My son missed his own funeral.
Yes. You read that correctly.
My son missed his own funeral.
I can laugh at it. It is one of the aspects of Aidan’s life that brings me a lot of laughter. It is where I can clearly remember laughter in the midst of grief.
Aidan only lived for 4 1/2 hours. He was born, lived and died in the hospital.
I don’t remember much of the funeral planning. While I was physically recovering from having a baby and some complications I had in those last days of pregnancy, my husband took care of all the details.
At the time we had only lived in Pennsylvania for about 2 years. My husband’s family lives in Virginia. My family in Minnesota. We decided to bury Aidan in Virginia.
He is buried in a little country church cemetery. It is a peaceful place with winds blowing across open fields.
Keith’s grandfather is now buried next to Aidan. Their plots are on the end of the row approximately three or four rows in from the black garbage can at the end of the cemetery. Aidan’s grave marker sits crooked in the ground. We never noticed that detail before. Each time we say, “oh we need to have someone check into getting that fixed.” Funny things to remember about your son’s grave site.
Back to the story…
Since Aidan’s body was going to be crossing state lines, the funeral director in Pennsylvania made arrangements for Aidan’s body to be flown to Virginia. Of course, it required a layover in Texas.
The day of the funeral, I was getting ready upstairs in the bathroom at my in-law’s house. The phone rang. I thought nothing of it. Keith came upstairs to find me. He sat down on the closed toilet. He said, “Um, there is a bit of a problem. Aidan’s body is stuck in Houston. He missed the connecting flight. He won’t be here for the funeral.”
And that is when it happened. The laughter. Not a little chuckle. A deep rolling laughter.
My son. The one who defied odds. The one who shouldn’t have been born alive. The one I should have miscarried. The one who shouldn’t have squeaked at us for a few short hours. He was having an adventure. He was flying all over. He was missing flights. He was traveling to a place I had never been.
He was missing his own funeral.
I remember my mother-in-law peeked around the corner as Keith and I laughed, hugged and then shed a few tears. Yes. We were laughing.
It ended up being a beautiful funeral for our son. Instead of his casket being in place, we had a little display. The few pictures we had of him. The baby blanket my sister had made for him. A few flowers.
And the next day, the immediate family gathered once again. Just family. Family that was saying hello to Aidan for the first time. Family that was saying goodbye to Aidan. Family that was shedding tears of not getting to hold this precious little boy. Family that was grateful for the few hours they got with Aidan when he was alive.
I can still picture my mom and dad lovingly stand over Aidan’s open casket and gently touching his skin. I can still see the image of Aidan’s uncles carrying the small casket to his grave site. The stillness. The quiet. The reflection. The wondering. The questions.
And yes, the laughter.
Laughter in the Midst of Grief.