- What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Bury one of my children, our daughter Molly, who was born and died on April 17 2008.
Molly was buried on Monday, April 21, 2008, in the early afternoon at Holy Seplechure Cemetery, in Alsip, IL (a nearby southwest suburb of Chicago) where Bob’s paternal grandparents and great-grandparents are also buried.
When we first entered the chapel at the cemetery and I saw Molly’s casket, I was struck by how small it was. The funeral director had told us it would be awhile back, but I guess I forgot. I got emotional when I saw her casket and realized that our baby girl was in there, at least her body was.
Sean wanted to go over and check out Molly’s casket and so we did. It was a beautiful little white casket and had a heart embossed on top with the words “Loved and Cherished” written inside of it. When Sean saw me crying, while we looked at Molly’s casket, he told the funeral director “sometimes Mommy gets sad.” There was also a teddy bear in front of Molly’s casket that had a t-shirt on it with the same “Loved and Cherished” heart on it. The funeral director told us that we could bury Molly with the bear or keep it. We decided to keep it, since she already was being buried with the bear from Sean.
We ultimately decided to have Molly buried with the pink teddy bear from Sean, a picture that Sean made for Molly and gave her the day she was born, a blanket and hat that one of my dad’s friends knit for Molly, the cross that Molly’s Godparents my sister and her fiancé gave us that said “Our Baby Girl,” a rosary bracelet from one of our neighbors and a palm that I had braided on Palm Sunday at mass this year, during Lent, while pregnant with Molly.
During Molly’s funeral/prayer service, our immediate family members gathered tightly around us and Molly’s casket. I sat in a chair with Sean on my lap and Bob stood next to us. Our parents, siblings, their spouses/fiancé and Bob’s maternal grandma were there with us. It meant so much to us to have them all there. I really broke down emotionally during the service and Sean was very cuddly on my lap. It really hit me that this was it, we were actually preparing to bury our daughter and I just kept picturing our beautiful baby girl Molly, as she looked when we saw her on Thursday, after she was born. I believe that her soul is now in Heaven, but I also knew her little body was in the casket in front of us.
Our pastor, Fr. Bill, said that when he thinks about Molly, and our journey with her, that the word “gift” comes to mind. He spoke about how you have to give gifts away. Fr. Bill talked about how moved and touched he has been to be a part of our experience with and now farewell to Molly.
We prayed the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be together as part of the funeral service. The last time Bob and I had prayed that sequence of prayers with Fr. Bill, was in our room at the hospital before Molly was delivered. It was bitter sweet for me, as Molly was still alive, inside of me, the last time we did that together.
Fr. Bill asked if anyone had anything they wanted to add or share at one point during the service. Sean raised his hand and told us that he loves his favorite stuffed animal Polar Bear. I said how much it meant to us to have everyone there with us today and thanked our family for supporting us during our long journey with Molly. Bob’s mom said how she thought this experience brought us all together. My dad echoed what Bob’s mom said about our families growing closer. My sister shared her pride in being Molly’s Godmother and told about a magnolia tree, like one that we had in front of our first childhood home in Evanston, that she and her fiancé, who is Molly’s Godfather, have bought to plant in her memory at their home in their backyard.
After we left the chapel we caravanned with our family, in our cars following the funeral director, to the section where Molly was to be buried. It wasn’t the section we originally thought she was going to be buried in or by, but it seems that area must have filled up and so they dedicated a different section of the cemetery for babies. It was still a very beautiful area of the cemetery with a nice statue and Bible verse about Jesus and children.
Ironically, as we approached Molly’s gravesite, Bob noticed and pointed out that a grave right next to Molly’s was for a little baby boy who was born/died on April 17, 2007, exactly one year before Molly was born/died. His gravesite was decorated with all kinds of things, including a Cubs flag, as his first birthday/anniversary of his death would have been the previous Thursday, the same day Molly was born. Later we talked about how maybe we will meet his family someday, especially in future years on Molly’s birthday when we go to visit and they might be there too.
We brought three-dozen peachish pink roses to the cemetery and when we buried Molly, each of our family members placed one on top of her grave after it was filled in with dirt. Bob, Sean and I also each placed one of the pink roses in the grave, on top of her casket, before they filled it in.
