Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Open Casket

Last night I had another funeral to attend.  I've sadly been to more baby funerals than adult funerals since I had Rachel.  I believe this made my 4th one, not including Rachel's.  However, this is the first one I have been to where the baby had close to the same condition as Rachel (acrania)  And also the first one that the baby was not cremated.  Which meant the first time I have seen a tiny casket with a baby in it - other than Rachel - in person.  It's much different than being at a service with an urn and photos of the baby alive or in their arms - or seeing photos of the babies in caskets on line.

It's an amazing honor to be able to share in such a sacred time with a family who is saying goodbye to their child.  The mom had been standing off to the side greeting people and when I got up to her, she wanted to go sit by her baby so she could show me her... because she knew I knew.  As I told her how beautiful and amazing she is, other people started to gather around.  They started to do the same.  It was beautiful.

I only have a couple things, that when I look back, I would say I would do differently.  I planned so precisely that there isn't much I left out.  But the one thing I was unsure of was whether or not I should have an open casket.  I wanted it.  I wanted to hold her until I wasn't able to anymore.  To see her until that last minute when it was no longer my choice.  But it was recommended to me by the funeral director that I not.  She said that she had been to baby funerals before where people actually left early because they couldn't handle it.  She said it makes them too uncomfortable.  Because I had not decided before she was born, I was in the fog that comes (both from the shock of death and because I was on pain killers from my c-section) and I just did whatever she told me to.  I trusted her judgement and I knew she cared about my experience, so I closed her casket before everyone got there - and then opened it up to say goodbye and kiss her again before I shut it for the last time.

I regret it. 

I had a chance to show off my girl to over 130 people all at once.  The only chance I had.  I lost it because of fear. The truth is that their imaginations were probably doing a much worse thing.  Rachel was beautiful.  Even so many days after she had died, she looked.... beautiful.  Perfect.  When I got there that morning, I was afraid of what I would see... but she looked amazing.  They hadn't put any make up on her because we decided on closed casket, and even still, she was way prettier than many 'normal' adults I see in caskets... and we don't close theirs.  People don't run out of their funerals.

I try to remind myself that God was in all of those details - in every decision I made.  Different people need different things.  That decision might have had nothing to do with me.  Maybe He was protecting someone there who couldn't have handled it.  The following year of my life pretty much confirms that.... people didn't even know how to handle ME after she was gone, never mind a baby in a casket.... but she was so pretty.  And I wish I would have just done it... let the people who would leave, leave.  They are probably gone by now anyway. 

I also know that part of it is that I wasn't ready to share her.  I felt very protective over her.  And maybe it wouldn't have been good for me at that point.  Or maybe the message we shared about God and how He provided for us would have been missed if people were distracted by the tiny baby behind us.  A huge purpose of her service was sharing to the unbelivers we are surrounded by - as well as the believers there - who were struggling with what was happening, that God is GOOD and that He had done great things.  That Rachel was a blessing.  God knew it all.  I have to trust that. 

One of my pastors came last night as well - it was really nice to see him there and since he was one of the few people we had with us at the hospital with Rachel, it's comforting to have him around.  He had asked me if it brought back a lot of memories...  In those moments, I wasn't really feeling like it had...because our service for Rachel was so completely different - and I had a closed casket.  The only thing I could think at that time was "these memories are with me every. single. day of my life - not just at another baby's service".   But today, I found myself feeling depressed, edgy, sad, angry.  I was at the gym and in the middle of working out, I found myself in tears.  I hate that babies die.  I hate that anyone has to put their baby in the ground.  I hate that my baby is dead and in the ground.  I hate that I made decisions based on fear.  I hate that there are no do-overs. 

As pretty as her casket was, and it was gorgeous.... it didn't compare to her.  So, I feel like I need to do this.  To open her casket and let the world see... not the edited photos that I have found so much comfort in....but the unedited version of what I love so dearly.  My baby girl... just the way she was.  I think there is a bit of healing that comes in being able to share these hard moments with others... and I missed that part.  Here I am almost 2 1/2 years later still wishing I could have.  And this is as close as I can get....

I had her bundled up in her blanket (Des made this one, I kept the one I made that she was in at the hospital, it's the one I sleep with - they are identical) when I put her in her casket at the funeral home because I was afraid she would get cold....If we had an open casket, I'm assuming we would have had her hands out and not had her so covered up at least for the service. I'm sure I would have bundled her back up for her burial

the hat we ended up burying her in was one the hospital gave us, so I could keep the ones she wore that I really liked. She is in her footie PJ's that say "Love to Twirl" on them.  months later, I also noticed they have hearts on the bottom of each foot.
♥ Her footprints ♥

And because you can't see her face well in the others, here is a pic of her whole face.
This was taken about 24 hours after she was born.  And I was still staring at her. ♥

I remember saying while I was pregnant (the day I got her casket in the mail and posted the blog titled "Rachel's Cradle")  that "the day I have to shut this forever will be the worse day of my life."

