In attempting to describe or discuss the day we buried our daughter, just over one week ago, once again words fail me. But I have to try, for her sake and her sister’s. On the morning of her funeral I called it Laurencia’s Special Day, her Victory Celebration. And it was absolutely both of those things. But it was also the day we had her teeny tiny casket lowered into the dug out hole in the ground and buried her. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7
When we learned of Laurencia’s diagnosis I often imagined the day of her funeral. It played in my head over and over, knowing it was going to be our reality although often times I was in a state of disbelief that the day would really come. “How can it be?” I would ask myself, or maybe God. “How can it be that I will put her in a little white casket instead of the little white bassinet like my other girls?” “How is it even possible for me to hand her perfect little body over to someone to prepare it to be buried?” I’m a mother. I’m her mother. I’m supposed to give her bath tubbies and get her dressed to GO PLACES, like visiting Papa and the playground. Not put her in the dirt to be stepped on and cried over.
When I’d go to mass I would try so hard not to picture the inevitable and yet the images of her little white casket going down the aisle at our church were so clear to me. And that part did happen pretty much the way I’d imagined. But what I hadn’t pictured, what I could not have imagined were the multitudes of people who would come to show our girl how much they loved her. I didn’t have the slightest idea that every single one of my dad’s siblings and so many of my cousins and their children and my friends from work and friends from my old job and Matt’s colleagues and my sister’s neighbors and lovely women from our church and my nurses who cared for us during the pregnancy and my parent’s friends and old friends and friends from high school and friends I met years ago at the community center and new friends we met through our children’s activities and our children’s teachers and my sister’s neighbors and Matt’s friends from high school and his aunts and siblings and their children and grandchildren and our neighbors and old neighbors and “little” girls I used to babysit who are now moms and mom’s I know who have also lost a child …I didn’t know some of them even knew of our girls. And so no, I didn’t imagine that all of them would give up their time on a Friday night to celebrate the life of our Laurencia. But they did. Our gratitude can hardly be expressed for this gift and all I can offer is a ‘thank you’ to every single one of you for giving of yourselves all for one little girl. And I want every single person who was there with us in prayer, though they may live in England (Antonia!) or Norway (I have no idea who you are 🙂 or Alaska or Saudi Arabia (Melissa!) to know that I am so thankful for you being there with us as well.
I regret not having thanked so many people personally and I also regret not having allowed more time for those of you who wanted to see our girl. I wish I had a photo of the line of people waiting to see or say goodbye to her. To me it was the definition of love. Just pure love meandering it’s way through the back of church, out the doors, into the gathering space and beyond. It was love for our Laurencia and her beautiful life. “The best gift we can give to any child is to make that child feel wanted, loved, and cared for because that child is the greatest gift of God.” – Mother Teresa
On the night before the funeral I sat down to prepare things for church and print photos. I tried to be very deliberate about each photo and each little thing I was going to set out in remembrance. In between tears I’d find yet another precious photo and try to figure out how I could possibly choose.
(The photo of the girls holding hands as Laurencia’s heart beat for the very last time; the white heart pillow on the lighter pink blankie, Laurencia’s blankie, was made by my friend Tracy and it weighs exactly what Laurencia weighed; Laurencia’s lamby hat that she wore on her birthday)
(the photo we used for the little printed cards handed out at the funeral)
(In the center, our only family photo, priceless to me; each of us with Laurencia along with some of our thoughts about our beloved daughter and sister)
While trying to get ready the morning of the funeral, I sat down to send a little note to my girl. I just couldn’t stop that heavy feeling in my heart. I thought maybe if I cried hard enough here at home, I would be strong at the funeral and somehow the tears would run out. It didn’t work, but that’s ok. I did feel a sense of strength during the visitation, funeral and gathering after and I fully believe that once again it was all of the prayers for peace and strength that were being said for our families.
I arrived at the church with Bella and Polly at about 3:30 to set up our little table and to give Laurencia photos of us and of her with her sister. I also gave her a little lamby to bury her with which wore a ribbon that said, “Jesus Loves Me.” Yes, he does. And so do I.
Rachie and Billy were there to help me with everything. It was calm and quiet before everyone else started to arrive. I looked over to see where they had put Laurencia and she was surrounded by beautiful pink and white flowers sent by so many people who loved her.
Matt came with the rest of the kids and we took some last family photos with Laurencia. Baby Valencia, of course, could not be with us, but we knew she was safe and well cared for where she was at. I wore Valencia’s special sister necklace as a reminder of her.
Five of my girls, together one last time.
They all said prayers for her and loved on her and spoke again of how perfect she looked and how she looked like a queen on her throne. The true queen of course, is right behind her, Mary, our holy mother. My Laurencia was a princess like her sisters though, and she would have carried the title well, just like my girls. I’m sure she would have spun and danced in twirly dresses with the best of them. Anabella and Paulina wanted to practice one of the songs that all of Laurencia’s siblings and cousins were going to sing to her so I told them they could:
Before I knew it, so many wonderful friends and family started to arrive and I was once again overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness, compassion, support and love.
We hugged, cried and laughed with all of Laurencia’s sweet visitors. Too soon we were told that everyone was being asked to be seated and we had to say our final goodbye. Our last time touching the face of our girl.
