It was the Saturday following Sebastian’s funeral. We were feeling so incredibly empty and as though the world moved on and we were expected to as well. Don’t get me wrong, we were certainly still receiving some loving messages from family and friends, but we felt as though we were expected to have received closure from the funeral and should now commence healing.
However, this was something that we could not do. We could not start healing until we had our boy’s ashes home with us. The funeral director had previously told us it would be two weeks before we would have his ashes. This felt like a ridiculously long time to wait and I refused to wait it.
After researching the process of cremation, I learnt that Sebastian was cremated on the day of his funeral, three days ago! So I was confused as to why it would take two weeks. I spoke to my mum and she suggested I call them and see if he is ‘ready’, so I did. The lady on the phone asked me “had someone made contact to tell you to pick him up?” my response was, “no, but I am impatient and don’t want to wait two weeks. I need my son home”, she agreed that she would feel the same. Sure enough he was ready to be picked up on the Monday.
Monday came, it was 3pm in the afternoon and another funeral was occurring next to the office of the crematorium. We went inside and a very polite lady invited us in her office which was full of empty urns and different types of plaques. She sat us down and asked how we were going, it felt like she was trying to gauge our readiness to collect the ashes (maybe that is why they like to wait 2 weeks!?) or to provide us with counselling. We politely answered her questions as we once again would hold back tears. We hoped that we would one day be able to talk about Sebastian whilst smiling with pride, instead of having our eyes well up with tears.
The lady asked whether we had seen what ashes came in and showed us an empty container to prepare us. We had every intention of going there that day to pick out an urn, Sebastian’s little home, or cosy place for his body. But the urns for babies on display did not reflect the preciousness and handsome looks that was our boy. As the lady left the room to collect Sebastian, we discussed we would ask whether she had alternatives. However, when she returned holding a white gift bag, that essentially was holding our boy, we couldn’t bring ourselves to ask. It was horrible. We should be receiving gift bags full of presents at a baby shower, not a gift bag holding our son. We fought back tears and I avoided making eye contact. The lady leaned across James to hand me Sebastian “does Mum want to carry bubba?” I shook my head and said that his Dad could. I had carried Sebastian his whole life. James had only held Sebastian in a coffin; I felt he would like to be the one to carry him home. And he did.
We were so keen to leave the office; we didn’t want to be there any longer than needed. A cemetery is no place for a baby and we wanted to take ours home. We brushed off the lady’s questions once again and headed for the door – we could barely speak and we did not want to look into the bag in front of her, we didn’t want to appear any more vulnerable than we already did.
When we got to the car, we discussed whether it was appropriate to put him on the back seat like how a baby comes home from the hospital; however we decided it would be more of an honour if his dad held him in the front for the journey home. Once we were in the car, we pulled him out of the gift bag.
Sebastian’s ashes were in a blue/grey plastic container and his plaque from the coffin (the one I hated because it didn’t mention his Dad) was taped on the top. “It is so impersonal” James said as I agreed. It was horrifying to hear the ashes move inside the box as we each had a turn of holding it. We haven't moved it in any other direction since, because the sound is heart breaking. We apologised to Sebastian that he was once in my warm cosy belly and was now in a plastic box, when really he should be in our arms as we sing him songs.
We only live 20 minutes from the cemetery, but we thought that we would probably not drive around with Sebastian’s ashes very often…. So we took the ‘scenic’ route. We drove past all the local places we attend (shopping centres, petrol stations, parks, family’s houses etc.) We showed him where he would have gone to school and talked to him about the shelves we had set up for him at home. We explained that it was not finished (and still is not) as it was hard to decide how to make it perfect for him. ‘It’s a work in progress’ we explained.
When we got home I walked him around every room of our house and explained how it would be used if he was here, “this is a games room where your dad plays PlayStation, but it would be your toy room”, “this is where you would have baths”, “this is where we would have family dinners” and finally “this is your room, this is where you would play and sleep”. I showed him all the things we had bought him and sat with him in a rocking chair that James’ Mum had bought for us. I sang him a song and cried.
I eventually introduced him to our cats and then placed him on his shelf we had installed in our room. “you will be with me every night before I go to sleep, and every morning when I wake up”. It is right in front of where I sleep, so he is the first and last thing I see each day, and I love that.
He sits on the shelf with a few other gifts people had bought for him as well as a couple of bears that were given when he was born and at his funeral, as well as his little blue beanie and blanket that kept him warm when he entered the world sleeping.
The plastic box he is in makes me really sad. Whenever I touch it, it is extremely cold. I have wrapped him in a blanket so it isn’t cold anymore, I would put him closer to me on the bedside table on nights where crying replaced sleeping, and I would cuddle and hold him throughout the day when I felt as though parts of me are missing. I talk to him every morning and kiss him every day. It is not how I pictured saying good morning and good night to him, but we are so incredibly helpless and left with no alternative.
We had thought we could spread some of his ashes somewhere nice, but decided that he is a baby and should not be away from his parents. He should be kept whole and with us. He is my most prized possession in our house. Every day we leave the house we hope that when we get home our house has not been burned to the ground or he has been stolen. I know it is a weird thought to have, but if I was to lose his ashes, it would feel as though I was losing him all over again. I will never be able to be separated from him and I have not yet gone a full day away from home. I wonder how desperate I will be to get home each day once I return to work.
I feel so strongly about this that it has led me to put off purchasing an urn for him to be transferred to. I know that a nice looking Urn will make me feel better and show Sebastian how much we still honour his little body and care for him - and we really do! But the thought of his ashes being transferred into another urn and his ashes accidentally being spilt or tiny little fragments remaining in the plastic box, terrifies me.
When we first picked Sebastian up I was desperate to look inside, I felt we owed that to him. But as I struggled to undo the canister I looked at my hands and saw that my fingers were covered in ash. I froze and freaked out, “what was I going to do with this ash on my fingers?”, I can’t just wash my hands and have tiny little parts of him go down the drain. After what felt like an hour of me staring at my hands, I decided to gently wipe my fingertips on his beanie (it has a tiny speck of his blood stained on it already, so I feel like it is connected to him). To be honest the amount of ash was so minimal, that once I put it on his beanie you couldn’t even see it. But I felt relieved.One day we will find the courage to go shopping for an urn and organise his transfer. We wonder whether we would buy new urns once he gets older to match his age, or whether he will always be our baby, despite being our eldest child. I guess we will always have thoughts about the “what if’s” and wonder what his interests would be or his personality would be like as the years pass. We will always be haunted by thoughts of the life he has missed. And that really hurts us. We know we need to deal with each day as it comes, and lots of people have said how much they admire our strength. But at the moment, we do not see ourselves as strong, we see ourselves as treading water to survive. We don’t even feel strong enough to select an urn for the baby we love and adore so much.