Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cremation or Burial

Ok, This is going to be a tough conversation, but I feel it is time to open up and share, what was a very emotional part of our lives. I personally, want to be cremated. Not buried. I never want my children to feel obligated to put flowers on my grave, or feel guilty for not "visiting me."My husband is self employed, and we have this habit and privilege of moving to an area, just because. (Ask me sometime how I got to Colorado...)So, because of this, we decided to have Maddux cremated. I just could not bear the thought of moving, and leaving Maddux behind. Then I could not bear the thought of Having to move, and being forced to leave Maddux behind. Does that make any sense?After Maddux died, and during autopsy, came the decisions, of funeral homes. How much? Were they credible? Would they treat him well? When would they pick him up? Over and over and over. I wanted to personally drive to every funeral home and "interview" the Man in Charge. Luckily, my husband put his foot down, said NO. And took it upon himself to find the "right" person. Everything was able to be done over the phone and by fax. (Of course, I'm not too happy about this decision...Remember I wanted to personally Interview...) But, looking back now, this was the best choice for us. I had looked online for cremation urns. (how I hate that word-urns...) And trust me, I looked and looked and looked. Nothing was right, I did not see anything that I even remotely liked or wanted. This was a very imoportant decision for me. I am looking for a "resting place" for my son! One of the only decisions or choices I will ever be able to make for him as his mother. This had to be perfect...Not just for him, but for me as well. I did not take this task lightly.I believe we picked up Maddux on February 17th. I remember the kids were out of school. (presidents day) We drove to (and yes, I will tell you the name) ERLINGER FUNERAL HOME in Lafayette Colorado. The directors name is Carl Erlinger. An incredible and compassionate man. He asked us if we wanted an urn to put Maddux in, and we said yes. He showed us all of what he had. Not a large selection, but again, the same that I was seeing over the internet. I told Mike no. I didn't see anything I wanted, and didn't want something "to just tide me over..." I didn't want to have to "transfer him." So, we took Maddux in a little plastic bag, that was put into a burgundy velvet bag with gold tassels. I continued my search...Now it was time to "think out of the box..." (No pun intended...) I looked online at china stores, I looked at Sterling Silver vases. I looked at LLardo figurines. I found some beautiful pieces here. Especially the ones titled: MY GUARDIAN ANGEL and HEAVENLY SLUMBER drove to several stores looking at them. They were perfect. The only thing wrong, was that there was no opening to insert Maddux's ashes. Mike said he could just drill a hole at the bottom. (And we honestly thought about actually doing this.) Then someone said, "Take it to a Jeweler." Ok, we could do that, too. If it broke-it broke. No big deal. I used to be a huge antique mall shopper. I love the old and rustic look. One day I was driving by the antique mall of off I-70. Ok, I'll go in. I fould this cute little ceramic figurine of a boy, kneeling in prayer with a teddy and a bible in front of him. (see 1st image) There was no bottom. This would be perfect, I thought. Mike could make a bottom. I did not let the $3.00 price tag steer me away. (thinking it was too cheap.) I bought it. Took it home, and put it on the shelf, so the kids wouldn't break it. The next week, I was driving Chase to a baseball lesson at Slammers. I had an hour to kill, and there was another little antique mall close by, so I drove there. I was in there for probably 15 minutes, when near the front I saw it. Exactly what I was looking for. The maker is Royal Doulton and the figurine is called "Family" (see second image.) And, better yet, there is a hole at the bottom. (surely we can figure out how to seal it...)So, this is what we have decided to use as our son's resting place, for now. Mike and I have agreed, that whoever (between the two of us) dies first, we will scatter Maddux's ashes, with the ashes of one of us. I love this figurine. It reminds me of our photographs we had done with Sandy. Where Mike and I are together and Maddux is cradled in my arms. Mike and I always have thought and said, that that night with Sandy and her camera, was our memorial to Maddux. We never even thought about having a service for Maddux. This was our way of honoring him...Through the Photographs...

