Tuesday, June 11, 2019


I stood before the stone. It's a nice one. It gives his name, Keegan Joseph, a big name for a tiny boy, and the day of his birth, August 17th. The date of his death, August 18th.

The inscription reads, "If ever comes the time we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever." Three years ago, in the middle of the night, I found those words and knew that they were right. The next morning, when I showed them to my grieving children, they knew that they were right too. 

When I go to visit that little grave, I usually do it by myself so that when I cry, no one sees. Dylan and Brittani have had all they can do to handle their own grief. 

Everytime I get out of that car, I stand before that little stone. I usually get as far as a wistful, "oh I wish..." and it gets no further than that. Because the memories rush back. There are things that I will carry with me forever: the sound of my daughter in law's crying, the look on my son's face as he carried his own son's tiny coffin to a tiny hole. I will never forget the helplessness of those days, the heartbreaking desire to fix it, to make it right, to DO something, ANYTHING...even as I knew nothing I could do would help.

A lot of marriages do not survive the death of a child, but they have weathered it. They almost seem stronger for it. 

After almost two years to the day, along came Iris, their rainbow baby. 

Last weekend, I sat rocking her in the rocker Tim and I bought for them when they decorated that nursery for Keegan. The pictures that Brittani and I found frames and mats for hang on the wall above the toybox. The hunny pot lamp sits on the bookshelf we bought. So many memories. We helped them put that nursery together 3 summers ago, and it was such a precious time, the calm before the most terrible of terrible storms. 

The robin egg blue curtains has been replaced by pink curtains. The changing table now has a pink pad. These small changes make the nursery just as perfect for Iris as it would have been for her brother. 

Iris and I had a beautiful weekend, our first weekend together, filled with rocking, and stories, and playing together, stroller walks around the neighborhood, splashing in the new water table I had shipped ahead. Dylan and Brittani had a beautiful weekend, but I enjoyed my time, learning my beautiful grand daughter. It really was perfect.

I stopped by the cemetery on the way home. It was raining and as I studied the stone, interestingly, I didn't cry this time. My heart was so filled with gratitude, gratitude for Iris. Gratitude for the joy she's brought to her besotted parents. Gratitude that Brittani's eyes are happy, that her old giggle is back. Gratitude for Dylan's obvious pleasure in his little daughter. 

I studied that stone. I realized that for the past 3 years, as Dylan and Brittani grieved for their child, I was grieving for my own children and their pain.  I never got to meet him. I never got to hold him. In a strange way, it suddenly felt as if I'd never really grieved for Keegan himself.

What would he have been? I know that he looked like his father from the few pictures that they have of him. I know that he would be turning three. I imagine that he'd be all about super heroes and running and jumping. I know that he would have loved books. He couldn't have helped it, being read to every day. He would have been beloved. I can tell you that for a fact. Never was a little boy wanted so very much. 

I stood there in the rain and thought of these things. When it was time, I walked back to the car. I drove out of the cemetery. As I waited for traffic to clear so that I could pull out, I caught sight of the balloon that I left behind, one of those big vinyl ones like I got his sister. It bobbed and bounced in the rain. My heart said good bye and once again, I began the 5 hour trip home. 


Ed said...

I came way too close to losing my oldest at child birth. I still can't imagine what you, your son and daughter-in-law have gone through. A very poignant post.

ellie k said...

That was beautiful, I imagine it filled your heart with happiness keeping Iris. Rocking a baby and holding them close to your breast just makes every thing seem ok. Thank you for the beautiful poem for that little boy, it was so fitting.

Debby said...

That poem was A.A. Milne. Winnie the Pooh. It still brings tears to my eyes.