Even now I can't go into too much detail about the process. Only that my biggest regret was not looking onto the face of my son because I was too scared about what I might see; what condition he was in. Karen felt the same. It was too much to bear. We were too scared. Our emotions already pulled too tight to cope with being loaded with another tonne of grief.
We weren't able to take in all that the nurses said. I can remember they gave us the option of sending the foetus away for post morten to try and establish the cause of death. I remember this because I still have my half of the form that I had to fill in. We agreed to it. It seemed a good idea. It was a good idea. To try and rule out any congenital problems that might cause any future miscarriages. As I said the results proved nothing either way.
They may have offered us counselling. I can't remember. All I know is there was an implication that once the lab had finished with the post mortem they would dispose of the remains respectfully. The nurses may have given us more information about this; I don't know - my mind is a blur so I'm reluctant to throw blame about here.
So Karen and I left the hospital the next day carrying only our loss. We laid some flowers in a place that is special to us and dealt with our grief. Life was kind. We conceived Tom a couple of years later and now have a very rumbustious little boy on our hands to go with an even more rumbustious 9 year old.
And then the letter from the Funeral Services arrived last week. Would we like to collect the cremated remains of our baby? Or would we like them to hang onto them for a while longer or scatter them for us? All very respectful but a bolt from the blue nonetheless.
We had no idea our son's ashes were lying in an office storeroom somewhere a mere 10 minute's car drive away. No idea at all.
Karen and I didn't have to consider a response. We picked up our son's ashes a couple of days ago. They came in a box so tiny it was obscured by the formal letter that came with it. That was something of a body shock. Even smaller still is the little bag of ash contained within the box. Tiny. So tiny. The box is all of the weight.
Karen and I have decided to buy a tree that we can keep in a beautiful pot in the garden. We shall place the ashes there and keep him with us.
It is good and right to have him home.