Friday, April 2, 2010

Setting it in Stone

It has been two years since our dear Baker left us empty and alone in that recovery room. We know without a calendar that the anniversary is upon us. The light changes and the crocus and daffodil find the courage to poke their heads above winter’s remains. The flowers’ vibrant colors, transplanted from Baker's funeral arrangements into our garden, usher in our season of sorrow.

In the midst of our grief, we managed to find Baker a beautifully peaceful spot to rest, full of bird sounds and fresh breezes. The deer visit, and the sun lazes across the sky above him. We tend his grave, changing with the seasons, bringing pumpkins and Christmas bows and pansies. We can’t, however, bring ourselves to do much more than talk about a headstone for our son. I haven’t been able to decide what type of material we should use. I love the old slate used in New England in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Granite feels like too hard a surface for a baby. Too many choices, none of them right.

We own a family plot, and so debate whether we should first install the family stone and then have Baker’s flat stone made as a matching companion. To my knowledge, neither my parents nor anyone in my family has made an investment like this, and as the youngest child, it feels awfully premature to have my last name carved in stone.

These are excuses for the fact that we can’t bear to see his beautiful name set in stone for eternity. It does not change the reality that he’s gone from this earth, but to be frank, I think we are paralyzed by the thought of deciding once and for all what the world will know about our son after we are gone.

What do you say for eternity?

Nothing quite captures it.

Dalene and I have always enjoyed walking through the old cemeteries that abound in our neck of the woods. We are, of course, drawn to the stones that mark the lost babies, and there were so very many of them in those days, that we feel ourselves walking among the kindred spirits of long dead parents who knew the pain that we now own.

One of the oldest cemeteries on Cape Cod is located a short walk from my parents’ house, and Dalene and I spend time there looking at the ancient moss-covered inscriptions.

This is the one that always gives us pause, from the Lothrop Hill Cemetery in Barnstable, MA:

Ye 5 1729/30 IN Ye 23d YEAR OF HER AGE

Beneath this Marble Stone doth Lye
Two Subjects of Death's Tyranny
The Mother who in this Close Tomb
Sleeps with the Issue in her Womb
Here Death deals Cruely you see
Who with the Fruit cuts down the Tree
Yet is his Malice all in vain
For tree and Fruit shall Spring again

The inscription is striking in its detail, and it brings the reader back to a terrible moment 280 years ago. It also offers hope that we will be reborn together, and the pain that we know now will a distant memory when that happens.

We seek the inspiration and the clarity to draft such words for our boy that will endure through time and let the world know that he was a unique, special, loved person whose life ended before he could draw his first breath. We seek the strength to express the hope of rebirth - that we shall all spring again together as a family.

Tomorrow, on what should be Baker’s second birthday, we wish for the wisdom to commemorate the unimaginable, while recognizing the beautiful and the eternal.


Shannon Ryan said...

Happy 2nd birthday Baker. The inscriptions you posted are heart wrenching and beautiful. We don't have a stone either.. we cremated Dresden, but I've always loved headstones and cemetaries, and I'd really love him to have one somewhere.. I've thought about getting a family plot, so we can have a shared stone.. I can see how it'd be hard to decide what to say.

Mira said...

I just sent a note to Dalene before I saw this post. As always, stunningly eloquent and heart-wrenching. I'm sending so much love to you and yours as you pass this milestone. I did gasp at the inscription, fruit and tree growing again, what beautiful imagery. I have no doubt when you do find those impossible words, they will be perfect.
Baker, blessings to you on your birthday little man.

Hope's Mama said...

I fear I rushed in to making Hope's gravestone. But, I did it early and I went with my gut, so I guess I can't question that. You're right though, no words will ever really be good enough.
I do know one thing though, and that's that I'm going in the same plot with her. And so is Simon. Harsh reality to know where you'll lie for eternity when you're only 30.
Great to see you posting again. Happy 2nd birthday to sweet baby Baker.

Fireflyforever said...

Remembering your beautiful Baker today.

We don't have a family plot but we both intend to be cremated and have our ashes interred with Emma. It is so hard to find the words but I feel a sense of ... relief ... pride, I'm not sure what when I see her name on her stone.

Maija said...

Just a beautiful post, Chris. As always, your words, each one lovingly and painstakingly chosen, communicate the depth of your love for Baker. When the moment is right for you to choose the inscription, the gift for words that seems to belong to you and Dalene both will undoubtedly have allowed for a tribute that is as eloquent and loving and honest as all your posts. Thank you once again for sharing this. Love to you all.

melka said...

Given that we're still adrift in so many ways, including having no idea where to call home, I still can't imagine choosing a permanent place for my daughter's ashes to land. Let alone a headstone inscription.

That one you shared is absolutely gut-wrenching. An artful and intricate inscription of such raw awfulness.

I'm late to letting you know, but I'm here, remembering your Baker this month with you.

Cynthia said...

We are working on our stone. We picked an epitaph for Nara and the sales man said, "you know nobody is going to read it except you and your family when you go to visit". I, too, have always read stones in cemeteries. I like to contemplate the person buried beneath. I feel like most headstones have gotten so matter-of-fact. Just names and dates. I want a stranger 280 years from now to pause to read her inscription and contemplate her tiny life.