The funeral was held back in Virginia in the little town where we graduated, married, Christened our son and now said good-bye to him.
Shane was buried on my parent's property. The county where my family lives is so remote that there were no cemetery laws. What was once fruit orchard was turned into a cemetery in 2 days thanks to my father and friends who took the trees up and created a family resting place. You see, other than my very old great-grandparents from Rhode Island, no one in my family had died for 50 years. Death had only touched me through the funerals of other cherubs and church members before this. We had no plans of where to be buried, much less where to bury our son.
I don't remember the visitation the night before funeral very much except that my best friend was there and friends from high school. I remember walking around handing other people tissue, trying to comfort them instead of just sitting and grieving. I didn't want to sit still, I had to much to do. It was the last thing I could do for my son and it would be done right.
The funeral director had very little experience with children (thankfully) and they tried hard to do a good job... but Shane didn't look like himself at all. I make the mistake of kissing him good-bye on his forehead. I wish someone had warned me not to. Shane was laid to rest in a Sesame Street outfit, his sneakers, wearing his favorite baseball cap and his glasses and holding his baby and surrounded by his favorite toys.
We made his funeral programs ourselves. No peach, floral, cookie-cutter good-bye programs for my son. I designed, printed and folded them. Because I was his mother. They were bright, cheerful,
The tiny church we had one Christened him in was now full of people saying good-bye to him. Every pew was full and people stood outside. His uncle David (a preacher like my father-in-law) gave the eulogy though I honestly don't think I heard a word he said but I'm sure it was beautiful and appropriate. Shane's casket was open, against all advice from my mother. But I had to see one last time. I said good-bye to him with Jeremy and then the casket was closed. That is a sound no parent should ever, ever have to hear. That is a sound that will stay with me until the day my own casket is closed.
It was a long drive from funeral home to the gravesite. We rode with Shane's godparents, chauffeured by the funeral home. I have no idea what we talked about or if we even talked. I don't know if I cried. I just remember looking at the floor board a lot for some odd reason and feeling like I was watching a movie of someone else's life because surely this couldn't be the day my son was being buried. Not my son. He had beat CDH. Many times over. He had proven the doctors wrong. He was our miracle. He was the center of my entire universe. I had dedicated my life to him and to helping other CDH families... wasn't I assured some cosmic guarantee or life insurance on my child? Wasn't I God? Hadn't I done everything right? This couldn't be happening.
The gravesite was down a long dirt road that passed my parent's home. Our car drove right to the cemetery while others lined up and parked where they could. Shane's nurses drove from NC to VA to be there. CDH parents had driven 100's of miles to come to my home (Tara, in the middle of the night drove from OH to NC to be with me... there is nothing I can ever do to repay her for that), to the funeral or the gravesite. There were flowers, cards and teddy bears from around the world that arrived from our dear CHERUBS friends.
At the graveside we released 6 Elmo balloons for every year he spent here and 100 blue, red, and yellow balloons for every year he should have spent here. It was raining that day but it stopped just as the funeral started and the clouds actually parted over the cemetery. We had a Sesame Street cake at the wake (the wake was after the burial). It was not a typical funeral, but he was not a typical kid. We wanted to celebrate his life.
After everyone had left after the wake I was outside in my parent's yard and pollen from a tree I had never noticed before and never remembered having pollen starting falling and blowing around like snow. The pollen was just the shape and size of little feathers from the wings of cherubs. It blew around me like a scene from a Christmas movie and I was very peaceful at that moment. Maybe it wasn't pollen. Maybe it was Shane letting us know he had reached heaven and was now with the other cherubs.
His headstone has pictures of Elmo, Big Bird, a truck (he loved his dad's truck), and one of the logos I had drawn for CHERUBS web site- a cherub wearing suspenders and glasses (one I had created to look like Shane). How do you fit an entire, even though short, life on a stone? We wrote a few words about Shane on it, his name, the dates, and also carved on the stone is "Psalms 18:10"- He flew upon the wings of cherubs, yeah he did fly like the wind.
(to be continued)