I'm linking up with Tesha today. If you are visiting from Tesha's blog, thanks for stopping by. You can read more about our Solveig Sofia and her stillbirth by searching "Solveig" in the search box or looking on the blog labels to the right.
Today marks three months since Solveig Sofia was born still into our lives. Oh how we miss her...
It has been almost three months since we had Solveig's funeral and I'm just now taking the time to write about it. There have been many days that I have tried to begin writing this part of the story and it just didn't come to fruition. But I finally felt the strength to write this portion. This is a long one, but I wanted to capture it for our own memories.
Saturday March 3, 2012
This was the day of Solveig's funeral. It was hard to sleep the night before, yet we were exhausted and needed as much rest as possible to endure what would be a long day. My heart was anxious, knowing that what we would face that day would be extremely difficult, yet so important and special.
I remember waking up with such a deep ache that morning, yet some type of supernatural strength which was needed to get through the day ahead. A funeral is meant to help celebrate a life. The life we were celebrating was not as full or as long as many others who have funerals, but it was still meant to be celebrated. For to not celebrate the life of our daughter would have been in our minds such a shame. She was worth celebrating...every ounce of her 3 lb. 11 oz. body and beauty was worth more than gold or silver or all the riches of this world. Solveig was alive and well in my body for 33.5 weeks before that cord of hers tightened for the last time. And those 33.5 weeks are worth celebrating. It's worth celebrating the life that the Lord gave to us for such a short but blessed time.
But having a baby who never saw the light of day and preparing and hosting her funeral is perhaps one of the hardest things that we humans may have to face here on this earth. That being said, we wouldn't have done it any other way. Many say that this type of grief is often held so privately and many choose to forgo a funeral for a baby, or some would choose to have a smaller ceremony just for family. If you know me and Erik at all, you know that we love to be with people and we've been blessed with some incredible people. We wanted so much to be able to share our daughter with our people and to make the celebration of her life a communal one, with our church body, family and friends. And I know that I couldn't do this journey on my own. Some are more private in their grief, and I respect that. But I just operate differently and feel that I would shrivel up and die if I didn't reach out and talk to people about this loss. It really helps me to talk with others, have hugs from friends and family and hear the name of my Solveig spoken and honored. So, that is one of the reasons we had a funeral.
Back to that...
We got ready at home. Erik and I went shopping the day before the funeral for a suit since he hadn't gotten one for something like fifteen years. I had a long, black velvet dress from my performing wardrobe that actually fit my postpartum body and hid some of my baby rolls, so that was perfect. Bug and Buzz had dress clothes that they had used previously so we didn't have to shop again for them.
After we were all dressed up, we headed in to church. I felt so anxious on the drive there, but I knew that I had to do this and that God would somehow get me through. Erik and I prayed on the way there, asking God for peace and strength to get through that day. And He did. Did He ever. There is no way that we could have gotten through that day, were it not for the prayers of countless friends and family members.
When we walked into the church, I was on a mission to get everything in its place in the short amount of time that we would have before the visitation. I'm glad I had some type of focus, although I must say my mind felt like mush for a lot of the time. Our funeral director Dan helped to organize a table in the foyer of the church where we would do our visitation. On that table was a beautiful quilt that my friend Kelly made for us (I'll post a picture sometime soon), and on top of the quilt was to be laid Solveig's casket. Also on the table was this picture, taken by our NILMDTS photographer, Jen.
Although it is in black and white on the blog, Jen also touched it up and did one with color for us to keep on a canvas. It's beautiful. And we have it sitting on our dresser in our bedroom. I love it and it is such a sweet memory of our baby.
Next to the table was a beautiful flower arrangement that we had chosen for our baby. It wasn't your typical funeral flower arrangement. I didn't really feel the need to get a banner that said "daughter" or anything like that. I wish I had a picture of that arrangement, but I don't. We didn't take any pictures at the funeral or burial, and I will always wish that we had. But I'm going to see if I can get a picture of what the flowers looked like. They were in a cross formation, and I think they were white and light pink. I cannot even remember now. But I just remember that when we were flipping through the floral book at the funeral home, I saw that cross and knew that it was the one for our baby. It was yet another reminder of Christ's death on the cross that made it possible for our baby to be in Heaven upon her departure from Earth. And a reminder to us that we will be with her there again one day, because of the cross...because we believe that Christ gave us salvation by faith in Him through that cross.
Before the visitation, we had planned to see Solveig again in her casket in a different room...just us. My mom was able to see her again too. I wanted to have every opportunity possible to see my baby's body, even though she was visibly changing ever more each day that she was gone. I didn't care. She was still my baby, and she was so beautiful. It just helped me to see her again. Her little pink cherub casket was so pretty, and she was wrapped so beautifully in her delicate white pointelle cotton outfit and soft white blanket.
After we had a little bit of time with Solveig, the funeral director closed her casket and brought it out to the table in the foyer. We didn't have an open casket because we didn't have Solveig embalmed and the sight of her purple body probably would have been too difficult a sight for most to endure. We didn't feel the need for them to see her actual body. But having her casket on the table was good, and having her picture next to it was helpful.
Having grown up with my dad working in the funeral business, I developed an understanding that the open casket funeral/visitation is very important. If at all possible, it is good for people to see the body so that they can truly reconcile the death of the individual. But since our little one was so tiny, it would've probably been quite difficult to embalm her and we just didn't feel the need. If she was older and it would've been possible, we may have opted for embalming. The most important thing for us was that our little family and some of our extended family got to see Solveig.
