Chapter 44. Tenth Birthday

Chapter 44. Tenth Birthday

April 25, 1995

We spent the morning preparing for our special outing. Yes, it was a school day. No, the kids were not going to school.

Outside it drizzled. Inside, I baked a cake. Once it had cooled, I cut off one side to create a number one, and then made the rest into a circle. Together they made a passable number ‘10’.

Andrea, eleven and a half, and Luke, eight years old, slathered icing on the top and edges. Today was a milestone day, marking our Wendy’s tenth year in heaven.

The finished Number Ten cake was left on the kitchen counter to be enjoyed later when Dad got home. Now the kids and I were off to Wendy’s Remembering Place to honour her on this day.

During the drive to town, Andrea decided we needed flowers. Good plan. We stopped at Safeway and found a small bouquet of blossoms, pink with white edges. Then, at Luke’s suggestion, we picked up some pop, Cheesies and ice cream for the party at home.

As we neared the cemetery, Luke found a scribbler in the back seat. I dug a pen out of my purse and handed it back to him. By the time we’d arrived, Luke had drawn a beautiful picture of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, reminiscent of pictures of the baby Jesus. Meticulously, Luke had crafted a border of tiny hearts all around the baby.

Cloverbar Cemetery dates back to the 1800s. Originally located in a quiet field in the country, the little graveyard has been engulfed by industry as Edmonton has expanded.

The site is bordered on the east by a huge lumber yard and on the west by a concrete factory. Enormous evergreens, over a hundred years old, protect the memories of Edmontonians who’ve passed on, affording visitors and mourners a sense of privacy, separate from the larger, unappealing setting. Along the front, a service road runs parallel to the busy Yellowhead Highway. The trees are so tall, though, that most driving by remain unaware of the presence of this sedate graveyard.

I pulled up to the wrought-iron gate that spanned the lane running down the middle of the two-acre site. The gate was locked, as it usually is, unless there’s a funeral. We could have driven along the side and around to the back entrance, but instead we parked in front, climbing the stone wall, helping each other, and passing our gifts over the top.

By skipping school, we were already feeling radical. Climbing the wall fit the occasion; nothing would prevent us from accomplishing our mission. It felt good, appropriately rebellious, because a ten-year-old Wendy would have been rebellious too, or so we imagined.

The drizzle of the morning had passed. The sun struggled to shine through an overcast sky.

Luke knew where he was going. We’d been here several times before. Carefully holding his picture, he first ran, then slowed, and finally stood reverently before the pink granite pillow stone, his head bowed. After a moment he bent down and laid his picture on the damp grass covering Wendy’s grave. Before he could rise, though, a breeze tickled his gift, threatening to whisk it away. He quickly found a stone and placed it on the edge of his artwork to hold it firmly in place.

Andrea now stepped forward, holding the bouquet. “We have to leave some here,” she explained, and divided the stems. “The rest have to come back home so we have a bouquet for our party.”

I rested in this rare opportunity that afforded such freedom in carrying out our private memorial service. There were no rules, so nothing could be wrong.

I glanced longingly at Luke’s picture, wanting to scoop it up to take home and preserve, but it wasn’t mine. It was Wendy’s. The picture remained.

Next, we explored the cemetery, zig-zagging among grave stones, old and new.

As we walked, I paused now and again, pointing out various graves and telling the children some of the stories I’d noted on previous visits.

Here was a family: mother, father, and twin daughters who had died at nine years of age, all showing the same final date of life. Under the parents’ names, on their headstones that flanked the two little girls’, Luke read out loud, “We had no chance” … “to say good-bye”.

Andrea’s imagination filled in the blanks. “It must have been a car accident, Mom. Or maybe a fire. It had to be a tragedy that killed them all at once.”

In an older section near the front we found a baby’s grave marked by just the surname, “Summers”. Dates told us that Baby Summers had died after just three weeks, and was buried in 1913. An identical headstone stood beside it, attesting to another Baby Summers, born 1914, buried 1915.

We found the grave of a man who had died when he was 100 years old.

The children were fascinated.

Finally we left. The overcast sky had prevailed and it was becoming too chilly. I turned the car heater on as we made our way back.

At home, we first took out a gift that a family friend had given me the day before.

“This is for your party tomorrow,” Lorna had told me, presenting me with a straw bonnet adorned with a pastel ribbon, and flowers around the band. “This is to honour Wendy’s tenth birthday.”

We set out the cake, pop, Cheesies and ice-cream. The bonnet set carefully on a napkin became a table centre-piece. Rick arrived home and quickly cleaned up from work. Then we took our places around the table. It was time for Wendy’s birthday party.

Luke decided we should place our hands together in prayer as we sang “Happy Birthday” so Wendy would be sure to hear.

Andrea arranged the remaining white-and-pink flowers in a vase and set it prominently in the middle of the table, alongside the bonnet.

I noted there were buds dotting the flower stems.

“Remember what it said on Wendy’s headstone?” I asked. Rick knew.

“Budded on earth to bloom in heaven.”

Andrea pulled the vase close and counted the buds. There were ten. Next she counted the flowers on the stems. There were ten flowers as well.

“Little miracles,” we told each other. “Little miracles.”

We felt Wendy was with us, and Jesus was honouring our day

Death of a Baby

Join me next week for the final chapter in our story; Ch. 45. Wendy’s Book

Watch this site for the launch of the hard-copy of When the Bough Breaks – planned for mid-November, 2016. 

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6 Comments

Fern Boldt

about 10 months ago

Another tear-jerker! Thanks for sharing your story, Bobbi.

Reply

Bobbi

about 10 months ago

This one made me cry too. Kids are so precious when they're given free rein with important events. Their personalities showed through, too, in what each of them did. A good memory.

Reply

Pam

about 10 months ago

You were so wise to honour her memory and to let the children be an important part of it. This was so meaningful, Bobbi.

Reply

Bobbi

about 10 months ago

You know, Pam, I don't know if I even consciously planned it that way. Doing something special seemed important, but I didn't know how to go about it. Letting the kids take the lead was the best thing I could have planned, if I'd actually had a plan. We don't give our kidlets enough credit sometimes. They're a valuable asset.

Reply

Tina markeli

about 10 months ago

What gifts of wisdom God has given you, along with the grace to share them

Reply

Sally Meadows

about 10 months ago

Such a precious story, Bobbi. I love all the little details; for they are in fact, big. Thank you for sharing your story.

Reply

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