Yesterday, I had to attend another funeral. I may or may not have mentioned previously that, for most of my pregnancy, I was a full-time caregiver to an elderly family member with fairly advanced dementia. My ‘contract’ ended at the end of October, a few short days after Brock’s stillbirth, when we moved back to our hometown. About three months after we ended that arrangement, she was admitted to the hospital by her new caregivers for various ailments. One thing led to another, and she didn’t end up making it back out.
I knew going into the funeral that it was going to be tough. It was held at the same funeral home where Brock’s service was held, back in the town we lived in during my pregnancy, and, as much as I might not want it to, that building now hosts a lot of bad memories. The staff, especially the owner, were absolutely amazing to us when we had Brock’s visitation there. He let us use the home at an absolute minimum cost, only requiring us to pay processing fees and mandatory expenses. He was extremely kind and empathetic in our time of need, and even though it is never easy to put a child to rest, his sensitivity and attention to detail made it a little more bearable.
I was okay, on a relative scale, for the first little while, but things got worse quickly. We arrived early so that we could quietly say goodbye to her and try to gauge our emotional response to being back in that place so soon, and hopefully figure out how well we were going to be able to handle the service. We went and paid our respects to her, then mingled with some of our other family members who were present.
As time progressed, I started to get more and more anxious. Being in that place again less than four months later, and already pregnant with another child (although most people in attendance did not know that), ended up being pretty tricky to process. I started to get frustrated with myself because I was not even a little sad about the passing of this family member; she had lived an extremely long, full life and her life had ended in very little suffering. Being there made me think of Brock, and how he didn’t get the same luxuries. He would never live to be almost 94 years old, and quietly die in a hospital after almost a full century of watching the world change: his life ended before it got to begin, in a terrible way and for a stupid reason. I felt bad about not feeling bad, and I felt selfish and petty for letting my own problems get in the way at someone else’s funeral.
Then my nephew showed up with his parents.
My nephew, with the name I had wanted to give to my son (but they just happened to land on it first), who was only supposed to be two months older than our son. Since he was premature, he is already nearing 7 months old. I watched him try to flip pages in a photo album and eat berries and pieces of banana out of his mother’s hand (he would also occasionally try to eat the bag if she took too long to procure the next piece). I wondered what Brock would be doing if he were here, since he would be only a day shy of four months old.
At some point, one of the grandparents introduced the baby to a couple of attendees as their grandson, and something in me broke. I left the room too quickly, and spent the next 20 minutes crying in our car.
Brock is their grandchild, too. I am a mom, and my husband is a dad. Our nephew is his cousin, and his cousin’s parents are his aunt and uncle. Just because he is not here doesn’t mean he didn’t exist.
At the same time, it’s not as though I can force people to acknowledge Brock. The fact of the matter is that things we can’t see tend to avoid being brought up. I couldn’t run around for the rest of my life, introducing my living children to people, and then also say “I also had a son before them, but he died.” That wouldn’t make him any more tangible to them; he will always be a piece missing from our lives, but you cannot miss something that you have never had.
Nonetheless, part of me just wanted to yell, for the whole funeral home to hear, “They have two grandsons, by the way. We’re parents, too. Ours just happened to die. We didn’t do anything wrong, and we would have been great parents, but life is unfair sometimes, so they get their baby and we don’t.”
We left shortly afterwards, after I regained my composure and we said goodbye to a few important attendees. I spent the rest of the day feeling emotionally drained, thinking about how much I don’t want to spend the rest of my life mourning Brock’s passing. Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want.