Along with 11/13 (and just about every other day), 11/17 holds a lot of memories for me. Memories...and pain.
One year ago today, we saw the precious face of our baby girl for the last time. We kissed her and talked to her through tears. One year ago today, we left the tiny body of Lillian Joy here...
I remember the morning of 11/17/09 like it was yesterday. I remember the alarm clock sounding. No parent should ever have to set an alarm to wake them so they aren't late for their own child's funeral.
When I got out of bed that morning I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Though I ached (and still do), I had a feeling... a feeling that there was a bigger picture... that everything was going to be "okay".
I remember getting ready that morning. My body still recovering from a c-section, just four short days before, Clif had to bathe me. He had to shave my legs for me, wash my hair, dry my hair...and help me get dressed. To this day, I still haven't been able to bring myself to wear the dress I wore to her funeral.
I remember stopping at little mom & pop store near our house, for something to drink. The owner who we have known for years (because of stopping by his store all the time) didn't know... I remember the sympathetic look in his eyes when Clif had to tell him why we were "all dressed up".
We were quiet on the drive there...not many words passed between us. We just held hands...trying with everything within us to hold one another together.
I remember pulling up to the funeral home...all my family there waiting for me. Most had never even seen Lilly until that morning (aside from a few pictures from the hospital). I remember an older man that used to go to our church, he was there...he was there for us. I don't think I'll ever forget that. He just stood in the background, and made sure that we knew he was there for us if we needed him.
I remember walking into the chapel that morning, all of our family with us. I can still feel the air being sucked from my wind pipes when we walked in and saw her tiny casket filled with her tiny body. I remember the sob that escaped my lips involuntarily. I can still feel the overwhelming sense of being helpless, hopeless.
Aside from her breath-taking beauty - there is one thing that I remember most. That's the people. I can't even begin to express how my heart felt when Clif and I saw all the people pouring in (both) doors of the chapel. People we hadn't seen in years...friends that we saw all the time...and complete strangers.
I remember Jeff, the funeral director, telling us that it was time for the family to meet. I knew that they would close the casket, and that killed me. I didn't want to leave her side. I remember seeing "P" come through the back doors, and telling them that I had to see just one more person. I remember hugging him...and crying. I remember the prayers during the time with family.
I remember walking out into the chapel after everyone had been seated. I can still feel all eyes on us. I remember being taken back by the number of people in that room. Pews filled, and people standing in the back. There were people there that we didn't even get a chance to speak to. I felt so loved at that moment...and so proud to be the mommy of Lillian Joy.
I remember the silence when people heard the words of "Glory Baby" before any words were spoken. I remember seeing and hearing my dad struggle through the words that he said. I remember Foster singing...and the whole congregation joining him in singing, "Jesus Loves Me". I remember Pastor Greg speaking and sharing the gospel.
I remember after the service, after everyone (but the family) were gone - they opened the casket again for us all to say goodbye. We asked our family members to leave us - so we could say bye to our baby girl. I remember tears falling from my own face onto hers. I remember kissing her cold chubby cheeks...and telling her that I love her. I remember witnessing Clif do similar things. I remember feeling completely broken.
These feelings and memories, though painful beyond measure, are feelings and memories that I never want to forget. Not for one minute.
I remember the quiet ride to the cemetery. I remember feeling respected as the SPD Policemen stopped traffic at intersections and saluted as we drove by.
I remember pulling up to the grave side and thinking, "I don't know if I can do this". I remember Gina (funeral director, and the precious lady who prepared Lilly's body) handing me the Lilies that my parents had gotten...complete with a ribbon reading "Lilly Bean". And I remember Clif being handed her casket. I remember walking along side him, carrying our baby girl, to her final resting place.
I remember seeing the Vaughan's standing at the graveside. I remember them coming to us, loving us.
I don't remember much of the graveside service. I just remember sitting there, in the cool air, begging to wake up from the nightmare I had been living the last four days.
I remember meeting two men after the graveside service. Foutz & Reid (last names...that's how I was introduced to them). Both of these men hold a very special place in my heart - and I don't know if they will ever know it. You see, Clif had just started a new job in mid September. These men barely knew my husband...but they came to support him. They cared. They shed tears of their own, and even extended their love to me....not ever having met me before.
November 17th,2009 was one of the longest days of my life. It was physically and emotionally exhausting. I remember feeling the remaining physical pain that night, from being on my feet so much during the day. I remember the burning...
Most of all I remember my baby girl. And I thank God for those memories.
Tonight, one year later... I'm home alone. I'm not really sure how I feel about it... but I *think* I'm okay with it. It's hard... but this day, like many others, has just made me stronger.
Rest in peace sweet Lilly Bean. Mommy loves you, all my heart. Can't wait to see you one day soon.