Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Memory of Laura

People often ask me "what's the worst thing that ever happened to you in your job"? I guess that's because I'm a funeral director and embalmer and folks are just naturally morbidly curious. I really don't like to talk about my work much simply because of the confidential nature of it. But tonight I am feeling down and remembering a particular family I served in another city several years ago.
I had an appointment to make funeral arrangements at 8:30 a.m. with a family who had an infant daughter who had died. These families are always hard to serve. They have envisioned a life that included that child, and now that child is dead. The impact of that reality is horrific. I know.
For the sake of anonymity, I will call the mother Laura and the father Mark. They were both present for the arrangement conference where I found out quite a few things. Laura and Mark were not married but had lived together for quite some time. They were both successful in their respective jobs and lived in a posh high-rise very comfortably. Laura was a career girl who put off having children so long that she thought she would never conceive. Well, at 40 she gave birth to a beautiful little girl. (The baby in the photo is definitely NOT their baby!)
Life changed for them immediately and they were both ecstatic, never letting the baby far from their sight. I'll call the baby Abby. When Abby was about six months old, she woke up in the night and after changing her, a tired Laura put her to bed with she and Mark. When they awoke the next morning, Abby had suffocated to death and there was nothing to be done.
They were, understandably, grief-stricken.
I will never forget Laura holding little Abby, wrapped in a blanket, throughout the visitation, never putting her down in the little casket prepared for her. She talked non-stop to her about her first day of school, proms she would never go to, the wedding day she would never have. On the way to the cemetery, she and Mark rode in the back of the limousine with the tiny casket encasing their daughter between them on the seat.
The guttural cries coming from that back seat as we lowered that tiny casket into the cold, cold ground are still as vivid to me today as they were all those years ago. Blame is often sought, and in this case, each parent blamed the other. How heart-wrenchingly sad!
But Laura's story does not end there. She knew, as I had confided in her, that I had lost a child, too, many years ago. She felt a sense of camaraderie there somehow and also knew that I had cared for her little girl with kindness and love.
She began to come to the funeral home occasionally to talk to me about her grief and sorrow. I told her that I certainly was not a counselor and that she needed to speak to someone much more qualified than me. One particular day she was especially upset and as soon as she left, I called her pastor and asked her to see her. Of course she immediately agreed and DID go to see her.
My job kept me very busy and I got on with other families and thought of her only occasionally. Her visits stopped.
But one day I got a call to go to the morgue and pick up a deceased suicide. Yes, there lay Laura covered with that white sheet on that cold, cold table. I will never forget her face for as long as I live. I could not embalm her myself. Not me.
She was bruised and battered. Suicide? I don't know.
The next day I met with Mark and with Laura's mother. Her mother accused Mark of beating her to death. Mark, of course, was defensive. It escalated into a shouting match. But all I could see was Laura, inconsolable over the loss of her child. Continuously reaching out for help. Help that she never found.
She is with Abby today and always. Buried beside her in a section reserved for babies only in that city. She is the exception.
Should I have done something different? Could I have?


Terry said...

This was my first visit to your blog and what an emotional visit it has been .Oh my you are a very amazing and strong woman.
Blessings of comfort to you .
I wish I had some sweet words of wisdom to offer you ,but alas I am a mere human with only a heart to reach out with .
Please know I mean you no disrespect at all ,I simply was moved by your Laura article and offer you sincere hugs.

Marie Reed said...

Dear goodness Polly.. I lost my son Julian when he was three years old so this post is especially heart wrenching... There is certainly nothing that you could have done. You are not a professional counselor in any shape and forth and I suppose that we both unfortunately know from personal experience that there isn't really anything that anybody can say during such a tragic time that can help comfort and heal. Huge hugs Polly!