October 3rd 2016
I carry a lot of regrets surrounding Otis’ death, the few days we spent with him in hospital and his funeral. I did what I thought was best at the time; I did as well as I possibly could under the circumstances, but in hindsight it just doesn’t feel like enough.
One of my biggest regrets surrounding Otis’ death and his funeral is that I never saw Otis in his coffin. I never saw how he was led, how he was swaddled, where his teddies were, if he could reach the picture of his mummy and daddy, or if his hat was covering his ears to keep him warm. The thought of him being in the coffin and me not knowing those things tortures me daily. It keeps me awake at night.
I also wasn’t there when his coffin lid was put on. I wasn’t the last person to see Otis. I wasn’t the person to lay him down for the final time. I also didn’t cuddle him at the funeral home. His cold cot wasn’t switched on in the hospital due to midwife error (something that has since been complained about and apologised for). He was born on Friday 3rd June and was quite pink, then come Monday 6th June, he was too fragile to lift and a dark blue colour. All of these things are things I REALLY wanted to do but it was advised against because of Otis’ rapid deterioration.
Because of how quickly Otis changed and with the recommendation of our funeral director, I saw my little boy for the very last time just 3 days after he was born. Again, something I have come to regret massively in hindsight. Why? you ask … Why would she WANT to see her son that way?
The answer is right there. Because he IS my son. I am his, and he is mine, regardless. Death does not take that away. He was, and still is, absolutely perfect in every single way. I didn’t mind that he was blue; I didn’t mind that he had a pungent smell seeping from his pores and his mouth and his ears and his bottom; I didn’t mind that he felt cold to touch; I didn’t mind that he was floppy when being held; I didn’t mind that his skull plates moved over one another when lifting him up; I didn’t mind any of it.
Don’t get me wrong – it KILLED me seeing him that way and I wish with every fibre of my being that I had brought a live baby home. But, in the moment, those things didn’t matter to me.
I just wanted to hold him and kiss him and cuddle him and tell him repeatedly how much I love him, how sorry I am and how much he was going to be missed.
I do have many regrets, but those are the regrets I will take to the grave with me. I should have been there. I should have gone against advice and seen him again. I should have listened to my heart instead of my head and I should have been sat by his side reading him stories every day for the 5 days he spent in the funeral home, whether I could lift him or not. I should have picked him up one. last. time.
I have a lot of unanswered questions – how was he wrapped up? Did the funeral director give him a cuddle before laying him in his coffin? What happened during the 5 days after I had to stop seeing him, and his funeral? Did they talk to him? Did they sing to him? And so on.
Our funeral director, Lianna, has organised a meeting for 10am tomorrow so she can talk to us about all of my questions. She is also going to talk me through the day of Otis’ funeral because I don’t remember any of what happened. I know I need the questions answered and I know I need a clear picture of what happened the day my son was buried. All I remember is his coffin being lowered…
I’m dreading it. I’m absolutely terrified. I’m hoping for answers and I feel like it will bring comfort. But what if it doesn’t? What if it doesn’t bring any closure or anything? I need this. I’m relying on this.
October 4th 2016
We had the meeting this morning.
When we saw Otis for the last time on the 6th of June at the funeral home, we knew it was the last time we would see him due to how rapidly he had deteriorated. It wasn’t something we had planned for during the 3 days we had with him in hospital, so it was sudden and unexpected. Though I knew he was deteriorating quickly, I didn’t expect him to change that fast …
After we left the funeral home that day, because they knew that no one would be going to see him from that point, they took Otis out of the cooling room and put him in a Moses basket wrapped in a blanket, so he was warm. I’m glad they did so, because something that plays on my mind constantly is whether he was, and is, warm.
Otis had his own ‘bedroom’ for the 5 days he was at the funeral home in which he was surrounded by teddies and candles. To comfort him, they played nursery rhymes 24/7 inside the room for him. This makes me feel a little more content. I was terrified that Otis would be led on a metal slab in a cooled room, just placed among other deceased people, and I couldn’t bare the thought of that. But he wasn’t. He was in his own room, resting peacefully in his moses basket, just as he would have if he had been at home.
A lovely man, Carl, was the one who transferred Otis from his moses basket to his coffin. He gave him a cuddle and told him goodnight before lying him down.
The funeral directors went in to ‘his’ room every single morning to say good morning to him, and Lianna (our funeral director) popped in throughout the day to say hello and make sure he was okay. Both Lianna and Carl spoke to Otis. They (I quote) ‘welcomed him in to the fold’ and accepted him as their family for the 5 days they took care of him. I cannot begin to explain how that makes me feel. Just knowing that his care was so respectfully done, so dignified … It means so much to me. I cannot put in to words how much.
Lianna and Carl both talked me through the day of his funeral and what they remember. They spoke of how Otis travelled on Lianna’s knee on the way to pick us up; then he was placed on to Chris’ knee once we got in to the funeral car. We decided against Otis travelling in a hearse because we didn’t want him to be alone. Carl told us about how the girls were chatting away and how lovely they are. Then we arrived at the Church. Chris carried Otis in to the church to ‘Over the Rainbow’ by Eva Cassidy. We took our seats and the vicar said a little something before reading a letter I had written about Otis and his short time with us.
Lianna said that the letter I wrote that was read out in the church taught her some things about loss, after 30 years of being a funeral director. I was also told that my love for Otis was very evident in the letter – that makes me happy, because he IS so loved.
They then went on to tell us about how Cora and Maisie lit a candle for Otis during our time of recollection to Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven.’
A little poem was read out before we left the church. Chris and I left with Otis first, Otis in his daddy’s arms. We walked out of the church to ‘Let there be Love’ by Oasis.
Once we arrived at Otis’ graveside, a few words were said before his coffin was lowered by Carl and Lianna. Otis Redding’s ‘Dock of the Bay’ was played while Otis was being put to bed, one last time. I chose that song because it was foolproof during pregnancy to make him sleepy. Only when that song was playing was he calm. He stopped kicking, he stopped rolling around, he just rested. It felt fitting.
After Otis’ coffin was lowered, I placed his teddy and a rose on top of it, before sprinkling glitter and stars on top of it. Then everyone placed their flowers on top and sprinkled some too.
Lianna went on to tell me that Otis’ funeral was one of the most beautiful funerals she has ever attended. I know that doesn’t seem like something to celebrate, but to me, it is. It means I did my little boy proud. It means I did his celebration of his short life justice.
Lianna told me that she has a copy of the letter I wrote to be read at Otis’ funeral and she read it again just the other day. It was kind of ‘nice’ to hear about how Otis had affected them so much that they still think of him and read his letter 4 months down the line.
It brought quite a bit of comfort just knowing exactly what happened with him. Though I knew Otis would have been looked after, I feel like a weight has been lifted knowing just how loved and looked after he was in his final days Earthside.