My Wonderful Life

Two Angels for Our Angel

posted on 8/25/11 by Guest Blogger: David Hlavac

Four years ago this week, my wife and I joined the club no parent wants to join – our newborn daughter Nora died shortly after birth due to a chromosomal abnormality.

Through our grief, there were decisions to be made. But despite the fact we were both very open about death and dying, and knew each other’s individual wishes well, we had never discussed what to do if we lost a child.

How would our daughter be remembered, and whose customs and preferences would inspire our remembrances?

Of course, we cried a lot, yet tried to be strong for our surviving children. Acutely aware of our responsibilities, we struggled to reconcile our traditions. It’s not as if saying goodbye to a child is something you discuss with your spouse to pass the time – it doesn’t often come up in everyday conversation, even when she’s expecting.

My family tradition is cremation and secular remembrance – no church service, no casket, no cemetery. But when it came time to make a decision for Nora, my wife wanted to preserve her own family tradition – casket burial and a graveside service.

I’d like to say that, in our grief, we came together and made a decision quickly and without conflict. I wish it had been that simple. But because we were both so emotionally drained, we both clung to what would give us each individual comfort.

In the end, we picked a beautiful piece of cemetery property and agreed on a casket burial with no religious service. At an intimate graveside memorial, I eulogized our daughter with the Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing,” which he wrote in tribute to his mother and I sang to Nora while she was in the NICU:

 

 When I’m sad she comes to me/With a thousand smiles she gives to me free

 It’s alright she said it’s alright/Take anything you want from me/Anything


Today, with the benefit of some perspective, I realize that no matter what decisions we made to remember Nora, there was no way either of us would ever forget her or lose sight of what she meant to us. But I also know that no matter how painful, morbid or seemingly difficult it might be, parents should not shy away from talking about the unthinkable.

Having a plan (or at least an understanding) of how you and your spouse will address these questions should tragedy strike is undoubtedly a good idea.

But speaking as a member of the club nobody wants to join, I hope you never put that plan into action. 

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