Rob's parents arrived literally minutes after Matthew had died, and we had to tell them he was already gone. The look of sadness and grief washed over their faces as they peered in over the crib to see their second grandchild dead. It's hard to watch someone else in pain. It almost felt like it was my fault, as if there was something I should have done to prevent them from having to experience this again. Feeling your own pain and grief is a beast all in itself, but watching someone else you love experience it, compounds the agony tenfold, especially when you feel a sense of responsibility, be it legitimate or not.
Things began to move at a quick pace. The Doctor was called to come and pronounce Matthew "legally" dead, the funeral home was called to come and pick up his body, and as we waited for them to arrive,we sat down at our kitchen table with the Pastor to begin making arrangements for the funeral . There were brief hints of laughter as we joked about odd little things, and in spite of the solemnity of the moment, the frivolity was a welcome break. The pressure of the last few hours was lightened, even if for a few seconds. In some ways, it was a relief that the whole thing was over. No more walks down the hall not knowing what I'd find, no more concern about possible feeding tubes and ventilators. I could breathe again, and as I did, I also felt guilty. A mother should never feel relief that her child has just died; it just wasn't right. But those thoughts were quickly and carefully buried away under the words of all I had heard before; "he's in a better place", "God is in control and He knows what He's doing", "God won't give you more than you can bear". Really? I wasn't too sure about that one.
As we planned the funeral, I realized the next day was Valentine's Day. I wanted red roses on the casket of my little boy, and I wanted a small white teddy bear holding a red rose from Michael to be in the casket by Matthew. I nearly cried and broke down over the realization that getting red roses right after Valentine's Day was going to be a near impossibility. When we spoke to the florist the following day and expressed our desire, we were told there were no red roses to be had anywhere. It added to my wounding, and I felt like I had been cut again with another loss. Things were being taken from me; I felt punished, and didn't know why. But God had a friend of ours working at another florist shop. We called her, and she promised she would find us the roses we wanted. She did, and they were beautiful. I don't know what strings she pulled, or what influence she wielded, but I know I won't forget what she did for us that day.
It didn't take long before we had all the plans in place. Matthew's funeral was to be held on February 16, which happened to be the day his sister had died 4 years earlier. How hard was it going to be having his funeral on the anniversary of her death? It was crazy and yet somehow comforting knowing there was this strange connection between the two of them. They would be together, meeting each other for the first time, playing side by side in heaven.
The Doctor arrived at our door, and showed us the compassion I loved her for. She was kind and gentle, but went straight to work. She turned Matthew over in the crib, and listened for a heartbeat, even though it was quite obvious he was gone. She said very little, conveyed her care and concern, then was gone. The man from the funeral home had arrived, too. He pulled up in a gray van with no side windows. It looked like he was driving an unmarked delivery van; it seemed cold and uninviting. He came into the house, spoke his condolences, and entered Matthew's room with a large gray blanket. How fitting that his blanket was gray; it matched the atmosphere of the whole house. He carefully picked Matthew up, enshrouded him in the over-sized blanket, and carried him away to the cold, gray van. It was easier letting him go than it was Sarah, yet releasing him to a stranger with a gray blanket and matching van was devastating. I was being forced to acknowledge the relinquishment of my motherly care and protection, and was seeing once again the outcome of my own failure to keep my child safe. It was looking into the eyes of death once again.
The house was now emptying of people; their jobs accomplished, they left. The reality began to crash in on me, and I began to feel nauseous. I sat on the floor in our living room, leaned against the couch, and tried to control the urge to puke.
We had decided that for now Michael shouldn't see his brother dead, and given how I was feeling, we had him spend the night at the babysitters. Tomorrow we would have to figure out how to explain to a 3 year old that the brother he loved was no longer going to be with us. Tomorrow would begin life without Matthew.