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:
HERE LYES INTERRED Ye BODY OF Mrs
ANNA RUSSELL CONSORT TO Mr JOSEPH
RUSSELL WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE FEB'ry
Ye 5 1729/30 IN Ye 23d YEAR OF HER AGE
AND IN HER ARM THEIR SON LEONARD
DIED Ye SAME DAY AETATIS 17 DAYES
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.