We went and picked up his cremated remains from the funeral home this morning.
What a surreal thing to say. More surreal to do.
We didn't have a lot of time to decide about our options after he died. I was given a list of funeral homes and cremation societies while still in the labor and delivery room I was moved to after his birth. In other words, while he was still with us. My focus was on Gabriel and not what we would do with his 'remains' - how could I think about that while still holding his body in my arms?
We did decide pretty immediately that we did not want an autopsy done. We may regret that later, but as all indications were good that he was healthy and the problems were with the placenta, I did not want that thought. My husband was very opposed to it, so we said no.
My discharge from the hospital was delayed because the social worker had not yet come to see me. When she did, I was given a packet on the stages of grief, reminded about the list of funeral homes and told to call her when arrangements were made, because Texas law requires that any baby who is born alive and lives for any amount of time, be that one minute or one day is required to have a burial or cremation. Good to know our legislators have focused on the important things in life.
It took only a moment's discussion to decide on cremation. Given the torrent of tears when we thought about our son lying alone and cold in a morgue, we knew instantly that burying him would bring us no comfort and probably a lot of nightmares. Cremation was not a choice I wanted for him; I've always had a very visceral reaction to the idea of being cremated myself, and the thought of Gabriel being burned up to nothing more than ashes was terrible. Even if I knew that it was only his body and that he was dead and would feel no pain. There don't seem to be any right answers in death. The thought of having his ashes back though - that decided it. We knew then that we could take our time deciding what was best. We could have him with us forever if we wanted, we could find a beautiful place and spread his ashes, we could bury them with a tree or shrub or someday with us.
Perhaps it was a warped moment of foresight that led me to notice that we happen to live between three funeral homes - though living across the street from a hospital perhaps makes that less of a shock. I had particularly noted the two crematory societies within walking distance of our home just days before he died, and idly wondered if we would still live here when he was old enough to read those signs and ask what they meant and whether that might give him nightmares, to live so close to funeral homes. So it was little thought that went into choosing the place we pass on our way home from work daily.
They were very kind. They gave us a large discount on their normal costs and politely did not notice my uncontrollable tears, except to provide me a box of Klennex discreetly. They are the only people to get his full name and get it correct - with both our last names in there, but not hyphenated. They did not discuss urns with us, and perhaps we ought to have brought it up, but I appreciated that there was no upselling when I was too distraught to speak. They took care of everything for us and called yesterday to let us know the remains were ready.
So we made the short drive and were handed a cardboard box just a little shorter than Gabriel was himself. His ashes are inside that box. We brought it home, and it started raining, and I appreciated that. Though I know that it's rained all week and there is a large tropical depression sitting on the coast depositing more of it, it was nice to feel for once that the world was mourning with us. We arrived at home and sat in the car and my husband made a face.
I asked what that meant and he said that it meant what he was thinking the entire time. What do we do with this now? I have no idea. A fancy urn, that might be easier to decide. This little box that seems like a cardboard coffin, because I know that Gabriel could have fit there, if he was all folded up like he sometimes was inside me, what do we do with it?
I have no idea. I held that box while I cried. It was strangely warm, and my hands tingled. It's the first sense I've had of any kind related to Gabriel since he was born and died. How odd that it is related to his ashes. We've set the box where I imagine we will set an urn if we choose to buy one, or perhaps a box that these may fit inside - on the fireplace mantel. I imagine there will be quite morbid black jokes about that when we feel a bit more recovered.
And now . . . that is done. One more thing on the pathway that we've now passed by. Again the question looms. What do we do now? Continue on, I suppose. But I hate it all. If I'm honest, I'd rather just sit still for another few days, and hold that box close to me until I'm ready to move on. But since my husband has pointed out that I will probably never be ready to move on from our son, I will leave it on the mantelpiece and wipe my eyes and meet our friends for dinner and try to smile. There isn't much other choice, whether I like it or no.