With coffee mugs in hand, the three of us went to work. We sat on the floor of Laynee's room surrounded by mounds of clothing. But what does one do with clothes so precious that the heart cannot bear to part with them? How does one let go of the few things that are left of their child? An entire lifetime of memories are sewn into the fibers of those clothes. The only way to tackle this task was to begin. Karen and Kathy were there but once I began I became somewhat cut off from all but the precious pieces of material in my hands and the flood of memories that they prompted. We made piles. One pile consisted of items that I had bought in the off seasons, which she had never worn. These, along with a few things she had rarely worn, which did not have a great deal of memories attached to them, were given to Kathy's little grand daughter who lives in Tennessee. Another pile was made up of things that were most precious, a few of her dresses, her first school outfit, and some clothes with stains that I now cherish. These items, along with her shoes, school papers and art projects, items from the hospital the night she died, favorite toys and books, and special blankets will be preserved in a chest that Jim will make. This chest with her name carved in it will also contain the hundreds of cards we have received since she died and will be placed at the foot of our bed.
The last pile that we made consisted of those clothes that we love the most. The things she wore over and over. They are the things we picture her wearing in every day life. A friend very graciously offered to create a quilt of these items. Tonight she brought the comleted quilt, along with four smaller ones, created for our four older children. The kids have each placed theirs over their beds. The larger one was hung on the wall, in our basement, where the kids spend much of their time. When time allows, Jim will make a frame for it.
There is still much to done in her room. The crib still stands and will someday need to be taken down but it has been stripped of all by the mattress. Her torn window shade is still there and still torn and ........well it might be awhile longer before I can take that down. Her hot pink chair remains, the one she only sat in when she was on someone's (usually Jade's) lap. That chair is obnoxiously pink and matches nothing in our home, but I don't care, it holds a beautiful, sacred picture in my mind, an image of a child so deeply loved. There are few other, less frequently used items, which I really don't know what to do with. I suppose in time I'll think of something.
As I held her new quilt, the ache was deep. We remember every article of clothing, from the dresses, to the clothes she made filthy with her constant getting into things, to the PJ's we snuggled her in. Clothes, normal every day clothes, things I would have long ago passed on, probably to my little great niece if things were different. That is what I would have done if she were still here but because she is not, these pieces of fabric, sewn together into a masterpiece have become one of the most valuable items in our home.
I have pondered this step and all of the other steps of grief work and a question fills my mind. What exactly is this a step towards? Typically when we take a series of steps, we are striving for something, a goal or an expectation. What is the goal or the desire that we as baby loss mother's are pressing towards? Perhaps it is closure or maybe each step is born simply of the expectations of society. No doubt, many would say that it is a step towards healing but we mother's know better than that. This is not something from which we will ever heal. These steps do not make the pain less but perhaps they move us closer to the ever elusive thing called acceptance. My child is not coming back. Leaving her things, as if in waiting for her return, does not make reality any less so. I suppose it could be said that the goal for which we strive is that of a healthy balance. A balance which allows us to honor her in our hearts and in our home, yet does not cause us to remain stuck in our longing for her. As I look at the things that we have done in her memory, I am reminded that each of them was "another step." Her grave marker at the cemetary, the framed photos on the walls, her garden, special trees planted in the yard and now her quilts: all serve as bittersweet memories, bringing smiles of rememberance and tears of sadness. Above all, they serve as a reminder of the hope that we have. We have a daughter and a sister waiting to welcome us into heaven one day.
Made up of favorite T shirts
and sweet dresses
and hee hee shirts
and soft warm pajamas
and princess jackets
and warm winter hats
and tanks she wore almost daily
and her special blanky
Jamee's quilt contains the shirt she bought Laynee
in Paris during her summer trip to Europe
Both boys are unphased by the "girliness"
of having a quilt made of little girl clothes hanging
in their otherwise masculine room.
They are Laynee's clothesand that fact trumps
pride, fashion and "coolness"
Thank you Bev.
They are priceless