a morbid topic deserving of its own post

A few weeks ago I was an “expert” on a panel of other experts about an historical topic. (My expertise came about when an official expert dropped out last minute.)

At a certain point, someone mentioned that President Abraham Lincoln had sat with the body of his dead son, Willie, for quite a long time after he passed away in the White House. Then someone else mentioned other “creepy” habits among bereaved parents and family members from the past. Without a second thought, I looked dead on into the faces of those who’d called it “creepy,” and said, “I don’t think it’s strange behavior at all. I think it’s a natural part of grieving to struggle with leaving your child’s body behind in a cold grave. In fact, it wasn’t unheard of in the 19th century for people who were having a hard time accepting a loved one’s passing to have them dug up for one last look. ‘Creepy’ isn’t really a helpful word for understanding what was going on.” And so….from there I kept my historian’s monologue and dialogue going, but in my mind I went elsewhere.

I have spent considerable time wondering and worrying about the natural processes of decay. It’s hellishly hard to come to terms with the reality that a little body you had hoped to nurture and see grow is now in the ground. I wouldn’t act on it, for religious and socially ordained reasons, but it’s not inconceivable to me that if given the chance somehow, I would have wanted to see what happened to Natan’s body after he was buried. I’m glad he was just put in a traditional pine box but now that I’ve been hearing about green burial options, I worry that we could have chosen a better environmental option.

As soon as we decided to get pregnant, I began thinking and worrying about the best choices for the environment and nurturing his little body.  But I only checked into diaper services and make-your-own baby food kits. Environmentally friendly infant-size caskets weren’t one of my registry options.

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3 responses to “a morbid topic deserving of its own post

  1. I am glad you said that. I would like to know their reaction. And yes, I never thought about caskets either. Maybe babies.r.us. should start that as a new category, since they seem to have the market on everything else. (I jest!) And seriously, I understand where you are coming from now about the environmental part, but who even thinks of that stuff when in the midst of our crises? Please don’t beat yourself up. We did what we could under circumstances that no one would want to deal with. Ever.

  2. I’m so glad that you were able to say what you did. People need to hear it. Especially here.

    At some point early on-ish, I discovered the aching arms and wished that we had buried the boys instead of cremating them. It’s not even like I thought of holding their little coffins; I just wanted something physical to visit, or hold or something.

    My father volunteered to take care of any details for us, but we couldn’t imagine coming back to this place because they were buried here. Leaving their bodies here. We considered the cemetery where my mother and some other family members were. Still, the boxes sit in C’s office. (Next to the bag with their mementos and the two stuffed teddy bears they gave us/me to hold. And oddly, in the hospital, they were.)

  3. Hey, didn’t realize you were back here!

    I am glad you said that. In fact i think all of that would make for really interesting research topics. I had no idea that it wasn’t unheard of to dig people back up. I know that bereavement photography was very common, and not at all considered ‘weird’ or ‘creepy’ the way it unfortunately is today. How our society deals with death & grief has changed so much over the years.

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