Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Last Time I Saw Her

It was on this day four years ago that I saw sweet Lily girl for the last time this side of Heaven. March 17th was the last time I held her (at the hospital), but I was able to see her one last time at the funeral home before her burial on March 27th.

The reason we waited a week and a half for her service and burial was because we had to figure things out with two different funeral homes since Lily was born in North Carolina and was buried in Virginia. I was also recovering from birth and needed the extra days to physically recover before making the trip up. I personally think it's a good idea to wait a few days before having a burial to give that extra time to process things emotionally. This is a big step that brings closure and I wanted to be fully present to remember the sacred day. I also wanted to have the service and burial on a weekend so that more people would be able to come.

Anyways, when I left the hospital, I was holding on to the promise of seeing Lily again. I was told I'd get to see her one last time before her burial. However, in the following days, things weren't exactly working out the way I wanted them to, so I didn't know if that would happen after all. I am so thankful it did. 

One week after I gave birth to my silent daughter, I went to see her at the funeral home. A piece of me was already there, where she was, and I was just aching to be near her. For some reason, I thought we went to the funeral home six days after her birthday (maybe that is the day we had planned to go initially). Those days are a blur. My mom recently found a piece of paper from that day with the date of March 23, 2010 on it. It has the funeral home name and address and the costs. Seeing it made me lose my breath. I now have it in her memory chest... I don't know why, but I feel the need to keep anything and everything associated with Lily, like it somehow validates her existence more.

For the first time in all those months, she wasn't with me. The phantom kicks reminded me of what I had lost. I felt so empty without her. Like literally part of myself was missing. She truly was a part of me, living inside of me all that time. The limo arrived and Mr. Willie picked my mom, sister, and I up and we embarked on the journey across town to discuss the details of Lily's memorial service and burial. The car was hot, I was warm, I was trying to choke back the tears.

I wondered if I was ready to see her...would I ever be ready? Would I regret if I did, or regret if I didn't? The fear and the sadness were right on the surface and all I could do was ask God for guidance. Lord, if you want me to see her, speak it to my heart. If I shouldn't see her, keep me from her.

They tried to discourage me from seeing her. They said she didn't look like she did at the hospital. They said I wouldn't want that to be my last memory of her. I wondered why they were saying that? ...what did my little girl look like? I was afraid to know. After discussing all the details, I decided I did want to see her. I needed that closureThat one last kiss. I needed to see her in that sweet outfit she was wearing, and those little brown shoes. I had peace in my decision. Walking down the stairs, I looked over to my left where I saw a tiny white casket on the other side of the room (my sister took photos, which some might find strange, but to me, these were some of the only photos I'd ever have of Lily. This is my reality. I needed this memory in photos. If you don't want to look, stop reading now).

There she is, Lord. There she is. Should I look? Oh, Lord, my little girl...her lifeless body is right before my eyes. Her body that was in me, such a part of me and yet separate, a week ago, now there she is in that little white box

Hesitantly, I approached her. Instead of fear or alarm, I felt complete joy to see my sweet girl. She was so beautiful. I smiled at her in her beautiful outfit, the one we had picked out for her to come home from the hospital in. What was to be her "coming home from the hospital outfit" turned out to be her "going home to Jesus outfit." Her true home. Her forever Home. This beautiful pink outfit is one of the only two she will ever wear. The first one she wore is now tucked away safely inside her memory chest. Underneath, she wore a precious onesie that mom and I found for her at J.C. Penny, on one of our many shopping outings. We loved to shop for our sweet little girl! Both mom and I were so certain she was a girl that we shopped for her before any doctor told us she was a her! :) Her burial outfit has roses on it, for her mommy, Hannah Rose. My Lily in her rose dress. It is a matching set, with a dress, pants underneath and a hat. The dress also has pink hearts on it, which is perfect because she has my heart. Not only that, but hearts remind me of Lily because I had a Valentine's-themed baby shower.

Lily wore her adorable brown shoes. The pair I had sitting on my dresser for almost my entire pregnancy. The pair that I couldn't wait for her to wear. I miss those little brown shoes with the sweet little bows on them. I miss the excitement of holding them in my hands, as I waited for the little girl who would one day soon fill them. They were so tiny for my tiny little girl. For her age, my girl had big hands and feet though! It was so cute to see her feet squashed into the shoes. She could barely fit them as a newborn!

My mom, my sister, Emma, and I spent some time alone with Lily. There are three boys and three girls in my family. Us girls call ourselves, "the girl's club." Lily was to be the newest member of our little "club." No matter how many more babies are born into this family in the future, she will always and forever be the fourth member. I cherish these pictures and memories.

As our time with Lily was ending, my heart was breaking. I knew these would be the last moments spent with her. I didn't want to leave her there, in that cold funeral home. I wanted to take her home with me. But, that was never meant to be.

I had brought along my lambskin from when I was a baby. It was waiting in the cradle by my bed to be used by Lily when she came home from the hospital. But, she never got to use it. I tore a piece of it and put it in the casket with her, resting under her hand.

My mind was so scattered in these first few days and weeks, so none of this was planned. I look back now and see how beautifully orchestrated by God it was. It all just fell into place.

My sister had on my old purity ring that my grandmother had given to me when I was 15. I decided to tie it around Lily's dress. My pure, set-apart princess. Lily meaning purity. Lily, a symbol of my renewed purity in Christ. The ring somehow had become torn down the middle. Just as my purity had been torn. Yet, my Jesus pieced it back together. And this little girl was a symbol of that. She was the instrument He used. Since then, I have gotten a new purity ring, a whole one, to wear until my wedding day...

It was time to go. How do you share a home with someone, carrying them in your womb for nine months, your heart bonding with hers, only to have to let go? I had to say goodbye to the very one that had lived and grown within me for nearly a year. 

I whispered in Lily's ear how I loved her so much, though I was really whispering it to Heaven. It felt like my heart was being ripped out of me. I wanted to keep her for the rest of my life on this Earth. All these stages of saying goodbye - leaving the hospital, leaving the funeral home, and soon to be leaving the cemetery after the burial. How could I possibly walk away without her? My legs felt so very heavy. I knew this would be the last time I'd see her pretty face. I could count the number of times I kissed her, rather than a lifetime of sweet kisses, hugs, and cuddles. I knew the next time I was near her that little white box would have a closed lid. They closed the lid, not me. The hope of Eternity with her gave me strength to carry on...

After taking in one last look of my beautiful girl, all dressed up for Jesus...I gave her one last kiss goodbye. 

...for now.


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