I’ve learned a lot about grief, loss and mourning since 2012.
One such thing is the importance of saying goodbye in a formalized way. Memorials, funerals, celebrations of life or a private reading of a letter near a lake, are all ways this can be accomplished.
I’ve also learned saying goodbye doesn’t happen in a single moment. It’s more of a process but you need to start somewhere and David’s memorial was that place for me.
Verbalizing what your heart feels is a gift most us don’t have. Articulating truth with sincerity and genuineness is an art.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully match the words to the layered intricacies of love I had for David. I tried with a blog and I'll share my eulogy with you here. I continue the attempt with a podcast. Perhaps it’s an effort to find true congruence with what I feel in my soul and what I express. I don’t know if I’ll ever get it just right but I’m okay with that because I know my feelings are pure and my intention is heartfelt.
In my core, I know David felt loved every single day of his life.
You can’t know what I know or feel what I feel so instead I share with you my many goodbyes.
Reuben and I woke up and went to the church in the morning. It was silent in the sanctuary while we set up. We laid out his blankets, books and all of the items he accrued in the two short months he was alive. It fit on one small table. When we were done we both got teary-eyed. All of our sweet David's things on display to share with the world. We also set up for the girls dance routine and a registration table with a guest book, a candle, his picture and a card box to accept donations to the BC Women's NICU.
We went home and I had many emails, Facebook messages and texts from people who had decided the roads were too treacherous to attempt the drive. It was unfortunate the weather interfered with so many people's attendance. However, I completely understood. I was saddened, especially with some of my friends, only for selfish reasons. I missed them.
Soon my parents and my sister’s family arrived. I showed them David's beautiful urn and his clay molds, both of which I planned to take in with me at the time of his memorial. We all got ready and travelled up caravan style to the church.
Once we arrived we lit the candle, put the beautiful programs my sister made out and then displayed the clay molds on the table. Our entire family arrived and met in the church nursery. We all cried and hugged. I just couldn't believe this was happening. Our Pastor came in and prayed with us before we went out to start the memorial service.
Walking into the sanctuary was surreal. I started to cry immediately seeing our friends and church family members there to celebrate with us the amazing life that was David's. I carried David's beautiful and tiny urn in with me and placed it on the table before I sat down. After a quick welcome from the Pastor, who officiated the service, Mya and Kiana performed a dance for David. My nieces also participated. It was a beautiful tribute to David. Seeing my girls sobbing on stage but pushing through to finish just reaffirmed how much they loved their brother. I'm so glad they did it. It was simple but in that simplicity there was honesty and love.
Following the dance my brother, Michael, spoke. He spoke of David's strength, what David did for our family and for Mike personally. It was a heartfelt speech. I love to hear people's stories of how David impacted their lives and hearing one such story from my brother was touching. Michael saw David for who he was: A strong and determined baby. His message succinctly conveyed the essence of David. His speech was perfect. My favorite part was the ending where he said, "In the bible David slays Goliath. We all know the ending to this story. Our David didn't slay Goliath. But he did two things: First, he fought with all his strength to the bitter end. Second, he didn't slay Goliath but that tiny little baby kicked the hell out of him." That he did!
After his speech we sang some songs. We sang "Jesus Loves the Little Children," "Jesus Loves Me," and "I Lift My Eyes Up" (the singing of Psalm 121). Then Reuben and I went up to give the eulogy. Reuben went first. He gave a wonderful speech that included a summarized play-by-play of David's life and what it was like to be so far away. He taled about all he felt for David and the things he would miss most about him. I think it meant a lot to everyone who was there to hear what Reuben had to say. I loved Reuben's speech - it, too, was perfect!
Then it was my turn. I had been crying for so long it was hard to see my speech through my tears. I found it hard to look up because every time I met eyes with someone who was crying and it made me even more emotional. I was already doing the "ugly cry" so I just buried my head and read as best I could.
My part of the eulogy didn't come to me as easy as the blog writing. I'd revealed so much of what I'd felt for him in my blog. I‘d been transparent along the journey. The story of his life was more important to me. I was emotionally drained and struggled to articulate a summary of David's life with any any authenticity.
I was numb.
The well was empty.
I had nothing to draw from.
Mostly, I was being selfish. I had shared so much of my thoughts, emotions and story with the world. I had laid our journey out on the line. I had been honest on a daily basis and invited anyone willing to bare witness the joy, the pain, the elation and the sorrow.
I understood people wanted to hear my goodbye to my son but I couldn’t fully make that happen. For me, I kept it partly under wrap. I wanted something just for the two of us.
Here is the eulogy I shared at the church:
Although Reuben had already mentioned it, it bears repeating. We would like to extend our many thank yous to our support network that cared for us in many different ways. Whether you cared for our children, made meals, prayed or sent gifts or kind words, we thank you.
I never thought I’d be organizing a memorial especially for one of my children. It’s something no parent should have to do. But sadly this is where we’ve found ourselves. I had no idea what was supposed to occur. So I did what any smart person would do…I googled it. There I learnt that there would need to be a eulogy written by someone close to the person being remembered. That left Reuben and I…so here we are. From here on out I cannot promise anything other than honesty. And crying. There will definitely be crying so please bear with me.
