It was a raw, blustery day in early spring. The kind of day that belonged to winter. A sprinkling of snow had fallen overnight and the cemetery was pristine in its purity. I headed to the saddest section of graves. The resting place for little ones who had departed this world too early. Several angels watched over them, wings weathered and mossy with lichen, their faces cherubic. Five rows from the back wall and nine head stones across. That was the position of Michaela’s grave. My boots crunched as I crossed the virgin snow and knelt in my usual spot. Snow had begun to fall again, lacey drifts, gusting in the wind.
I knelt next to Michaela’s grave and carefully arranged the daffodils and snow drops next to the headstone. How many times had I knelt here and read those words? I traced my finger across them again.
Michaela Anne Robinson
Born too soon
Died 3rd August 2002
Aged 7 hours
Dearly loved daughter of Cindy and Joe
“Michaela.” I whispered. “I’ve come to say happy birthday and I’ve brought you a gift this year.” I slipped a gloved hand into my coat pocket and brought out a photograph. “This is your baby brother. Luke Josiah, born just seven weeks ago. He looks like you, but bigger and stronger.” A tear tracked down my cheek. “You would adore him, Michaela. I’m so sorry you couldn’t be here to meet him.” I tucked the picture into the midst of the flowers.
Luke’s birth had been a healing moment for me. Reassurance that I could carry a baby to term. After Michaela’s death, I’d vowed to never have another child. Eventually, Joe called in help, unable to cope with my sorrow and grief. Miriam had sat with me, hour after hour as I ranted and raved. As I questioned the fairness of life. She understood my feelings as her sweet baby boy had died at three months. A victim of cot death.
Snow flurries swept across the graves, sprinkling the daffodils with soft powdery flakes. “I love you Michaela.” I whispered as I patted the head stone. “You’ll always be in my heart.”
I spotted her as I made my way back to the path. A young woman in a thick coat with a fur-lined hood. She was almost prostrate next to one of the tiny graves. A new grave. Under the frosting of snow was a mound of bare earth. In summer, green lawn would spring up, but for now it was barren. Just like her heart must be. I walked on quickly, recalling the agony I had felt when Michaela had died. Remembering the only time I held her. Our tiny, shrunken human, draped in folds of translucent skin.
I looked back over my shoulder. The woman lay prone, oblivious to the snow and damp. What could I do to help her?
I walked on, suddenly anxious to get home. To speak to Miriam who was watching Luke. “Won’t you go and speak with her?” I implored. “She needs someone to be with her.”
Miriam smiled gently. “Why don’t you go, Cindy? Luke is fast asleep and I’ll stay and look after him.”
My mouth opened to refuse, but I closed it as unfamiliar thoughts flashed through my mind. Maybe I can honour Michaela’s memory by doing this. I can reach out and help others through what she’s taught me.
Miriam prodded a little. “It’s time Cindy. You’ve healed enough to be able to help others now. Go back and see if she’s still there.”
And so I pulled on my coat and headed back into the flurries. Walking faster and faster. Almost afraid she would be gone. I found her lying stretched out over the grave. It was too soon for a head stone and the grave was marked by a simple cross with a blue ribbon curled around it. I read the brass plaque.
Benjamin Ryan Slade
July 28th 2007
6 days old
Her shoulders were heaving with grief as I hesitantly knelt next to her and grasped one of her hands. It was several moments before she turned her head, the rawness of her soul, spilling from her eyes. I sat down in the snow. “Tell me about him.” I said. “Tell me about your son.”
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