Chapter 31. Choices

Chapter 31. Choices

Wendy’s clothes were to be white, top to bottom.

Leaving Andrea and Rick at home, I drove downtown, fully expecting to easily find what I needed.

I parked the car and began my search for a simple white dress, size newborn.

The Bay, Eatons, and Woodwards carried infant dresses in every variety; flowered, laced, beribboned, with or without a crinoline, but nothing in simple white.

Next I tried the less expensive stores, searching through Zellers and Kresgee’s, with no success.

I stood on the sidewalk as the sun beat down on me and turned to view the shops from my vantage point on the corner of 101st Street and 101st Avenue. Tears began to fill my eyes as hope faded. White sleepers? No. Please, Lord. There must be a little white dress somewhere.

I wiped my eyes and nose with Mom’s hankie, and looked across the street. There on the corner was a store I’d been in once with my sister-in-law, a business woman who wore only high-end clothing.

Dare I? I glanced at my reflection in a store window. My garb consisted of a frumpy orange jacket that still didn’t meet across my middle, loose maternity pants, stretched at the knees, and the moccasins I’d begun wearing in order to relieve the blister on my still swollen feet. What did I care? I had money. That’s all that mattered. I raised my chin and entered Holt Renfrew, where a pair of gloves could cost $200.00. This was a store where the Mayor of Edmonton shopped. I’d seen it on the news. And now, I was entering its doors.

The children’s department was small. It didn’t take long to view the inventory, and there I found the simple, all-white, dress I was looking for, at an unexpectedly reasonable cost. Choosing as well a pair of size 0 white stockings, I made my way past blouses and dresses, some priced close to a thousand dollars, and placed my purchases on the counter. I was keenly aware that I was shopping outside my station, so to speak. Still, my circumstance dictated a liberty I would never have taken otherwise. This was for Wendy, not for me.

The clerk, a well-dressed woman who had the professional grace to accept my presence, rang up the items and gave me the total. I don’t recall the amount, but I do recall her comment.

“Oh, come on,” she laughed. “Smile! It can’t be that bad!”

I was taken aback. A retort sprang towards my tongue. Yes, it can be. I’m buying a dress to bury my baby.

But the Lord in his mercy chose that I not crush this woman’s bubbly spirit, and my mouth remained closed. I smiled a sad smile, paid my bill and left.

Death of a Baby

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Chapter 30. Planning

Chapter 30. Planning

Rick and I had both attended church with our families when we were young. When we met as adults, neither of us was involved in formal religion, and we were comfortable with that choice. One day, though, when Andrea was a year old, my husband sat me down and said, “I think our family should start going to church. Andrea’s starting to walk and talk. It feels like the right thing to do.”

Without question, I agreed. Much later, I would look back. With the clarity of hindsight and a calendar I discovered an interesting correlation.

The week in which our Wendy was conceived was the week we began to attend church.

To me it’s indisputable this was God’s prompting. When the time came for our baby to be born, to live and to die, we would have the support of a Christian community, ready and able to support our family through all that was to come.

Our pastor came to visit the day after I was discharged from the hospital. He brought with him a wealth of knowledge based on years of experience. He knew everything we might want to consider, and was ready with options for each aspect.

“The choir has been preparing a few songs,” he told us, and showed us a short list. “What do you think?”

The hymns were exactly right, making reference to children, to heaven, to the arms of Jesus.

“Those are fine,” we nodded.

“I’ve spoken with a funeral home we’ve used before. If you choose to go with them, these are times you might want to consider.” We looked at the dates. Rick indicated one, just two days away.

“This is their number.” He gave us a card. “They’ll be expecting your call.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, about the eulogy. Will either of you want to speak?”

We looked at each other. No. Apparently we would not.

“Then I thought Brother Simpson might be a good choice for the eulogy… ”

“No,” I said without hesitation. “We want Clay and Cathy to speak.”

“Clay and Cathy? But they can be, shall we say, emotional.”

What he meant was that when this couple, with six children of their own, spoke from the pulpit, they sometimes cried.

“I know,” I responded firmly. “But they came to visit Wendy in the hospital. They actually met her. And it’s okay if they cry. Wendy is worth crying over.”

“Clay and Cathy it is.” Pastor made a note on his list.

“Now, who would you like to have as pall bearers?”

Reminiscent of the movies, my only reference point when it came to funeral planning, I pictured six grown men carrying a coffin on their shoulders.

In the end, Wendy’s grandfather on my side and her uncle on Rick’s side shared the task, two carrying a coffin so small it really needed only one.

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Chapter 29. Bills & Blessings

Chapter 29. Bills & Blessings

Death has a price tag, even for one so tiny, for a life so short.

It costs money to bury a baby. Like most young couples, Rick and I had enough for day-to-day expenses, but nothing put away for unexpected storms.

As the retail phase of mourning began, I trusted my mother’s words, that we might make arrangements just the way we wanted them for Wendy. We made no budget. We didn’t compare prices. We simply paid for what was required and added what we felt appropriate. The final tally was in God’s hands.

Where did the money go? Let’s see.