David was a miracle from the very moment he was born. October 28th at 7:02 pm we were blessed with the birth of our sweet son. He was 4 months early at a whopping 475 grams and a giant 11 inches long. He survived when the odds were stacked against him. The doctors joked that he had 9 lives because he probably shouldn’t have survived the first few days let alone his laparotomies, his PDA ligation or the TPN debacle. But he did. And most of the time he sailed right through.
In getting to know David we had to learn NICU-speak. We quickly learnt about desats, bradys, TPN, lipids, PDAs, laparotomies, PICC and ART lines…and the list goes on. I remember going to sleep and all I could hear was the dinging of the machines. Learning to change a diaper on a micro preemie was daunting but so rewarding because we wanted nothing more than to touch his tiny body.
I thought I’d tell you a little about our sweet man that you may or may not already know. Reuben and I took a few days to name our little mister. On advice from my mom we named him David after David who slayed Goliath because our baby was so small and had a huge battle ahead of him. Some things David liked – He liked facilitated tucking, his bat cave, sucking on his ET tube, soother and fingers. He also liked the sound of our voices. Things that David tolerated were being touched, IV’s and having his ileosotomy bag changed. Things he disliked were camera flashes, Echocardiograms but most of all he detested eye exams. Fun fact, David was the only preemie around with eyebrows. Full tilt ones too!
So what can be said about a baby that was here for only 2 months? Well one 4 year old boy told me David was his hero. A surgeon of over 20 years called him the toughest baby he’d ever seen. One doctor said David was his favorite baby. A nurse declared that he was the sweetest baby she had ever seen. We can also say he had an undeniable will to live, an unparalleled level of strength and he was extremely loved which is evident by all who are here today.
We only knew our son for a little over 2 months but it felt like a lifetime. Looking at his big brown eyes and his sweet countenance is something I will never forget. I knew David was sent here to our family for a purpose. I hoped and prayed that purpose would find him here on earth as a strong man of God preaching the word to all who would listen. Using his story of how he’d overcome all odds as a micro preemie. We all know the ending to the story. David wasn’t able to beat the odds. Instead of a man of God, he was a baby of God. David had such a big impact he didn’t need 80 plus years. He was able to accomplish a lifetime of work in 68 days. I think of 2nd Timothy 4:7. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Our sweet David has brought people and families together, he’s inspired others, changed outlooks and drawn so many people toward God. Bless his soul.
Although I am heartbroken over the loss of David, I know God had a plan for his life and over time more and more of that plan is being revealed to us. For now, I am truly thankful to God that I was privileged enough to be selected as David’s mom. I’m grateful that I could sit by his side for 2+ months cheering him on and loving him through that incubator. I am indebted to the medical staff who not only treated David but loved him in the hours we were not there to do so. I’m so pleased to see how many people are here to support our family and show their love to David. I was also pleasantly overwhelmed by the outpouring of messages I’ve received from all over Canada and different parts of the world who have contacted me about how David has touched their lives.
I pray that you don’t forget David and his purpose. Please don’t let his short time on earth be in vain. If one small baby can try so hard to live, there is nothing we cannot do. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.
Love your family, friends and even strangers because that love always comes back around. Don’t take anything for granted, especially your time and health. Things are easy to acquire but when it all comes down to it our time and health are what really matter most. Remember, you too are here for a purpose. God has a plan for us all.
Although David is gone I see parts of him all around me. Other than his resemblance to Josh and Reuben, I see his kind eyes in Kiana. I see his determination in Mya. I see his strong will in Josh. I see his laid-back nature in Reuben. Every time I see someone push themselves I see his ability to overcome. Pieces of him are everywhere.
Now to my sweet baby. I know you are looking down on us in your big boy body. You have no pokes, bruises or scars. I’d guess you’re eating all you can with no bloating, distention or discomfort and you’re breathing deeply all on your own. Well I love you sweet baby. I love you too much. I loved every touch and every moment of our cuddles. I loved your perfectly shaped hands, the lemony smell of your head and your beautiful and kind eyes. I miss you every day sweet honey. I miss you every day. I’ll never forget you David. Not what you did for my faith and most definitely not the impact you had on this world. But most of all sweet baby, mommy is so proud of you. You fought so hard. You were patient and extremely tough. You did so good little baby.
I’d like to end with the phrase I said to David every time I left his bedside. “Mommy love you sweet baby. God love you little honey.”
Following the eulogy we showed a video montage of David's life. It was created by my brother-in-law Riss. He did a great job and it will be a great keepsake for our family.
Pastor Dave then said a small speech and prayer. I was glad the church supported us the way they did. They took care of the flowers and the refreshments we had following the memorial service.
While people enjoyed some refreshments a line formed to see the table of David's things. Everyone stopped by Reuben and I to give us a hug and pass on kind words of encouragement. I loved that part of the service. Especially since I had no idea some of the people were coming.
I broke down in tears seeing my cousin Stacie, my soccer teammates, and some dear friends who I hadn't seen in such a long time. Having them there to support us meant more to me than I thought. Sharing David's belongings with people was also special to me. It was a way for people to finally connect with him even after his death.
People slowly trickled out of the church. We cleaned up and my immediate family lingered around to mingle some. Repacking David's things was hard. It was like slowly putting him away. His whole life fits in one tote. I cried as I blew out his candle.
Goodbye sweet David. Till we meet again little baby.