After we buried Molly, we went back to Bob’s parents’ house and had a lovely dinner with both sides of our family. It was very relaxing and nice to spend time with everyone after what we had just been through together. There was a lot of yummy food too, which after having followed the gestational diabetes dietary guidelines for some time, towards the end of my pregnancy, it was nice to be able to indulge in.
On the way home from dinner, Sean said to us something about how he never got to feed Molly. We could tell that he was a bit sad, or at least disappointed, about this realization. We think that Molly’s death was starting to set in with Sean on a different level than before. As much as he was happy that she is in Heaven with God, he seemed to be remembering some of the things that he had looked forward to doing for and with his baby sister, including helping us to feed her someday. We were careful not say anything to Sean about us having another child someday, as we didn’t know back then if and when that would every happen for our family. However we did talk about how maybe he could help his aunt and uncle feed their new baby after he or she was born later that summer and/or maybe he would also be able to help some of our friends who have babies or were expecting new babies after they were born.
Later that day, as we were heading up to put Sean down for bed, he gathered his favorite stuffed animals, which he sleeps with these days, including Polar Bear and his blue teddy bear (that coordinates with the pink one he gave Molly and that he wanted her buried with). As he picked up the new teddy bear, which we had been given by the funeral director earlier that day, Sean asked why we got to keep it. Bob replied that the bear was from Molly and that she wanted him to keep it and take care of it for her here in our home, just as Sean had given her the pink teddy bear that she had been buried with to keep and take care of in Heaven.
It was another very special and memorable day for our family and I found that those end of life rituals that we were going through to honor and always remember our daughter, seemed to really help me to cope with and grieve the loss of our baby girl in what I felt was a healthy way at the time.
That Friday Bob worked from home and we decided to visit Molly’s grave for the first time since we buried her on Monday of that week. We are also were planning to order her gravestone. We told Sean this and he was excited to visit his baby sister’s grave and help to pick out her “stone” as he referred to it. He also told us that he wanted to bring her a present. We reiterated that we believed she would be able to see it from Heaven, but that we wouldn’t actually see her there. He seemed to understand and was working on coloring a Daisy Duck picture to bring for Molly’s grave before we left.
It was nice to be back at Molly’s grave that afternoon and see how it looked. The roses we had all placed on it Monday had dried out, but were still covering her grave. A flower arrangement that my sister and her fiancé, Molly’s Godparents, had brought and placed at Molly’s grave on Monday, were also still there and looked good. Someone had placed a pink pinwheel at her grave with a yellow smiley face in the middle. All of the other babies’ graves had them too, which I recall noticing on Monday. I felt pleased that whoever did it, whether it was someone employed by the cemetery or the parent of another child buried there, that they seemed to be welcoming Molly to the baby section there. It was very windy outside that day and especially at the cemetery, so we didn’t stay as long as we might have otherwise. While there Sean did say hi and bye to Molly and we told her we love her. Even though we believe that Molly’s soul is in Heaven, I like that we have a specific place we can go to remember her and feel closer to our baby girl. With the wind gusts blowing everything around, Bob poked the Daisy Duck picture that Sean had colored through the stand of the pinwheel to try to hold it in place and we also put a few of the dried roses over it to try to hold it down.
After we left the cemetery, we went across the street to a monument dealer to order Molly’s gravestone. Sean was very pleased with the one we chose because it had a teddy bear holding a heart on it. It also had a small cross on it that we like. We chose a “Ruby Red” color of granite and decided on the following wording for Molly’s stone:
Our Baby Girl
MOLLY MARIE BENSON
April 17, 2008
We Love You
Though some we shared our wording ideas with liked “Forever in Our Hearts” for the bottom line, Sean seemed to like “We Love You” and in the end I think that was my favorite too. A mock up was projected to be ready about two weeks from that Friday and then after we approved, it would likely take about another four weeks after that, we were told. While we were going over the paperwork at the office to place our order, Sean told me that he was going to go and talk to Molly in Heaven. I watched him walk away to another part of the room we were in and then he did appear to be talking to his baby sister.
It has been almost five years since we buried Molly and it is bittersweet to reflect on this time in our life. Our first child, son Sean, is now nine years old and our third child, our daughter Abigail, is now three years old. We still visit Molly’s grave regularly and try to decorate it to go along with various holidays. Though we believe that Molly’s soul is in Heaven, we still find comfort in having a place to visit and take care of that helps us to honor our baby girl’s life and memory.
What’s the hardest thing you have ever done?
A version of this post originally appeared on my blog in April 2008.
Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.