As soon as we drove through the gates, I couldn’t help but immediately notice all the changes that had been made to the large property. The main office was in a different location, as well as the restrooms. We started coming here in September of 2008 and it was now October of 2020. I knew this place like the back of my hand.
Or, at least I thought I did.
My husband Brian and I held vigil every day in the very same spot, surrounded by flowers, toys, and other grieving visitors.
As our precious baby boy Liam never made it out of the hospital, the cemetery was his home.
His final resting place.
Liam was our firstborn and being there was the only way we knew how to parent him. Providing Liam’s tombstone with various holiday decorations and stuffed animals was our version of changing his diaper or giving him a bath.
It was the least we could do for a baby we were no longer able to hold in our arms.
Liam was only nine days old when he passed away due to a congenital heart defect. Brian and I were left completely devastated with absolutely no idea on how to go on.
And thus, St. Charles cemetery became our second home, too.
In the days that followed Liam’s passing, Brian and I went to see Liam every single day. Initially, being there not only filled me with grief but also anger and rage.
How could I have let this happen to my son?
It may seem a little crazy to those who have never experienced this horrific loss, but self-blame is quite common among those who have suffered the unimaginable.
As parents, our duty is to nurture and protect them. We are the ones who are supposed to go before them, not the other way around.
Burying a child goes against the natural order of life.
With some time off due to bereavement, I imagined ways in which we could make this whole parenting thing work.
It was pure misery and nothing short of hell on earth, but Liam was still our son and we wanted to honor him.
We needed to honor him.
“Why don’t we just move into one of those apartments near Liam?” I once asked my husband.
That way, I could see him as often as I wanted. Being that the cemetery was an hour from our home, my idea would enable us to spend more time with him.
These elaborate thoughts started to fade a few months later when I found out I was expecting my second child. Still, that didn’t stop us from going.
However, as the years passed, our excursions became more and more infrequent.
By the time we welcomed our third child in 2012, the visits were mostly reserved for the holidays.
A bereavement counselor I saw shortly after Liam’s passing warned me this would eventually happen. I refused to believe her then.
What kind of mother would I be for not going to see my baby boy? The whole idea of it seemed preposterous and just so very wrong.
“You don’t need to be there every day to love your son. Liam is always with you in your heart and in your mind,’’ she said.
Her words continue to sting every time we go. These days, it is not just Brian and me. An 11-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy have joined us.
In reality, we can’t be there every waking second of the day as we have to also care for Liam’s siblings. Initially, this filled me with a ton of guilt.
Then I came to realize that Liam’s little spirit wouldn’t want it any other way.
We were all a family together.
As our living children have gotten older, they have begun to process more. They have ideas on what to bring to the grave. They want to make sure he gets a Christmas present, too. They talk about him frequently, and we welcome that.
They sure do miss him, though.
As do we.
Although our family is just not the same without him, we choose to remember Liam as a blessing.
We are comforted by our prayers that we will be reunited in Heaven one day.