Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kellen's memorial service

The day of Kellen's service was very very difficult. We had decided to keep it intimate with just our parents, siblings and their families. I'm glad we did because this time around, I was not nearly as strong.

I knew I wanted to say something over the grave, but was completely blank. During the days prior we had planned how we wanted the service to go. I knew my turn to speak would come but as I tried to plan the words to say all I wanted to do was scream. I wanted to pound my fists on the ground and yell until I couldn't yell anymore.  I wanted to break something. I wanted to get a blanket and lay on the ground next to my babies and ask everyone to please just leave me there.

Giving up is not an option, though. So, I went through the days in Colorado like a robot until suddenly we were in the car on the way to the service and still I had no clue what words to leave with my son in the ground.

Lucas had realized what he wanted to say while in the shower that morning, and had a few notes scribbled on a small yellow notepad. I grabbed his notepad and while we drove I suddenly felt as if the prayers of strength that we said and that other people were praying for us were answered all at once. I put the pen on the paper and wrote and wrote. I began to cry as I knew the words that I wanted my children to hear, and the words I needed to hear myself say. It came to me from somewhere else. I wrote as fast as I could to catch up with the thoughts that came pouring into my head from where the faith of other people gathered.

When I finished I was crying and we had a few minutes left in the car. Lucas pulled off the highway. I said, "I'm already crying. I'm going to lose it today. I'll be crying so hard nobody will understand me." Lucas said, "That's okay." He rested his hand on my leg and squeezed it a little.

A minute later,  Lucas said, "I want to break something."
I replied, "Me too. We should go to a driving range and go nuts."
He said, "Seriously. It felt so good the other night to throw rocks as hard as I could to break the ice on your parents pond." I smiled. I totally understood. Being here again is too hard. It's much easier to want to put all our feelings into one little rock and throw it away from us as hard as we possibly can. 

Minutes later, we arrived and Lucas and I were led into Kellen's viewing room. We had a few minutes alone while we waited for our families. We walked up to our son and looked at how incredibly cute he was. I wanted to stay there with him forever.

A brick came out of the emotional wall I had built as I realized the moment had come. We really were standing in the viewing room with the body of our second child to leave us too soon. I couldn't take it. I turned to Lucas and cried softly into his chest. He put his arms around me and we hugged for a while trying to brace ourselves for the coming hour.

Soon our families were arriving. Lucas' family came in and some of my family. Then more of my family arrived. My friend, Kristen, who was there to take pictures came and saw him, and we kept waiting.

My parents arrived and brought in the room with them the flowers for the top of the casket and for the table out at the graveside where the casket would lay during the service. I went and looked at them. They were beautiful white flowers that looked light and perfect mixed with greens and blues. However, I wasn't sure why they were there. Last time the flowers seemed to just appear where they were needed. These belonged outside.

My mom told me that one of the bunches of flowers would go on the top of the casket so I took it and carried it over to a chair. Lucas asked about it and said he wasnt sure he wanted to carry the casket with the flowers on it. Everyone was looking at me waiting for me to decide what to do with the flowers.

I broke. I started crying and said (unfortunately, probably rudely) "I don't know! I just don't care about flowers right now." I was second from actually screaming. I just wanted my babies. I am in no state of mind to make decisions. I just needed people to make them for me and just do things. Quite simply, I didn't have enough energy to put a smile on, stand in this room with the body of my son, and care about anything else.

My mom hurried over to me and put her arms around me. I was feeling both appreciative and angry. Grieving is weird. I wanted her to hug me forever and also let go. I wanted to keep getting mad and also apologize for not being more patient. So I just hugged her for a while, then said, "Lucas doesn't want to carry the casket with the flowers." My mom nodded and my parents took all the flowers and gave them to the funeral people to get them where they needed to be.

When they came back everyone gathered together in the room. We stood close together, almost shoulder to shoulder - Lucas' family and mine. Kellen and Molly's family. Then my dad said an amazingly beautiful prayer that calmed me down. It made me feel peace again. It made me want to give Kellen this day. I could make it through this for him.  After the prayer we stood in silence for minute then I realized nobody knew what to do. I told everyone to get in their cars and go wait behind the hearse so Lucas and I could close the casket together and Lucas could carry Kellen to the hearse.