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Maddux's first Heavenly Birthday

On February 4th, 2006 both of my daughters had a cheerleading competition at the Denver Colliseum. The youth team took 1st place and the juniors took 2nd place. Not bad for a team that has only been together for less that a year. My husband was home, and we were able to share this day with very good friends. Thank you Ali, Tony, Chris, Tammy G. for all your kind words and thoughts. Thank you for mentioning Maddux, and that this day was his birthday. After the Jamfest, I took my oldest daughter Anna (9) to get her ears pierced. Then we all went to Ted's and ate dinner. Now, this is the fun part. For 11 months, I had talked about getting a tattoo. Yes, you heard me right. A tattoo. I NEVER thought in my life that I would get one. At first, after Maddux's death, I just wanted his name below my c section line. Something simple and private. Something just for me-noone else. (I can't believe that I am sharing this...) So after dinner, my friend Ali (who has stuck with me through thick and thin) started driving around. My husband took the kids with Tony, back to their place. (Shaking his head all the way home.) He would prefer that I not get one, and honestly, didn't think I was serious. I had checked prior with some people who had tattoos, (where else, but Tokyo Joes-one of the best fast food japanese restraunts in Denver-their motto has something to do with "the few, the proud, the pierced...) about places in Denver. Ali and I walked into one, and literally ran out there. I decided to try one more. Thinking as we walked in, if this place is like the first, I'm done. It wasn't. Very nice, clean and friendly. They new exactly what I wanted and what I was looking for, (of course, by that time I had changed my mind from just his name to a little Pooh Bear with angel wings, and his name.) So...below are some photos. Courtesy of my friend Chris Pepe, who we called at 11pm to come "play" with us. My friend Ali holding my hand (it hurt her more than it hurt me...)And please don't think we dress alike all the time. (Girls had a cheer competions. We were showing our support.) Then, my little Classic Pooh Bear with Angel Wings, and Maddux's name underneath.
I love my tattoo...

February 4th, 2006

Dear Family and Friends

I find myself sitting here at my desk at 5:00 in the morning. I’ve been doing this for a few months now— enjoying the stillness and peace of my home at this early hour. My children are still sleeping, and I’m waiting for a new day to begin. Then it hit me—the last time I really enjoyed mornings like this was when I was breastfeeding my babies.

This realization makes me think of what-should-have- been. Right now I should still be breastfeeding Maddux, getting ready to wean him. I should be planning his 1ST birthday party. I should still be changing diapers. But instead, I’m trying to juggle my life as a wife and mother, room mom, cheer mom, baseball mom, housekeeper, taxi driver, trash taker- outer and my small part in the new life of a non- profit organization. Although I thought about it, I didn’t break down and cry. Instead, I welcomed and smiled at these thoughts. Smiled at this great challenge. Last year during this time, we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new little baby boy. Everything was ready. All we needed was Maddux.

What a turn this past year has taken. Ten years ago, if you would have asked me what I would be doing with my life, I would have never answered, “trying to find a way to help parents heal their broken hearts after the death of their baby.” And even if I would have said that, I sure didn’t think that it would come from my own personal experience. I was happy just being a wife and mother.

Some people ask me how I got to this point in my healing. Why am I not a mess? How am I able to hold it together? Truth is—I think I’m a mess. I don’t think I’m able to hold it together. Am I healed, you ask? No. Is my family healed? No. Will life get better? Yes!

We will always grieve the death of Maddux. But at the same time, we will ALWAYS celebrate the birth of Maddux—the birth of our son and our children’s baby brother. We will celebrate the importance of his short life, the importance of his being. We will always think of the 'what-should-have-beens'. My heart will always be broken and a piece will always be missing. But there came a time when those broken pieces started to come together again. And if you look really close, you can see those tiny fracture lines. Some days they are closer together. Some days they are ripped wide apart. They will never go away, and I accept that.

I hear there is a new pill that can help you forget bad or painful memories. The death of Maddux was extremely painful for us, individually and as a family. But would I take a pill to help me forget it? NO WAY!

My pain, my grief and my heartache are the consequence of loving deeply, loving unconditionally, and the death of one of the greatest loves in my life. There is a quote that really fits this: “Tis better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.” - Alfred Lord Tennyson

I can’t imagine what our lives would have been like, had we not had Maddux. As a husband and wife, we have silently learned to support and depend on each other. As a family, we have grown closer and are more aware of each others feelings and needs. I personally think I am a more gentle and kind person. I think I am a better wife, a better mother and a better friend. Yes, I have my memories. Some good, some not so good. I have my faith. And I have my precious and priceless photographs of my beautiful baby boy.

I have loved deeply. I have lost greatly, and I will grieve always. If I had just one piece of advice to give at this point and time in my life, it’s this—remember to always love deeply. Love those seen and those unseen. Loving deeply, for the most part, will not end in heartache. But when it does, accept that this heartache is the consequence of a parent’s deep and unconditional love. Don’t try to get rid of it. Accept that because you have loved deeply, you will grieve greatly. Take your own time to grieve, not someone else’s. And one day, you also will feel the broken pieces of your heart start to come together again.

Blessings to you all,
Cheryl Haggard