It wasn't long after everything was set up in the lobby that we had to take our places and begin receiving our guests. Thankfully the funeral home had a high stool with a back that they brought along for me so that I could sit down the whole time during the receiving line. Remember, I had just given birth three days prior and my body could not possibly stand for very long. My friend Alisha was my "bouncer" that day. Thanks, dear Alisha. She had the assignment of letting people know to not hug me too hard. My milk had just come in the day before and I was in excruciating pain from that situation. So, Alisha went through the line and said, "Melody is just taking half hugs today since she is still recovering." Perfect. It worked so well. And medication and distraction helped to mask some of the pain.
Seeing so many people line up to greet us and having the chance to talk with them was really a blessing. Again, I have no idea how we did it that day, talking to so many, but for the grace of God. The love and support that was poured out to us and physically present in that church was immense and comforting. Thank you to all who came that day to support us. You have no idea just how much that meant to us to have you there. And to those who were not able to make it but wanted to, please know that we understand and we appreciate your thoughts and prayers over us in your absence.
When it was almost time to start the service, we were ushered away for a time of prayer with the pastors and the family in a different room. A few minutes later, we lined up to start our procession into the sanctuary. My sweet friend Charles, a phenomenal concert pianist, was playing lullabies on the piano for the prelude. I had asked him to play the Brahms Lullaby as the last piece, for us as the family to enter and process down to our seats. Erik carried Solveig's tiny, pink casket in his arms and I walked just behind him holding the kids' hands. We had to deliver the body of our daughter to the front of the sanctuary and place her casket on the communion table. But for us, it felt so much more like we were placing her on an altar before the Lord, as a sacrifice unto Him. We know that He gave the sacrifice of His son on our behalf and we no therefore no longer are called to physically offer such sacrifices on our own, but the symbolism of Solveig being laid on the altar was too obvious to not notice.
Less than eight years prior, Erik and I had walked down that aisle of our church sanctuary together after saying our marriage vows. Now, here we were walking down the aisle with one of our precious babies in a casket and two of our other babies walking with us. It was so surreal, and yet so entirely real and hard to grasp.
The service was so beautiful. All week from the moment that we found out Solveig was gone until the day before the service, we were planning the music, readings, musicians, other participants, and so much more. There are a zillion and one details in planning a service, and especially the funeral service of our daughter. Thankfully I have had some practice planning worship services for our church, and that helped so much. Occasionally I have been able to fill in for our worship pastor when she has been busy or out of town. I'm so glad for that rehearsal of planning a service.
We prayed and prayed all week that God would be glorified that day in that church, and that Solveig's life would be honored. I really believe He carried out that service through the vessels who were participating in it that day...our musician friends who were fabulous - Gwen, Jason and Ricky who helped led worship, Cindy who sang a solo, Evangelion Chorale who sang one piece and Dennis for helping lead the choir...then Heidi, Janet and Natalie - all mamas who had stillbirths - they read scripture, and their presence on that platform was for me so powerful...and our pastors Rich and Sid for leading the service and speaking...it was a rock star team of people and we're so incredibly grateful for your leadership. Thank you so very much. We were able to worship that day in the service, and I'm so glad that God allowed us to have that experience.
Perhaps the most powerful portion of the service for me and for many others was my Erik and his gift of sharing his heart through words. He really does have a gift and it was incredibly evident that day. Sometime I would like to share with you what he said that day and write it on the blog. I'll try to do that soon. It meant so much to me that he got up and spoke at Solveig's funeral. I didn't know if he could do it, but he felt that he had some things he wanted to say. Thank you Erik for doing that for our daughter, and for the rest of us.
At the end of the service, after we finished singing "Jesus Loves Me" as a congregation, the four of us (Erik and I and our two kids on earth) went up to the front to snuff out Solveig's candle. We had placed five candles on the front table with her casket. Hers was in the middle and it was a deep pink. Next to it on either side were placed two other candles...two short ones for our kids and two tall ones for us. My friend Karleen said that when we snuffed out that candle and the smoke rose up, it was such a symbolic moment of visualizing Solveig's spirit rising up to meet Jesus. I thought the same thing. It was a touching thing for us as well.
We walked out and went to a very nice reception there at the church with many of our guests. It was good to see more people and to share in a meal together. Since we weren't able to host our friends for our daughter's wedding one day, we were glad to be able to share with them in her funeral luncheon. It may be sad for us, but it was joyous for her...since she was already dancing in Heaven.
Her funeral day was challenging, yes, but again I will say that I'm so grateful we chose to honor our daughter that way. It was for us such a healing thing to do, and for us it was the right thing to do. I'm so glad that we were able to have a funeral.
Thank you to all who helped make it possible. We're forever grateful.
And I encourage you dear readers...if you lose a loved one, whether young or old, having a funeral is such a beautiful way to honor the life of your loved one. There are resources to help in planning such an event, and people who know how to do it. I hope to write more about this in the future as I have some passion for it. Anything you can do to help honor the life of your loved one will help you in your grief process. And even though it may be hard at the time, you will always be glad that you made the effort and took the time to honor your loved one.
God be with you all. And thank you for your continued prayers over us. The road is long, but God is ever present and has not left us. We still believe.