When they left,we walked over to Kellen. We stood over our son's body and looked at him for the last time. I touched his tiny head. I said to both of them, "I don't want to close it." The tears came back and I whispered things to Kellen. Told him I love him and miss him.

Lucas went over to the table to get the blanket I had spent many hours making for Kellen. We decided to bury him with it. It was the first blanket I had ever made and it took me many many hours. The blanket made me emotional because it was a physical way for me to make sure that as Kellen rests in the ground he can be wrapped in my love.

Carefully, we wrapped him in the blanket. He looked handsome and cozy. I looked at Lucas and saw tears silently falling down his cheeks. I leaned forward and gave my son a final kiss and said goodbye. We closed the lid. We cried for a minute, both of us keeping a hand on the casket. We wanted to go back in time and open it again, somehow make it so Kellen was alive. But we also knew that in order to heal we needed to move forward. This was a step we had to make. So we hugged, wiped away our tears and pulled ourselves together.

Lucas carried Kellen then, in that tiny white box, out the door. Our families were in their cars in a line waiting for us. I followed Lucas and Kellen, and once the casket was securely in the car we grabbed hands and got in our car to follow him down to where he would rest next to his sister.

Once at the graveside we saw the familiar green tent and rows of chairs in the same place where they were set up for Molly's service. Lucas carried Kellen's casket from the car to a table between the flowers. The funeral people got the balloons out and ready for the balloon release.  Everyone came and took a seat for the service or stood behind the chairs. The weather was perfect and the cemetery looked beautiful.

Lucas stood up and began the service. He thanked everyone for coming and explained that anyone who wanted to share something was welcome to do so after he and I shared what we needed to.

Then, as he always does, he spoke with power and love. He shared a scripture from the Book of Mormon and some of his words he spoke to me, some to our children. He shared some things he has realized about trials and about how God loves us. He shared how he saw different ways we had been prepared for this.  He gave me courage as I watched him. He is an amazing man, husband, and today especially, an amazing father. I know as he spoke his children were proud of who he is and that they are his.

When he finished I stood.  I shared that this was hard to be doing again, but that it was a blessing. I tried to explain the ways our children would continue to bless our lives and how the motivation to get back to them and make them proud would heal the hearts that miss them now. I shared my testimony of Jesus Christ and how it is through Him that we know we will see our beautiful babies in perfect, celestial, resurrected bodies again. When I finished I felt peaceful. I felt that I had said the things that I wanted my kids to know. I ended saying that I knew we could do it, Lucas and I. The struggle to live in a way that would make us worthy of such pure children was not going to beat us. We would get our children back.

When I finished I sat down and Lucas' dad stood. He spoke mostly to Lucas and I. He shared that he knew we were meant for something big. That Lucas and I were going to be able to help people because of our experience here. One of my favorite things he said was that we were going to be called to do some difficult things, and we were already being called to have patience and endurance. Then he pointed to Kellen's casket and said, "This will be your reward." My heart swelled and I knew there was no greater reward than the joy that will come when we are reunited with both Molly and Kellen.

Next, Lucas' mom stood. She shared with us her feelings and her love for both of us. Then she shared a poem a friend of hers had written about this loss. She shared a bit of her testimony and then she smiled at us with tear filled eyes and sat down next to me.

Next my dad stood. He pulled out a couple sheets of paper and I could see tons of his handwritten notes with words crossed out and to me it looked as though he had struggled all night to put his heart down on paper. His chin quivered as he shared with us his love and his testimony of the gospel. He cried as he shared with us a story of how God gave both him and my mom the strength to make it through her cancer. A second story about how when he climbed with my brother to base camp of Mt Everest he thought he could go no further. The Lord was with him on that mountain and when he could walk no more, the Lord gave him strength. It was perfect.

When he finished we sat for a second and listened to the sniffles of our family members. There was a peace there as it seemed that all that needed to be said had been.