  • A babysitter for Andrea, so we didn’t have to drag a toddler with us as we were out and about, attending to the details.
  • Funeral expenses: a coffin, an obituary in the newspaper, flowers to adorn the coffin. We chose a white coffin, the tiniest in stock. It was neither the bottom of the line, nor the top. Simple, but pretty, with soft silken lining.
  • Clothes to dress our Wendy-baby.
  • Clothes for Andrea. I don’t know why it mattered so much that both sisters be dressed in white, but it did. We added to our list a white dress for Andrea, with white stockings and white shoes.
  • Shoes for me. Rick’s sister loaned me a loose, flowing dress so I’d have something appropriate to wear, something that would fit over my still swollen self, but footwear was required. Off I went to buy shoes that wouldn’t fit a month later. That was okay. We weren’t tracking bills.
  • A headstone for Wendy’s grave. Rick and I found a monument company in the phone book. In the showroom we looked at products we’d never had cause to consider before. A subdued salesman showed us numerous styles, some fussy, some ornate, some very plain. We chose a simple pillow monument in pink granite. It seemed fitting. Next, the salesman showed us a list of inscriptions we might choose from if we didn’t have one of our own. My mind couldn’t register what the quotes were saying, and I had to back away. Rick stepped in, read them through, and chose a perfect sentiment: “Budded on earth to bloom in heaven.”
  • 1985 was before the onset of personal computers and printers. I carefully scribed the order of service with a calligraphy pen on a sheet of regular paper and took it to a copy shop. Paper and copy charges were added to the cost.
  • And a grave? Permission had been received from my mother’s cousin, so we only had to pay for the opening and closing of Wendy’s plot. The expense of a grave had been covered by her ancestors, decades before.
  • Post-funeral Luncheon. Our church organized and put on the meal, so there was no cost there. We donated $50.00 to the church as we were told was appropriate. I’ve since learned that an honorarium is expected for the organist and choir leader, but no one mentioned that. We were doing the best we could. I only hope we didn’t offend anyone in the process.

Some weeks later I came across the receipts I’d kept in an envelope as we’d made our way through the maze of arrangements. The total? $1,503.38. Just a wee bit over the $1,500.00 inheritance Wendy’s Grandma had provided.

Death of a Baby
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Chapter 28. Grandma’s Gift

Chapter 28. Grandma’s Gift

Mom stopped by the day after my discharge. Our interaction, despite her recent help concerning Wendy’s burial, was, as usual, strained.

After a cup of coffee and some vague conversation, Mom stood to leave. I rose with her. She didn’t move towards the porch, so I waited as well.

After a moment she opened her purse and pulled an envelope from it.

Inside was a card, and inside the card, a cheque for $1,500.00.

Mom’s explanation was written in her beautifully scripted hand.

April 27, 1985

Dear Bobbi and Rick,

As you know, I was given a small inheritance of land and money from my father and grandfather, and I have tried to use this so there would be something to pass on to my own family. In my will, I have set aside a sum of money to be divided among my grandchildren when they reach the age of eighteen so they would have a little money as a start on higher education or to travel, or just enjoy, as they desire.

I want you to accept this cheque as little Wendy’s share, so that you can make arrangements just the way you want them for her. I phoned Muriel this morning about the cemetery. She had just received my letter and will check with the family right away. However, if either of you have second thoughts about the cemetery there is no obligation to anyone. She did not feel there would be any problem from the family.

Muriel sent her deep sympathy to you.

With sadness and love,

Mom.

I was amazed at my mother’s kindness and generosity. While she and I had never gotten along well, her grandchildren were very important to her. She wanted to provide for them, and included our Wendy-baby in that list. Wendy was as real to her as she was to us.

With much gratitude, I accepted the cheque and gave her a hug.

After Mom left, I sat with Andrea and we cuddled for a bit.

“Do you know that God provides?” I asked her.

“Do you know I need cookie?”

I rose and provided the cookie, while marvelling at how Mom’s gift had preceded our need. I hadn’t yet considered the expenses that were going to add up as we stepped into the business of burial. Soon the cash register would begin its ka-ching.

Death of a Baby

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Chapter 27. Back Home

Chapter 27. Back Home

The “at least you have another child at home” consolation might not be appropriate to speak out loud to a grieving parent, but it’s true, nonetheless.

Andrea never did get to meet her little sister, and at not quite two, she wasn’t aware something tragic had occurred.

Looking back, Rick and I would wonder, perplexed that we hadn’t done more to prepare Andrea for the arrival of a new baby. Beyond painting the spare bedroom a soft green, we hadn’t prepared a nursery either. I hadn’t experienced the nesting period as I had when pregnant with Andrea, where I’d felt compelled to set up furniture, and decorate the walls. I hadn’t even brought out Andrea’s baby clothes, ready for our new addition.

I still don’t know why that was, but it was a relief not to arrive home to an expectant, unfulfilled space.

Instead, the house was the same as always. Most of all, I was immediately swept back into the vibrant world of my living daughter who was, as usual, a bright, dynamic force insisting on attention and involvement.

“Mommy. Why you cry again?”

Her tone seemed to imply that my tears were something of an imposition upon the urgency of her two-year-old agenda.

A conversation ensued.

“Mommy can cry. Andrea can still have fun. Okay?”

“Okay.”

We had an understanding.

Death of a Baby

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