We slept at the NICU that night. We gave Harrison his first real bath. He melted right into the water. He looked so relaxed. My eyes burned with tears. We had been able to lay on a little couch with him almost that whole weekend. Cuddled him up and watched movies together, listened to music, watched Ava dance and sing in his little room. This was what I was looking forward to…except in my own living room, without all the machines humming in the background. We went to Angie’s Garden on the rooftop. Ava danced and sang in the sun while we held onto the last moments together.
That day it started to click with Ava. She hugged her brother and kissed him. She couldn’t leave. She cried her little eyes out. We all did, but it killed me watching Ava. I remember vividly, she said “but why? I’m never going to see him anymore? I don’t want to say goodbye. I don’t like this.” She squeezed him hard. In that moment, my heart literally crumbled into a thousand pieces. I knew our lives would never be the same.
My husband cleaned out his room. Packed up all his clothes and stuffed animals. We took down all the pictures Ava drew for him. His blankets came home. We were empty handed. Just his stuff in our arms. We dressed him in a beautiful satin blue and white angel gown and put a soft, blue hat on him. We wrapped and unwrapped him over and over. Kissed and snuggled him to our faces, the way you nuzzle your fresh newborn baby. We took pictures of his hands and feet, his tiny, sweet ears. We made molds of his hands and feet, they didn’t come out great but it showcased his little fingers and cute baby toes. I had my sister give him his first haircut. I poked at his squishy tummy and held him on my chest….the way I longed to for 3 long months. I looked over every square inch of his perfect little body, so I would never forget anything about him.
After a while, I knew our time was running short. I wrapped him up one last time and placed his precious body in the basket. I paced the room over and over again until I went back and picked him up out of that basket. I held him a little longer and rocked him back and forth. How could we leave him, our sweet baby boy we prayed for and loved on? How could we be at this point already?
We knew he was no longer in his earthly body. Stuck in the body that limited his movement, and prohibited him from doing so many things we hoped he would do. He was free. He was no longer a prisoner to the NICU.
Planning his memorial was tough. No one tells you that you actually have to make decisions, major decisions shortly after death. I wanted to curl into a ball, but I couldn’t. They want to know what you are doing, what your plans are. And making those decisions under the fog of grief is next to impossible. We ended up with a beautiful memorial at our church, thanks to the help of our family and friends, and of course the funeral director we worked with. He clearly had done this before, and it didn’t phase him that Harrison was a baby. He was kind and respectful. He checked in with us multiple times, even after the memorial.
We made two big poster boards full of our favorite pictures of Harrison and our family. Ava’s beautiful drawings were made into a book. Ava, myself and my sister put together a scrapbook with more pictures. The professional pictures that were done by Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep were made into a book with the help of Shutterfly. My sister made a video complete with the sweetest song. We brought all Harrison’s favorite things to the memorial. Some of our favorite outfits. My favorite thing was a stamp we made from Harrison’s little hand. We used the handprint stamp on a bunch of small brown envelopes and filled the envelopes with daisy and zinnia seeds. When our friends and family began planting them, they would sent us the pictures or tagged us in Facebook. I loved seeing other people remember him.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of Harrison’s flowers this coming summer.
I think of this day often. It’s still fresh in my memory. Most times, I just bawl my eyes out thinking of this day. Other times, I try to push the memories away, so I can carry on with my day. Every day is a balance, some days more happy, others more sad. Every day just trying to make it through to the next.