Finally, it was time for Lucas to place Kellen in the grave. If you have never seen your husband place your baby in the ground, I will tell you there are few things harder to watch.  Also, that watching it a second time is like having your heart ripped out and changed forever so it will never go back in and feel right.

Once Kellen was placed in the ground Lucas stood up. It was time to dedicate the grave and for Lucas to place a blessing on the ground where Kellen would rest. We waited for a second and I watched his face. Lucas is a strong man. He rarely cries. He cried a bit at our wedding, and other than that I have only seen him cry for Molly and Kellen. Right now I saw pure pain on his face.

I could see that placing Kellen in the ground was the straw that broke him. He looked as though he wanted to run away. As the tears began to fall down his face I  wrapped my arms around him. He whispered, "I don't think I can do this." I touched his face and whispered to him words to try and comfort him. Normally it is Lucas who gives me courage at times like these, but now I was trying with all I had to hold his breaking heart together. Our family disappeared in that moment. It was just us standing there and suddenly we both knew Molly and Kellen were with us. They gave us strength to say say goodbye.

When Lucas felt ready he gave a BEAUTIFUL blessing. I cried my eyes out. I was so proud of him and of our children. I saw my husband strengthened by them and by the Lord. It gave me strength.

When Lucas finished my brother, Jason offered a prayer to close the service. Again, the words he spoke were perfect and powerful. I couldn't keep from crying despite the strength I was feeling. When he closed his prayer, everyone gathered in the grass a little way off from where Kellen and Molly lay and took a balloon. Then, Lucas let go of the only blue balloon, and I let go of a white one for Molly. Silently, everyone else let go of their balloons and as it usually is, we stood in awe of the beautiful symbolism of watching them float away. We watched a blue and white balloon, Kellen and Molly, leading our family- just as it really is. 

When the balloons were out of sight and the service was over everyone began to talk and hug. We thanked people individually for their words and help. I took a flower out of the bunches and kneeled on the ground next to the hole where my son laid. I reached inside and placed a white flower with him. My last physical gift. As my eyes watered I felt peace and closure. I cleaned off Molly's marker, and took one of the flower bunches and gave it to her. I want her to know that we are thinking of her too, today. Lucas came over and helped me up off the ground.

In some ways this service was much harder than Molly's. In other ways it was easier. However, it felt right. Since it ended Lucas and I have felt lighter and happier. We have been able to know that we reached into our hearts and shared the words with our children, family, and ourselves that we needed in order to keep walking.

Now that is what we have to do. We keep walking. We keep loving Kellen. We keep loving Molly. We keep breathing. We keep trying. We never give up because one day they wont be in the ground. They will be with us.


Katie said...

Yes they will. Thanks for sharing this. I cried through the entire thing.

Harlowe said...

The service sounds beautiful but I just cannot stop crying for your family. Praying for you all.

Haley said...

While a read this, I sobbed. And when you talked about being angry and wanting to break something, I couldn't help but want to break something too. I can't imagine what you and Lucas are going through...there simply are no words. However, I'm grateful to hear that you are feeling the prayers being said for you, because there are many. So many people love you and are here for you. I love you Amber. I will continue to pray for your family. If you are ever in Cache Valley please let me know. I have a really big hug waiting for you.

Jackie said...

Such a beautifully written but sad sad post. I too cried both with and for you. Thank you for sharing your memories. Jackie.

Keeley Farrell said...

You and your husband amaze me with your strength and faith. The Lord does not give his children more than they can handle. He knows which of his children are stronger than others and he blesses those children in different ways, ways that are more difficult, but have a more satisfying reward. Many blessings to you and your husband and family.
-Keeley Farrell

nina said...

I don't even know you but have been crying for you because I also am a mother. I can't even imagine the pain you must be feeling. May God be with you and your husband. I don't know if this will help or if you have ever read this blog, but there is a woman who lost her little girl that blogged through the whole thing, she is a true inspiration and I'm sure her words would be comforting if you are interested. Her blog is:

missliany said...

What a beautiful service you were able to give your son. You are such a strong person.