Saturday, November 20, 2010

Remains Of An Angel

May be upsetting for some. Contains details of Sybella's remains.

Well, I wasnt expecting that.

Today was the day that Kelvin and I transferred Sybella's ashes into her new urn. It was a painstaking and overwhelming and heartbreaking experience.
The urn arrived and was tiny. You cant tell from the picture, but it fits in the palm of my hand. Yes, just one hand. When the urn arrived in the mail, I was surprised at how small it was. I wondered if it would fit all of her. I wondered if the person who had wrapped it in bubble wrap and posted it to me felt sad that they were packaging an urn for a baby. I wondered if they wondered about the baby that the urn was going to hold. I thought about the person that engraved her name on it. Did they think it was such a beautiful name, and did they engrave it lovingly and with reverence? Did the staff at Urns Online have any experience in child loss, or was it just a job to them?

So began the process.

We decided to do it outside, for some reason. When I opened the plastic box that had housed her ashes for the last 7 months, I wasnt expecting a ziplock bag inside, half ashes, half crushed bone. I really did not expect to see bone. I even tried to fool myself, and showed Kelvin: "look. It's bits of the coffin." I wanted him to agree, so I could "believe" that it was wood, not bone. But Kelvin shook his head. "That's bone."
I was silent. He tried to show me the silver lining. "Steph, at least we know its her, and not just bits of timber."
I guess so. I just hate the thought of her precious little bones in a box.
If it were just ashes, and not the bone, Sybella would have fit into her urn with no problems. But the bones made it difficult. We funnelled the remains from the ziplock bag into the urn slowly. The bone made the funnel stop up, and we had to shake it to get the remains to slide into the urn. This was difficult. As we did this, pieces were spilling on the table, the floor, and my hands were covered in dust and ash. I became quieter and quieter as the reality set in of what I was doing. I had my daughters ashes on my hands, under my fingernails. I was picking up single pieces of her bone and placing them into a pewter box. In the background, Jack incessantly asked "can I help? Can I help?"
Not one of my finest moments, but I snapped at him, feeling completely overwhelmed with sensory and emotional overload. Fortunately, my snapping at Jack doesnt worry him at all and he just rolled his eyes and went to jump on the trampoline.
The efforts continued and it became clear that we werent going to fit all her remains in the urn. We have about one quarter of them left, still in the original box, and will order another urn to put them in. Kel thought we should scatter them in the garden, but I hate that idea. Because the neighbours cats crap there.
The excercise took more out of me than I expected. I ended up sitting in the shower afterwards, to escape the noise and heat of the house and think about what had just happened. Now Sybella is "split up." Part of her is in the pewter urn, part in a ziplock bag. Other parts have blown away into the atmosphere, some has fallen onto the back pavers. Some of her is on my clothes, and will be washed away with the next laundry load. I am glad that she is now in a beautiful, engraved urn, that is elegant and simple. But I am sad that some of her "got away." I guess that was to be expected.

It's just her body. It's just her body. It's just her body.
It's not her soul.


  1. Oh. Wow. This knocked the wind out of me. We just couldn't come at cremation. And reading this does in a way make me glad of my decision. But. But. I often think about Hope rotting away in her coffin. Those thoughts pass through my mind all the time. I wonder what she would be like in there now? I wonder, then I make myself stop, as it sickens me. And then I wonder how or why I ever chose burial.
    I guess when it all boils down, both options are terrible. I wish both of us didn't have to chose either.
    I just want our girls back.

  2. As if it could get any worse. I so hoped that this would be a story of hope, sadness, but also joy that you were really taking control of Sybella's memory in a physical way. I'm sorry that it wasn't like in the movies, which is I guess what I was expecting. But it is your memory, and your ritual, and will be forever, so hold on to it. You continue to amaze me with your strength and honesty Steph. xx

  3. I felt emotionally overwrought reading this. I can only imagine how much worse it was for you. I've read about bone shards in other people's descriptions so know they're there. We had the funeral home transfer Matilda's ashes to her urn so I've never seen them but from seeing other's urns I know her ashes will only fill a tiny part of that urn.

    Sending huge hugs and I hope you figure out what to do with the other part and it brings you some peace.

    Maddie x

  4. :( Steph, I am really sad for you reading this post. I hope that every day you get a little bit stronger to make each day a little bit easier. Your family is in my thoughts xox