Monday, September 3, 2012

Visiting Cemeteries

photo walk 8/15/2012

A couple of weeks ago, before being put on bed rest, I visited a cemetery.  It's a military cemetery, I believe, small and intimate and ancient-feeling.  I have gone there before, because I find cemeteries peaceful, and because they help me to think more clearly about life and God and death.  But this time I went looking for something different.

I went looking for the babies.  The ones who died before birth, whose graves are marked by a single date, and the ones who died weeks or months after birth, cradled in their parents' arms for too short a time.

Even though the cemetery is small, there are rows of children's graves there.  Perhaps a fifth of the graves in this place died so excruciatingly young.  They stand together in the cemetery's sunniest corner.

I went there, and sat.  I thought of the parents who must have wept in the very place I rested, and I wept, too.

photo walk 8/15/2012

I wept for them, for the unfairness of it all.  To have gone through an entire pregnancy, or most of one, only to lose your child at the end?  It is such a robbery.  It feels like God and nature have betrayed you, even if you don't believe that they are capable of such a thing.

I wept for me.  For my loss, my daughter.  My daughter.  For all the ways I cannot love her, because she is not here.  Sometimes I still can't believe that this happened to us, to me, to her.  How is it possible??

I wept at how Eve's death and absence have changed my life forever, altered my course so that nothing can ever be the same, even though many of those changes are turning out to be good. 

I wept at the grave of this unnamed baby girl because my baby girl doesn't have a grave, and sometimes I regret that.  Her ashes rest on a shelf in our spare bedroom/nursery, because I was too afraid that if we buried her and then had to move away from the place that holds the primary physical remainder of her tiny life, it would break me more than I already have been broken.  I am glad that we can take what little we have of her with us wherever we go, and that I have the choice to release her ashes when the time feels right -- but sometimes I just want to water her grave with my tears. 

photo walk 8/15/2012

I keep thinking that I am healing, getting better -- only to realize once again that there is no "getting better."  This is not something to get over.  I haven't gotten better, I have only gotten better at living with the abyss of her absence in my heart.

So if I do things that seem strange, like going to cry at the lonely grave of some unnamed child who died eighty years ago, I hope you'll understand that sometimes that's the best I can do.


  1. My daughter is buried in VA. I live in TX. I hate that! It has been years, I mean like more than 5 years since I've been there. I started going to local cemeteries and taking flowers to the baby graves. I have always been intrigued with cemeteries. I find them more of a place of great love than sadness. I take pictures of the baby graves too and have a special file on my computer for them, some name some not, all special, at least to me.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who does this sort of thing, Stephanie! :) I've found it really soothing, even before Eve died.

  2. Beth I have been so sad at times that Jonathan was cremated. Where we live burial is outrageously expensive because of plot prices. I do find comfort in his little box of ashes but I miss having a place to go to put flowers and cry. It was a big part of my childhood, visiting the cemeteries. Interestingly I have a necklace with Jonathan ashes and when ever I speak about him or think of his I hold grab it without thinking. So glad you find ways to be comforted.

  3. I have found strange peace at the cemetery that Seth is buried. I visit often to change flowers. He doesn't have a headstone yet because I haven't made up my mind on word choice. Who do you ask for parenting advice about that? Certainly not at a play group.

    I find Seth's place of rest comforting with its trees and waterfall. I study the graves of babies next to his and straighten their flowers. I think of them as friends. Oh maybe it is time to visit there again.

    Thank you for writing this Beth! This is reality for those with babies in heaven. It is one of the few ways we get to parent them.

  4. I know exactly how you feel. Your words just hit home. Our son is buried in Ohio and we now live in California. We are torn by leaving him there and not being able to visit him as often as we'd like. I also have been meaning to do the same thing and visit the babies at our local cemetery. Soon.

  5. I avoided my son's grave like the plague for the first seven years after he died. It's just where I was at. But at a certain point I knew that embracing the grave was another necessary step in working toward accepting that he wasn't with me anymore. My grief journey radically changed when I went through that step.

    You doing this so early on? It's wonderful. It's such a sign of the strength that lives in your heart... even if it doesn't feel like strength. Even if your strength feels tattered or illusive or broken or unreliable. You are STRONG, Beth. I am amazed at how you are walking through this.

    1. P.S. I totally get you wanting to have Eve's ashes with you. You know what I love? You listened to what feels right for you right now. That's all you can do, dear one. That's all you can do.

  6. I relate. Finley is in his little teddy urn in my living room. I wish he had a grave, I feel like I'd feel more connected to it for some reason. I see the teddy and it stares at me with its sad eyes, but it doesn't feel like my son. It feels like ashes.

    I recently went with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law to visit my husband's uncle's grave. While there I noticed one for a very young baby and stood and wept. They let me have my moment.

    I love visiting cemetaries too for some reason. I'm not sure if that makes me morbid. I always remember walking through the headstones and seeing the ones for babies and children and always feeling so sad about it. I never dreamed that it would happen to me.

    Even though Finley is cremated, I would like to place his ashes somewhere with a marker at some point. When we're settled. Whenever that is. He was cremated, because, like you, I couldn't bare to leave him. I've been living in 3 different countries since he was born. It's too much to have to make a decision so quickly. I will know what is right someday.

    Sending you love,


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King