It’s at this point where my fingers don’t want to type. I just want so very much to hold her and not write about not ever holding her again. At the time, however, I was truly surrounded by so much comforting peace. We all gave her one last kiss and said goodbye, even though we knew she was already home. They then placed the white pall over her casket and we got ready to walk her down the aisle. Laurencia’s godmother and godfather carried her down and my little family followed her. I saw my sister Anna who, in just one look, said everything every single mother would have said if words were adequate. It also said everything any sister would say if they could say anything at all in that moment.
The mass began and Valencia’s godmother read this reading:
“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
That last line has always been very powerful to me and even more so now.
Father Richards said some beautiful words. Matt commented a few days ago how he thought it was so nice how Father talked about Laurencia’s angels rejoicing to meet her. Before mass ended, our kids and all of Laurencia’s cousins on my side (though I’m sure her nearly 30 cousins on Matt’s side would have done it too and were singing in spirit!) went up to the altar to sing two songs to her. The first was “We Fall Down”. If you don’t know it, some of the words are, “And we cry ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the lamb.” I hadn’t noticed it at the time but when I watched this video I saw that little Mae Mae stood up there and was singing the Holy Holy part. I lost it when I watched this. We usually can’t even have her sit in church with us she’s so squirrely. I can’t believe she stood up there to sing to her sister like a big girl. After that song the kids sang “This Little Light of Mine” and lined up to get a pink or white candle to place next to their cousin. Here is the video complete with the back of Laura’s head and whispers to the kids not to knock over the large candle. Seeing and hearing all of our little ones sing to her was beyond precious and beyond heartbreaking.
In the last few days I’ve finally been able to read through many of the cards and letters we’ve received. I was re-reading a note from another special Mary, a sweet friend who helped care for me and my girls during the pregnancy. At the end of the letter she had provided an excerpt from Pope Francis’ recently released First Encyclical: Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith):
“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.”
In my very first post on here I wrote, “But we know the sun will shine again.” “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6. I do feel His accompanying presence and I do know that my little girl is a shining light. She has shined in the hearts of so many people everywhere she has gone.
So then it was time to walk her down the aisle for the last time. This was it, her last time going down the same aisle that she would have been carried down to be baptized at the font, the same aisle that she would have click-clicked down in her white dress shoes for her first communion, the same aisle that she might one day have walked down to marry the love of her life. Once again, her godparents so tenderly carried her out to the car. We followed right behind her. As we drove out of the church parking lot and down the road we passed the historic church in our little town, the one Matt and I were married in. I thought so clearly of the day we rode in the carriage down the same path and so I told the kids about it as we passed my childhood home. The kids were somewhat awed by the police cars stopping traffic for the princess. Matt thought it was fitting that our girl would have enough sass in her to stop traffic at 7 pm on a Friday night. 🙂 As we turned into the cemetery I saw the line of cars behind us and I told Matt I was suddenly so very sad for all of the babies who never had a chance at life, who were never known, never celebrated. I know they were known by at least One, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5. But I cried for all of the babies who didn’t get sung to or held.
We got out of our cars and one last time Laura and Billy carried Laurencia’s casket this time to her final resting place.
Father said a blessing and we asked Laurencia’s godparents to lay her in the ground. While it may have seemed a tough thing to do and to witness I needed the kids to understand that she wasn’t going to be sitting there on the green carpet when we returned. I needed them to know where she was going to be for all time. I know it was a hard thing to ask Billy to do but he did it with grace and love. I could not possibly have chosen better godparents for Laurencia. They love her so much and displayed their love in ways that many never could. I know for certain they will continue to honor our girl for the rest of our lives.
The kids and I then each placed a pink rose on her coffin and said one final farewell. I laid one in there on behalf of Valencia as well.
As with the Laurencia’s birthday, the kids did not want to leave but I knew they had to and tried to find the right amount of time to take them to the car. When we got in the car they were crying very hard, wailing actually, especially Polly. And I just let them. We drove back to the church for a small gathering and the kids ate and talked with their cousins and had a nice party for their sister. I knew they would need that and indeed it helped them realize we must carry on though we will never, ever, ever forget our girl and the beauty of her life in ours.
The next day the kids wanted to go out to her grave site and place some items there. Papa and Grandma had already been there and right after we left, Rachie and Billy had stopped by as well. We found out later that Laura and her kids made a little visit too. The kids and I had been having fun prior to going to visit Laurencia and it was somewhat of a shock to me to see the dirt covering her. I told my friend Tracy that every new thing is probably going to be difficult for a while. But I had to get to church with the kids and so I couldn’t stay long weeping over my girl. I had to remember her joy and to remind myself that just like with Valencia, who was safe in her little bassinet, Laurencia is safe with Jesus.
Yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. I found the following portions of Stabat Mater, (Translation by Edward Caswall Lyra Catholica (1849)) when reading about this feast day:
“At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.
Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?
For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:
She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
be Thy Mother my defense,
be Thy Cross my victory;
While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,Safe in Paradise with Thee.”
Be Thy cross her Victory so she may be safe in paradise with Thee.