Sometimes the ludicrousness of the sentence, “My child had cancer and died,” has to bring humor in order for me to not go insane. A few weeks ago I had a day when that happened. I finally had to make myself go buy fake flowers for Sophie’s gravesite. Taking that step was too permanent for awhile. Now don’t get me wrong, I am PAINFULLY aware of how very permanent our situation is but, I guess I just wasn’t ready to do that one thing.

I had my routine of buying 2 fresh bouquets every week when I went to the cemetery on Thursdays and that was fine. I think it stems from being the mom of a sassy little girl. I always had matching clothes on her with a bow or headband. She always had on matching socks and, if she’d let me take her Crocs off, we’d have on matching shoes too. Part of being a mom is making sure your kids have what they need—diapers, wipes, snacks, blankets, toys, diaper bag, car seat, etc. But for me—that’s not my life anymore. I don’t have to worry about any of those extra things so in a way, taking care of the gravesite and taking new fresh flowers every week was me ‘taking care of her’ like picking out clothes and bows.

So going weekly had become my ‘new normal’ and I am currently rolling my eyes because I HATE THAT PHRASE but, at the same time—it’s so true and accurate. It was my new normal until one random rough day. I had gone out there alone and was kind of scared that I couldn’t make myself leave her so, I decided to not go for a few weeks for myself. And the guilt I felt about that is a whole other issue for another day. The point is—I hadn’t been in awhile.

Then Jonathan gets a message from a friend of ours from church that he was at a funeral and the gravesite being dug up was right behind Sophie’s plot. We have intentionally not made her location or headstone public so he was honored to have been able to celebrate the life of someone right next to our girl. He sent a photo of her grave and I swear my heart fell out of my body onto the floor. The flowers I had taken . . . weeks before . . . were dead, brown, and gross. I started sobbing. I had failed to ‘take care of her’. I had failed to keep her spot pretty. I was terrible and horrible and blah blah blah blah blah all that crap the Enemy tells us about ourselves when we are hurting.

The next day, Mother’s Day (because there weren’t enough emotions that day right?!), we went to Michael’s to buy the fake flowers. I found some pretty pink and white bunches and they were okay. I wasn’t 100 percent satisfied with them but, I really don’t think anyone is ever “happy” with the flowers they select for their child’s grave. My sweet husband though, he’s so good at finding the silver lining. He says, “Well look the good news is the sun will bleach these out over time so in a month or two you can come look again and take new ones to her.” But that’s not the funny part . . . 

That afternoon my brother was coming to stay with us and he stopped at the cemetery to see her before he came over. I decided it was a good time to take the new flowers. When I got there he had already take out the dead flowers and had brushed off the dirt from the stone. I started taking the tags off and bending the stems to arrange them into the vases. I got the flowers all in the vases like I wanted but there was a problem—there was too much extra room in the vases and the flowers were too loose. I did not want a storm or the wind to blow them away.


I stole dirt from the grave that had been dug up behind Sophie. I know. It’s terrible. But I did it. The grave was less that 24 hours old so there was plenty of dirt still piled high and I just saw no other way to keep my baby’s flowers in one spot. So I stole dirt. My brother said, “ I literally cannot believe you did that,” and we laughed for a good 20 minutes over it. I mean I did apologize to the guy and said it was for my daughter. I even adjusted his flower wreaths so they were more orderly and I saw there was a ribbon on one of them . . . the guy’s grandkids called him PAPPY!!!! Guys, Soph called my dad Pappy. I mean hello—if that’s not a sign that this man would understand my dilemma, I don’t know what is. I’ve honestly thought about taking a bag of dirt up there one day to replace what I took.

I’m a mom to a toddler in heaven.

I can’t do anything for her here so I take care of her grave.

I stole dirt.

It was hilarious.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Shelby Skiles

Shelby Skiles is a wife, teacher, and mom to her two-year-old angel, Sophie. Sophie passed away in January 2018 from Lymphoma. Shelby chronicled Sophie’s entire battle through her blog Sophie The Brave and hopes that transparently sharing her journey through, motherhood, cancer, and now grief will inspire others to look passed their circumstances and see that God is bigger than all of it. She’s deeply committed to honoring Sophie’s memory by sharing her story and I spring others to ‘Do More’ and make a difference.