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Innocence and Perfection
Published in Bereavement Magazine, 1995
by Dana Gensler

 

Written May 25, 1995

Six years ago this hour you went away, Little One. I was with you; your daddy was there. Your Grand-Jenny said you were a lovely little girl. As I held you close, somehow her recognition of your loveliness made me more able to endure your inevitable leaving.

Lindsay, we chose your casket with tender care: a beautiful white with satin lining, like a babyís bassinet. I selected your new dress: the one you were supposed to wear home from the hospital. When we bought it, I did not realize you would wear it forever.

We arrived at the funeral home early to spend our last moments with you. My feet could barely move to that tiny box. The little pink dress was beautiful surrounded by the casketís white satin. Your hands were resting still. I touched them, remembering how they had curled around my finger, pulled on the endotracheal tube, waved on the ultrasound. I looked at your face, the face I had waited nine long months to see. I closed my eyes and let you go for the first time.

Flowers and friends kept coming. Daisies and babyís breath and arranged pink roses; my two 90-year-old grandmothers; our tearful brothers and sisters. Your Grandma, Grandpa, Grand-Jenny. They didnít really know you as we did. Their lives were not wrapped up in yours as ours were.

Lindsay, it was supposed to be a celebration of life. Everyone kept watching to see I stayed strong, which would make them so. Food was brought: a ham was sliced; a chocolate cake; a chess pie. Norm told how I goofed up the lemonade-making contest when I was nine years old. We went into gales of laughter when he went into his Blues-Brothers routine. We strolled in your Grandpaís gorgeous rose garden and challenged him to name them all; he amazed us by doing so. Then we sang a song we used to sing as youngsters in three-part harmony and finished, breathless and laughing.

Outside the sun was shining. And someone elseís baby slept in the cradle where you were supposed to be.

More people came. The house bulged with stories of our past: things we had said; times we had laughed; our silly little antics. A detached part of me listened to it all and thought: If I wrote a poem on this rhetoric, the predominate theme would be easy to find: Nothing about YOUR life was funny. No one knew you or had a chance to make memories with you, so we relive our own childhood.

Lindsay, flowers were everywhere.

I sat with the family looking at the white-satin-lined coffin in which your body lay. I could see the curve of your head, the silky black curls, the tip of your nose. And my body winced with the pain of our separation. The priest asked, "How long is long enough?" And I stared at him through blurry awareness. Perfect and innocent, he said. "Beautiful" was engraved on your tombstone. Grand-Jenny had called you "Lovely". Perhaps the words all fit. We knew this, little girl. Lindsay, everyone walked by your coffin slowly. We didnít want to let you go. We knew that a part of our lives ó perfection and beauty, loveliness and innocence ó was leaving forever.

I was the last. I waited until everyone else had gone. Summoning more strength than ever before in my life, I stood and walked to the front where your little body lay.

"Iím so sorry, Lindsay," I whispered as I reached for your hand again. "So sorry I couldnít give you more life." I asked if I could pick you up. They refused. So I looked at your face, trying to indelibly imprint its features forever on my mind.

ďI love you, Lindsay,Ē I said finally. "I love you." And for the last time, I let you go.

In the Family Room, I sat on a couch, fighting blankness, quietly weeping in my hands. Your daddy came and took me in his arms. Someone ran to find my mother. We cried together. We had loved you special. And you knew.

The cars were driving out of the parking lot. I was in the second one, behind the limo carrying your casket. (Why didnít I make that final ride with you?) I recalled other days, when we broke speed limits after my water broke in the car. The grey police car with the blue flashing on its roof was guiding us to where your shell would rest. We drove slowly and I pondered how I had ridden this same road with you, still safe inside me, on our way for pizza and a fresh banana shake. What a happy, carefree time it was! We laughed at your funny way of jumping when we closed the car door. Now we were making the trip with you for the final time.

Today, you have been gone six years. It seems like yesterday and a hundred years all at the same time. I pulled out the album of your life, looked through the pictures, smelled your lock of hair . . . And I wondered if youíd really gone from our world.

Then, looking up, I saw the picture of your sisters; I saw a picture of your daddy; I looked long at a picture of you being held in a motherís arms. And suddenly I felt the very essence of YOU in each one of us. Because, you see, the fact that you were only forty-four hours old when you died, did not in any way diminish our love for you. It has continued to grow, even though you didnít.

So I whisper, "Thank you, Lindsay. Thank you for being perfect and innocent, lovely and beautiful. Thank you for making us the best parents we can be and showing us the importance of helping others. Thank you for explaining some of the mysteries of life and death. Thank you for coming into my life."

"I love you, Lindsay. I will try to make you proud."

Dana Gensler       
Bowling Green, Kentucky       

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