Heartstrings was now part of our history, as was the death of two of our children. Time spent thinking about Sarah and Matthew, along with thoughts of, "what could have been", became more infrequent. The phrase, "time heals all wounds", appeared to be a reality.
There were things that still brought unexpected pain, though. I remember one Memorial Day we had bought two plastic planters shaped like very cute little lambs lying down. I filled them with dirt, and then carefully selected a group of delicate flowers that seemed "baby-like" in the type of blossom each produced. Shades of pale pinks and whites were chosen for Sarah's little lamb, and hues of purple-blue and white filled Matthew's. We then drove to the cemetery to carefully place them on each of their grave sites, only one space apart from each other. Even knowing they weren't truly there, the placement of these specially prepared flower arrangements on their graves somehow made us feel a little connected; as if we were in some cosmic way still caring for them. Carefully tended and gently given to them, we returned to our car and went home. A week later we went to collect the plastic lambs, planning to display them in our flower garden. We pulled into the cemetery, slowly driving past the piles of discarded and faded arrangements which had been collected by the cemetery personnel for disposal. I looked at them as if it was an honor to view the remnants of some poor soul's memories; as if I was being given the privilege of peering into the love and loss shared by some stranger and fellow mourner. It was a solemn moment.
We drove closer to the Babyland section, the area reserved for infants and stillborn babies, and the resting place of our two children. As we got closer, I could not see the lambs where we had left them. I started scanning the area, desperately searching for them as if I was looking for the children themselves. We arrived at the site, got out of the car and began walking around. The lambs were no where to be found. My stomach knotted. Where could they have gone?
The small office at the cemetery happened to be open, and someone was actually in attendance. We went in and asked her where our little lambs could possibly be. Had the clean-up crew collected them to be thrown away? Had we exceeded the time limit for displaying planters, and they'd been stored somewhere? Where were they? She then very matter-of-factly stated that a few days earlier a car had pulled into the cemetery, its occupants getting out and "shopping" the various burial plots for the "nicest" looking arrangements. They then promptly loaded their favorites into their vehicle, and took them away. When I asked if she or others working at the cemetery had called the police, I was told no. They sat and watched this unscrupulous crew load up grieving people's tokens and expressions of love to their lost moms, dads, aunts, uncles, friends, and babies, and did nothing. I was angry. I was hurt. I felt completely and utterly violated. It seemed like someone had stripped my babies from my arms once again, or at the very least had done harm to them. I wanted to yell at the persons who stole them, "How could you DO that? Don't you know how much you have degraded my babies' memories and turned them into your commercialized gain? You sick, sick person!" I wanted to pound on them and beat them; I wanted to hurt them as much as they had hurt me in that moment. It was almost as if they were responsible for the kids' deaths themselves.
The strength of my reaction should have been an indicator of the repressed anger I was harboring, but in reality, I was unaware that the anger I felt in the moment was just the tip of the iceberg.