The days that followed were a blur. The hospital gave me the little crocheted blanket that Matthew was wrapped up in. They also gave me his tiny little hat. Both smelled like him. I carried the blanket with me in my purse everywhere I went. I slept with it at night. I wouldn't go anywhere without it. When I lay in bed and no one was looking, I would hold it up to my face, close my eyes and breathe in his scent, pretending he was there. I vowed I would never forget that smell. I have broken that vow.
The morning of his funeral, I was in a fog. I was going through the motions, but I wasn't present. The girls had written letters to Matthew that they wanted to leave in his casket. We stopped by the church to make copies of the letters so that we could always have them to remember, which I'm so glad we did. As we got out of the car at church, I realized, just hours before the funeral, that I had no shoes. I'd left the house, with no plans to return home for the day, without shoes. I remember looking down at my bare feet in the church office and it hit me as clear as day that I needed a tattoo to commemorate my baby boy. I didn't know what my tattoo should be, but I knew that day that I needed him to be a part of my body permanently.
Matthew had weighed only 11 oz. There were no clothes that I knew of that fit a baby that size, and I was in no mindset to find clothes that would fit him. Still, I became overwhelmed with the idea that Matthew was going to be cold and so small in that dark box, all alone. I tend to obsess over details that I can control when my life is spiraling, yet I was so depressed I couldn't remember to put on shoes for my own child's funeral, much less make a decision about what Matthew should wear. Thankfully, my mom, my rock, stepped in to make the decisions I couldn't. She bought him a soft blue blanket to swaddle him in. It was far too big for his little body, so she cut it in half, and gave me the other half to keep. Another connection I had to my boy, which I added to my small collection of memories.
Brad and I dropped off the letters, the blankets and a little angel bear at the funeral home but we still had a little while before the funeral. My parents had been building a new home very close to the funeral home, so we decided to go walk through the house and see their progress. Brad was on one side of the house and I was on another side as I felt a peace pour over me and I heard God's words whisper to my soul. "You will have another son. He will be healthy and you won't have complications." It wasn't an audible voice. It wasn't someone telling me this. It was a feeling. I wasn't praying at the time. I wasn't asking for another baby. I wasn't even contemplating another pregnancy. I didn't know what to do with this information. I knew I didn't imagine it, but I didn't share it either, not even with Brad. I just filed it in my "things to ponder" part of my brain, a little disturbed that before I had even buried Matthew, thoughts of another baby were in my head. I didn't want to ever go through this pain again.
The service was perfect. The funeral director made a comment that most services that occur at the cemetery only are very sparsely attended and he was surprised at how many people attended. I wasn't surprised. Though it was September 1 in Texas, in the middle of a school/work day, our friends and family showed up for us. It was basically a standing only service since it was at the cemetery, except for a few chairs in the front for family. Front and center sat my baby boy's tiny casket. I think it was hardest for most people, seeing the tiny casket sitting there. Unlimited, untapped earthly potential squelched by a tiny eternal box. It all seemed so unfair.
Our pastor gave him a beautiful service. It was the fifth family funeral we'd sat through in the past 18 months. This was the worst of them all for me, yet as we listened to the music, by Steven Curtis Chapman, I prayed that my friends who were there would hear the message and the music and receive some healing.
After the funeral and after the lunch that our church family provided for us, as we were heading home, it started to rain. It poured rain. I loved this because it had rained at Brad's dad's funeral and his grandfather's funeral, so it felt like a good sign. As we got home, the most beautiful rainbow I'd ever seen stretched across the sky. I felt like God was reassuring me that my boy was okay, he was safe, and He had him in His arms. Though I couldn't hold my baby again this side of heaven, I knew that he was in the best hands. He was in the hands of the one who created him and loved him more than I could dream of. What a wonderful meeting we would have one day when I cross over into heaven and see that sweet boy waiting to hug my neck.