After Madeline died we had to make the hard decision about what to do with her remains. It’s something that Mike and I hadn’t even really considered for ourselves, and there we were having to make that decision for our baby. I wanted my baby with ME, and the only options were awful. I didn’t want to think about the body that had grown inside me underground or turned to ash. But not even 24 hours after she’d passed, Mike and I had to have the worst discussion ever about our baby’s body.
First we talked about burial. Picking a place for her to be buried wasn’t hard. My grandmother is buried in a beautiful cemetery not far from where I grew up, and I would have wanted her to be buried with my grandma. It was a small comfort to think they would rest together. But the idea of her decomposing was too much for me.
Next we talked about cremation. My grandma was cremated, as was Mike’s grandfather, so it wasn’t a foreign concept. But the merest mention of it made me feel sick to my stomach. The whole process was not something I wanted to think about in relation to my baby.
Making this decision for our child when we were in the depths of shock and despair was agonizing. In the end we decided on cremation, for a few reasons.
When we considered burying her, I had a mental image of walking through the funeral home to pick out a teeny tiny casket. For some reason, this seemed so much worse than picking out an urn. I didn’t want her in something small, and buying a full-sized coffin seemed ridiculous. Instead, we were able to find a beautiful, regular-sized urn that fit her personality perfectly.
After we’d picked out her urn, the funeral director asked us if we wanted her interred. I asked what would happen if we weren’t sure – would they hold onto her remains? No, we were told. We could bring her home with us, and if we decided we wanted to inter her we could make the arrangements at a later date. Mike and I knew instantly that was what we wanted – needed – at that point. We needed her home with us.
Bringing her home with us solved my other problem – visiting her. The idea of visiting my daughter sounded preposterous. And when I thought about it a little more, I knew I couldn’t live with her being somewhere other than with me. If she was in a cemetery, I would feel a pull to visit her every day, a pull that I logically knew I couldn’t possibly honor. And I knew if I didn’t visit her, I would have horrible feelings of guilt. And what if we had to move far away? I would never be able to leave her.
So that is why Madeline rests in a beautiful purple-speckled urn, in our bedroom. When we move, she will move with us. The knowledge that we can bring her along, in spirit and in real life, will give us the peace we need to leave the only home she ever knew.