And it was.  Truly worse than any other day. Ever.  Nothing could come close to that pain.  That horrible feeling of making my arms do something that my heart was refusing to do.  Knowing I had no choice.  Knowing it was for the rest of my life.  Knowing it had to be me.
Because I ordered this casket myself, it was delivered to our house and sat in our mudroom for over 3 months while I was pregnant.  My kids would play with it and I would shoo them away.  I was afraid if it got opened and closed too many times, it wouldn't click good when we buried her and wouldn't keep the bugs out.  I can still feel the click under my thumbs as I closed it in this moment.  That sound, that feeling... they will never leave my mind or my heart.  I stood in that very spot and cried for a while after.

The kids were asking to hold her again.  I was knelt down talking to Isaiah and I looked up at Tammy (the funeral director) for approval.  I remember her face like it was yesterday... she just shook her head "no" with a solemn face as if to say "not a good idea" - and I just told them "I'm sorry, you can't..."  and my heart broke right along with theirs... I can't hold her again.  The furrow in my brow as Matt picked her up and carried her out said it all. 

I also noticed in this photo how Tammy is looking at me... and I'm holding Rachel's other little lamb.  I carried that lamb and the photo of her hand and foot print around for months.  I think this was one of the hardest parts for Matt.

I have the cross that was carved out from the top of her casket. 

And this was the last time I saw her above ground.  She is now directly below where she is in this photo.
And so yes, as I'm seeing my need to "do-over" my regret... and to replay the last day with Rachel, I am realizing that last night did in fact bring back a lot of memories.  I've heard people who go through tragic things at times just need to repeat what happened.... and now I get it.  There is something that happens when I re-tell my story or finally share something I've always wanted to... it's like it loses a little more of it's power over me.  It defuses maybe?  I don't know.... just bear with me... and know how grateful I am that there are still so many who aren't tired of letting me talk about her.  I wish I could do it more in real life, like actually TALK (not write) about her and how I feel with people...even if I'm repeating myself,  but most are either tired of hearing it or too busy to listen.  I'm so thankful for this outlet, even if only on the computer - it's better than nothing and does bring me some support. 

Next on my list is to share her cute little ears.... which ironically resemble lambs ears - seems fitting for my "innocent lamb" (that's what Rachel means) I used to try to hide them... you know, because they aren't 'normal' and someone might think they are "yucky".... well, I happen to really think they are cute now.  My only regret is trying so hard to hide them that I covered up her beauty.  But I'm sure I can fix that too.

It's been a long, hard day.  But I've had worse.  The first time around was harder.  Maybe I'm glad there are no do-overs.....


  1. Thanks for sharing the pictures. Rachel is beautiful. Thanks for continuing to share your heart and walk this walk publicly.

  2. Rachel is absolutely beautiful! Just like her Mama and Des! I always thank you for being so open with us, thank you again, for sharing such intimate photos and for being so open. You totally amaze me constantly. You're awesome Stacy. You are one of the strongest people I know, even though you may not always feel it.

  3. Thank you Stacy for sharing her with us. She is beautiful and I will never tire of hearing about her or seeing pictures of her.

  4. She is absolutely beautiful!!! I clicked "Smiling" above because I am smiling because you finally got to share here <3 Love you so much and I will never tire of hearing about Rachel...ever! I just wish we were closer so you could talk with me about her.

  5. Stacy, she is beautiful. Her cheeks are so full and kissable. Every time I see a picture of her I really am in awe of how perfect she is. So perfectly formed by our Master Creator's hand. You are so brave and strong and courageous. You and Rachel have helped me so much. Thank you for being so openly honest. The world needs more of you and Rachel!
    In Christ,

  6. Stacy-
    Thank you so much for sharing Rachel's beauty, in so many ways, with us. I read in your posts about the friends and family relationships you have lost because of your family's choices about Rachel's life and it angers me that people got to miss out on the beauty of Rachel because of it. Their loss and our gain because you have chosen to share her with all of us.

  7. Thank you for sharing your beautiful daughter with us. She is truly a gift from God, and a precious little lamb. Love and hugs <3 xxx

  8. I have had this open all day trying to figure out exactly all I want to say. First I want to thank you for coming. It was so special to me to introduce Naomi to you. I LOVE these pictures you posted here. I'd only seen your edited pics and didn't realize how much Naomi and Rachel looked alike with the red face and stark white nose. Everyone was saying Naomi's face was red from the birth but I've seen enough pics of other babies to know it's pretty common.

    I had been thinking of all you must have been feeling being there, and my mom asked me about you were handling it too. I knew it would be emotional but I hoped it would be in the good/productive ways. Like you said, reliving things takes some of its power away.

    I don't have any major regrets YET, but I'm sure they will come with time. There's a few nagging things that I wish I had done a little different already. There are so many things I would not have thought of though if it hadn't been for you and the FB group. Thank you for all the support you have shown me over the last few months.

  9. I wish I lived closer. I would love to HEAR you talk of her and see pictures and listen to stories with you. She is previous and I can't wait to see her sweet innocent ears.

  10. A sad story but i can see you are a close family with the most beautiful happy children god bless you all x

  11. A sad story but i can see you are a close family with the most beautiful happy children god bless you all x


We so appreciate your words of encouragement!
Thank you! ♥ The Aubes