Monday, June 28, 2010

Sybella's Funeral

Sybella's funeral was held on the 6th of May 2010, on a bright and crisp Autumn day.
The night before, we had stayed at Kelvin's parent's house, because driving the hour down to Sydney in peak hour morning traffic made me nervous.
I had put a lot of thought into my outfit, and I wasnt sure why it mattered to me so much. I guess it was because I wanted Sybella to be proud of me? Or it was important to respect the profoundity of the day by dressing well? I did know that it didnt feel right to wear black to my baby's funeral, and I cant explain that either. In my eyes, Sybella was a soft, pink, floaty baby, and so I wore a soft, pink, floaty dress.
I had a white basket with all the things I needed for the funeral, such as the music, the soft toys I planned to put in her casket, Jack's painting, flowers and my eulogy.
Yes, I was the one who did the eulogy. I was asked many times by many people why on Earth I felt I had to be the one to give the eulogy. How can you, they asked, get up there and speak about her? Wont you find it too hard? Do you have a back up in case you cant do it? My response was I had to do the eulogy. Who else was going to do it? Who else knew Sybella like I knew her? I was the one who nurtured her, worried for her, felt her move and birthed her. I had to do it. I was her mother. It was my job. There was no other option. No, I didnt have a back up, I would stand there as long as I had to, until I was finished speaking about my daughter and her little life. It didnt matter how hard it got for me, because this wasnt about me, it was about Sybella.
We drove to the chapel with tears in our eyes. I steadily got out of the car, feeling strong until I saw Barb standing there. I walked over, my pace becoming faster and faster, until I fell into her arms and she held me tight as I sobbed heaving sobs. "You look beautiful, you are a beautiful girl" she said softly as I soaked her shoulder with tears. I was completely struck that today was my daughter's funeral. Her FUNERAL. What on Earth was wrong with the world?
Others started arriving and someone gave me a handkerchief. Kelvin and I walked to the chapel's entrance, me whimpering and letting tears drip down my cheeks with no effort to stop them. I stared at the hearse, that I knew had driven here with a tiny white casket inside. I wondered if people had seen the baby casket in the hearse on it's way to the chapel and cried. I wonder if they said a prayer for the little baby inside. I wonder if they thought about that baby's family and realised it was the worst day of their lives.
We were spoken to gently by the funeral director and invited in to see Sybella. We walked to her and I spoke softly and stroked her cheek as I placed the bunny next to her pillow ("this bunny is here to look after you")  Jack's painting at her feet ("Jack did this painting just for you, Bell"), a copy of the poem I Carry Your Heart ("dont ever forget that you are always in my heart"). I stared at her and adjusted her blankets a bit more. I took a seat as other came in to say their goodbyes. We had only close family and friends at the funeral, I couldnt handle a circus of people and feel the pressure to stay strong in front of them. One by one, they came and spoke gently to Sybella, some placed little posies of flowers in her casket. The heartbreaking moment was Patrick, my youngest brother, who is only 19, looking so dapper and handsome in his suit, took one look at the baby and broke down in silent tears, that quickly became heaving sobs. I watched him look at her and cry, I watched him, my little brother, so completely broken by the sight of his niece in a casket. I watched him roughly wipe his face and take deep breaths and collapse into the pew behind me. I turned and patted his leg, feeling maternal and sorry that because of me, my brother was experiencing such pain.
Jack was becoming curious as to what everyone was looking at up on the alter, and so I decided to allow Jack to see the baby and say goodbye. We hadnt thought it sensible to let him see Sybella previously, we just wanted to protect him from a possibly traumatic sight...a baby that wouldnt wake up.
I took him up and allowed him to kiss her and stroke her and say goodnight. Although at this stage, I did not believe that he fully understood that Sybella had died. He thought she was sleeping, and made a great effort throughout the service to stay quiet so that he didnt wake up the baby. This, coupled with the quiet, sad ambience of the room, explained his (unusual, out of character) silence throughout the service.
When everyone had taken their seats, The White Ladies placed the lid on Sybella's casket. I felt an overwhelming urge to run up there and say "I love you" one more time, so that could be the last thing I said to her. I didnt, because I realised that I'd only be saying "I love you" to her body. I'd be able to tell her through her soul that I loved her whenever I wanted. There'd be no last "I love you's."
The funeral began with an orchestral version of a song called "Bella's Lullaby." Barb told me later that while the music was playing, she could see a vision of a little blonde girl in a tutu, dancing to the music.
The minister welcomed us with words and a prayer. I was invited to begin my eulogy and I walked to the lectern, with Kelvin and Jack behind me. They stood with me for support. I stared at the piece of paper in front of me, words swimming, blurred by the tears in my eyes. I began to speak...I think I spoke two syllables before I had to stop again. Eventually I gained the strength from somewhere, perhaps it was from Sybella herself, I regained my composure and began my tribute. My voice wavered, and I broke down a few times. I kept focused on my notes, I couldnt bring myself to look at my family members. Kelvin told me later there wasnt a dry eye in the house. I spoke slowly, and with purpose. I wanted Sybella to feel important and proud.
Taking my seat, Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton began to play. The minister read a passage from the Bible that Kelvin had chosen, John 14: 1-6: that reads:
Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'
Sam then read the poem She Walks In Beauty. He read brilliantly and with reverence. He said a little speech of his own, talking about how he was looking forward to meeting Sybella and getting to know her. About what an important member of our family she is, and will always be. He spoke of outings he wanted to take Jack and her on, about getting into mischief and having fun. He and Patrick are great uncles. You couldnt get better uncles than them. When the minister did a prayer of commital for Sybella, to send her into God's arms for Him to watch over and protect her, I again felt comfort and peace. She was safe, I knew it. God would keep her safe. The leaving music began to play, Somewhere over the Rainbow a version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, that was a soft tune led by a ukelele. It was time to leave the chapel.
Kelvin, Jack and I walked out first, and Jack had the very important job of letting go the six pink and white balloons, for Sybella to play with in Heaven, we told him. He took his job very seriously, and waited until everyone was there to watch him. He did brilliantly.
After his balloon release, Jack asked if we could go back into the chapel. I didnt know why he wanted to return, but we needed to go back and get some things anyway. This is when I saw the extent of Jack's grief at losing his sister. As I said before, I dont believe he understood that Sybella had died, and thought she was just sleeping. When everyone made movement to leave, and Sybella was still in the chapel in her casket, Jack became very upset that we were leaving Sybella behind. He became quite agitated and started to cry, but not in his normal 4 year old way. His tears came from somewhere else, somewhere deep and he became quite adamant that he had to see the baby. I have never before, or since, seen such a display of maturity from him. It was like it had just hit him, what was happening. The baby wasnt waking up, she wasnt coming home, and we had to leave her behind. He became quite devastated at this concept. He spent quite a bit of time arranging a butterfly on Sybella's casket and asking us to make sure that his painting was in her "special bed." After futile attempts to leave the chapel again, he became quite distressed at the thought of leaving her. Once outside again, he stood motionless, hands by his sides, fists clenched, looking at the ground. He attempted to speak, but couldnt get words out. It was like he had forgotten how to talk, and his eyes were panicked as he tried to speak but couldnt. Jack, for that moment, was so completely consumed and overwhelmed by grief, that even he, himself, could not function momentarily. He had been through more in his four years than most people go through in a lifetime.
At the end of the funeral, I had concede, that for a baby's funeral, it was a beautiful service. It was soft, warm and gentle, just like her life would have been.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a beautiful service for a very special girl.

    I think children understand more than we realise - I wasn't sure if my neighbour's 4 year old would understand but in his own way, he does.

    Maddie x