CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.

Celebrating Laynee

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Last Time I Saw Her Face

I struggle a great deal with the need to care for my little girl, even in her abscence.  Mother instinct still calls me see to her comfort and well being.  On cold, blustery winter nights I want to snuggle the covers over her little body, to make sure her feet are covered.  The thought of her being cold nearly drives me crazy.  On rainy days I think of that mound of dirt, the mud, the wetness, and it makes me angry that the rain would dare to fall on my baby.  The cemetary shows signs of a mole digging near her grave and it bothers me, I don't want a mole or any other creature going anywhere near her.   I know that these are all irrational concerns.  Laynee is in heaven after all, she's not really there in the ground.  My head knows this, yet my mother heart has failed to grasp the reality that my baby is not here. My heart cannot fathom that Iam not needed by my child.

A few weeks ago I struggled with what may seem like a morbid need.  A need so desperate that it bordered on obsession.   I needed pictures of Laynee in her casket.

While  the days and weeks following the accident are mostly a hazy blur, with large chunks of time that seem to have been wiped from my memory,  there are some very clear details that I recall.  I have very little memory of the visitation and funeral but this one thing I know, my little girl was beautiful in her casket.   I recall the girls and I picking out the dress she would wear.  There were several new dresses hanging in her closet and we debated between a short sleeved pink and brown dress and a red and white gingham dress with a mock red jacket.  We chose the red one, the one she was supposed to be getting her pictures taken in.  We chose the new little black shoes and white socks.  We wanted her to look just perfect.  My Aunt Diana graciously agreed to do her hair, putting it in precious ponytails with black and white polka dotted bows, a perfect match to the bow at the top of the jacket.  I put the tiny black earrings in myself,  the perfect finishing touch.   I recall seeing her for the first time in the casket and how she took my breath away, she was so beautiful.   I vaguely remember those last few moments with her, knowing I needed to move away so they could close the casket, fighting the urge to climb in with her.  I wanted so desperately to lift her out of there and hold her close on more time.  I couldn't kiss her enough.  I tucked her blanky around her, I wanted her to be warm, I wanted her to feel safe.  I made sure her hee hee was secure in her hand and that she had her favorite book.  For all these months I've struggled with the knowledge that she is in that box, in a vault, in the ground.  She was so beautiful the last time I saw her and I didn't take a picture.  It's like forgetting the camera for your daughter's junior prom. 

I held out a small hope that my Aunt Di may have taken a picture when she did her hair.  Or maybe Uncle Fred took one.  Upon asking them I learned that they hadn't.  I needed a picture so bad and they seemed like my only hope.  Then one day it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, my brother in law, who also happens to be the mortician,  may have taken a picture.  So I called him and asked the question that most people never imagine having to ask,  "did you take a picture of my daughter in her casket?" He said that normally they do not take pictures, but this time he did.  I cannot describe the odd sense of relief I felt.

A few days later he sent two pictures of her via email.  It was quite awhile before I worked up the courage to open the attachments.  Finally, with deliberate movements and controlled breathing I dared to look at the pictures.  What I saw was not what I expected.  She was beautiful of course, stunningly so.  She looked just like my mind remembered.  My beautiful little girl with long lashes, flawless skin and light, wispy hair.  Everything about her was perfect and yet, something was missing.  I suddenly saw with startling clarity that this was not my Laynee.  The face in the casket was lifeless, void of expression.  The face was a picture of perfect peace yet it lacked sparkle, joy and mischief.  The hair remained perfect for 2 full days.  There were no food smudges on her face or dirt in her fingernails.  The shoes were not yanked at first oppurtunity. Even in sleep, Laynee had personality.  Her low muscle tone allowed her to sleep in what appeared to be impossible positions.  Never would she lie flat with hands neatly in front of her.  My Laynee was full of life.   What lay in that casket looked like my Laynee, but my Laynee was not in the casket.   The pictures showed me that the beautiful body that identified her was nothing more than clothing.  Jalayne was carried away by angels.  She is not in that vault, nor is she beneath the cold frozen ground.   She is not cold even on the coldest nights, neither is she wet when it rains.  My sweet Laynee Grace no longer needs her mommy.

The sweetly perfect little body was not what we loved. We loved the vibrant personality, the laughter, the silly gleam and twinkling eyes.  We loved her exhausting business and sheer determination.  The spirit of the child we all loved so dearly is not here.  She is in heaven, waiting for us.  The desperate need is mine and mine alone.  She will forever be my child, but she no longer has special needs.


  1. This is Joyce. I am so searching for words to share how much that touched me. A beautiful description of the journey of transistion for a mother's broken and hurting heart. I rarely leave comments but I do want you to know that I read and can't imagine your pain right now. I pray nightly for your strength and guidance.

  2. I've never considered this part of the grief and adjustment...those words seem so small for the magnitude of the journey. You amaze me...

  3. Your post is beautiful. I too spent the months after both my daughters died worrying if they were cold. I didn't dress my girls and I regret it to this day. They were only 1 lb 5oz each and I didn't know what to dress them in and I was scared to see them again looking blue and well, dead. This has remained one of my biggest regrets as I didn't make sure they were warm. I should have bought some doll clothes and dressed them up, wrapped them in a blanket, and set them together in their casket. But instead I let a stranger do it. And I have worried every since. It has been 18 months since they died and I still struggle to let go of this feeling, feeling like I let them down and abandoned them when they needed me. I also know however that they are not in that casket as they were made new in heaven the moment their heart beat its last and have never needed for anything since. Being a mom never stops, even when our babies are gone. I guess we need them really. But we go one. We find joy again after our season of sorrow. We learn to live a dual existance, carried by Christ, through the bad days, feeling joy and sadness at the same time for the rest of our lives. I am praying for you.

  4. Karol--
    This is such a painful part of grieving for me. THere are a few parts of teh trauma of the birth and the NICU adn such that I can't let myself think about....or I'm not ready to....and him in the casket is certainly one of them. I completely understand your feelings, though. I cry with you....the way a mother's instinct carry over after death is moving. Did you read about the gorilla that had a stillborn??? What you think is appropriate and inappropriate goes out the window for some, yet is very bounding for others. I feel like my senses limited me--held me back. And if/when i allow myself to think about that, it is devestating. Painful. Horrific to me. I get so scared. I remember feeling like 'if I just would have picked him up, I could have held him close enough to make him well--miraculously.' I wanted so badly to fix him. Even after he died.
    I like your thoughts of Layne...no longer having special needs. Such a peaceful thought. Sending you hugs...

  5. Wow....what an amazingly beautiful post this was, Karol! I remember standing at her casket and thinking "My goodness, she looks so beautiful...like she's sleeping!" I'm so glad that Mike had taken pics for you. It is true though, those expressions aren't there that you see in just sleep, though. Thank you for your honesty and bravery in your posts. They remind me everyday to kiss my kids more and more. We love you and are praying that God touches your heart with His healing power!

    Amy Gayle

  6. I just want you to know that I pray for you and your family every time I think of you. I found your blog through the blog of another friend and your story has touched me greatly. I am so sorry that you are having to bear this burden, but as a sister in Christ, I have to say I'm so proud of the way you are holding fast to Christ. You are teaching me and every other reader exactly what faith looks like. You will see your sweet baby again. I hope nothing about this comment offends you, I just had to let you know that there are people, even some you don't know, who are lifting you up in your time of need.