The day before my twentieth birthday, I buried my daughter and in an irony which didn’t escape me, my son was returned to me through a woman who’d apparently been looking after him for us and the social worker who’d asked for him to be removed in the first place.
I stared at them wordlessly on the doorstep; a woman I didn’t know, immaculate and neat in freshly laundered and ironed clothes which were such a contrast to my crumpled black funeral outfit. I hadn’t bothered to iron it. Was there a point? The woman was holding hands with the child who was my son, and who was still alive when his sister was dead.
The social worker sensed that all was not well in our sad, tiny household.
‘Er, Jane, lovey, you did get a phone call didn’t you? To say we were coming?’
I shook my head. ‘I don’t know’ I whispered, ‘I can’t remember. I think we’ve been cut off.’ Who pays their phone bill when their daughter was dead?
There was a lot I didn’t remember in the aftermath of my daughter’s death. Like I sometimes forgot that she WAS dead, and I would sort of return to reality to find myself sitting in her peppermint pink bedroom, staring at her empty cot from an empty room, in a sad empty house that would ever be happy again.
So, Neil came back; a sad, confused child for equally sad, confused parents, on a day which we should have wanted to remember, but which I would rather forget. We had no babysitters, so Neil held my hand as we walked into the cold, Welsh chapel whose garden would be Lucy’s home for eternity.
We sang ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and Lucy’s father carried the tiny white coffin into that cold, sad Welsh chapel. For such a short life, and so tiny a coffin, the chapel was remarkably full. Dai, the rugby player who lived opposite us, and the other neighbours who lived in Lon Llwyd; our landlady; the publican down the road; Charlotte the midwife and Mr Jones the milkman; Dr Evans and his small, sad wife and sad welsh ladies and gentlemen that I didn’t even know but who came because this was a tiny, tight knit Welsh village and it had lost one of its’ own.
Lucy’s little coffin looked so insignificant, so tiny and fragile, lost beside the searing high altar and the wide aisles between the rows of shining wooden pews. It wasn’t right that someone so tiny should be dead inside that small white box. I was glad that my mind had functioned enough to slip a small furry teddy bear into her final home that morning, before the funeral directors had closed the lid, and took my daughter away from me forever.
The church was beautifully lit and decorated, I didn’t notice this at the time, it was many years later when the small, sad scene was replayed in my memory. As the pieces of remembrance clicked into place, I recalled hundreds of candles, on the altar, on the font, on the great high stone windowsills, casting a myriad of rainbow colours across the stone flagged floor as the candle flames reflected prettily against the stained glass windows. Candles surrounded the tiny white coffin, a simple small posy of white Christmas roses atop, with a tiny card which said ‘Sleep peacefully till we meet again, with All Love, Always, Mummy, Daddy and Neil’. It couldn’t have been those roses I smelt, when I took my sad place as chief mourner. I now remember that on glancing around the church, each and every pew was decorated with tiny floral posies.
White helleborus, narcassi, show pinks, tiny snowdrops drooped their heads sadly, nerine, amaryllis, holly berries, phlox and orchids. Roses and lilies and carnations, packed each and every pew, every flat surface was covered in child sized posies. To this day, I don’t know who organised this. Steven wouldn’t have, he couldn’t tell a rare orchid from a thistle and the thought of decorating the church wouldn’t have even have entered his tiny mind. It might have been the neighbours, or maybe the ladies on the church committee. Whoever had done it, they had spent hundreds of pounds and many hours, making the church so beautiful for Lucy.
I can’t remember the service. I still don’t want to remember the service. Words must have been spoken, eulogies delivered, hymns sung but I didn’t hear. I didn’t want to.
Afterwards, when it was over, and I didn’t have to endure anymore; I had to leave that tiny pale box with the shell of my daughter inside, so I strode angrily and alone to the small heap of freshly dug earth. I stared down at the tiny open grave that would contain the remains of my child forever.