We spent the day after she was born preparing for her memorial service. Rhett and I met with the funeral home early on Friday morning. We were so blessed to have such understanding and caring people to work with. They truly made a very sad time for us, as bearable as possible. I had no idea what to expect, but they had everything we needed, and the process was not as hard as it could have been. Looking back, I think I was in a sort of daze, and just going through the motions. My precious husband was amazing, and so supportive. He was/is my stronghold, and answered questions when I could not. He completed sentences for me, held my hand, and wiped many of my tears......he truly took care of me.
We chose a beautiful white casket for Caroline, and we also had several things placed in it with her. She and I have matching pearl bracelets. Her bracelet was so very tiny, but it was so beautiful. This is another one of the little details that were so amazingly "worked out". I ordered our bracelets just a few days before Caroline was born, and they were supposed to take 2-3 weeks to make. But, praise the Lord, they arrived just 3 days after I placed the order, on the day she was born and died! Each bracelet has a silver disc, with Caroline engraved on the front, and the words "forever loved" on the back. Her sweet bracelet has a tiny cross on it, and mine has a charm with precious little baby feet. I am so thankful I have a matching bracelet, and I will forever treasure it. We also included a picture of our family, Rhett, me, and our sweet little boys. I chose to put my old Bible in with her. This is the Bible I had in high school/college, and for the first part of our marriage. Rhett bought me a new one a few years ago, because my old one was literally falling apart. I absolutely love that Bible, and still read it quite often. I always enjoyed reading the notes I had in the side-bars, highlighted verses, and dates written that I read a certain verse that really spoke to me. I wanted to give all of that to my sweet little girl, because it meant so much to me. She was also buried with a soft a cuddly rabbit, that had Psalm 139:13-16 ....printed on the belly. These were just a few of the special things we wanted to do for. Knowing that she has a few things from us, things that are special and close to my heart, provide me with some comfort.
On Friday, just 24 hours after her birth, we also had the very difficult task of choosing her final, "earthly", resting place. In the previous months, Rhett and I had visited a particular memorial garden, but we had not made a decision. At the time of her birth, we were still undecided on whether we would choose cremation or burial for her. I remember talking to our pastor while I was in labor at the hospital, about what we were planning. I expressed to him that we were still so unsure about what we wanted for her, and what would be best for our family. At that point, I just wanted some one to tell me what to do.....so that would be one less decision for me to make. I am sure he saw the desperate look in my eyes at 1 AM that morning, and he sweetly took my hand, and spoke very wisely to me. He said he understood how terribly hard this decision would be for us, and that there is no wrong choice. He told us how the memorial for her would be, with either choice. He then kindly gave us the best advice when he said, "Amanda, you will know exactly what to do for her, when you meet her. Mama's always know what is best". Once again, I was overwhelmed with peace and comfort, and felt a huge relief. Oh, how correct he was! Once our sweet little angel was born, we knew with certainty that she would be buried, and not cremated. Over the weeks leading up to her birth, this decision was really weighing heavy with me, and it was so wonderful to finally have a peace about her final resting place. Let me say here that we in no way think there is anything wrong with cremation (we heavily considered it for Caroline), but when the time came, burial was right for us. I just could not gain the peace I needed over cremation. The only reason I have for this is just that it was not the right decision for Rhett and me, and thankfully we do have that much needed peace over having buried our sweet baby.
Rhett and I were pretty sure about where we wanted her buried, but we wanted to be certain. We spent the afternoon looking at a few different areas, but we came back to our original plan. I can honestly tell you that at the age of 30, I never imagined I would be choosing a place for my tiny baby to be buried, much less choosing the place for me and my husband. You see, Rhett nor I could imagine our baby girl being buried alone. We chose to go ahead and purchase our grave sites as well, right beside her, so one day (hopefully many years from now), we will be laid to rest beside our precious baby girl. We know that the burial site has nothing to do with eternity, but we found comfort in knowing that we will share the places beside her. So in less than 36 hours, we gave birth, said hello and goodbye to our beautiful Caroline, planned her memorial, picked out a casket for her, and burial sites for all three of us. Once again, this was a really tough day for us, but God just gave me so much strength and energy, and I was able to make some very tough decisions.
We are so pleased with the memorial garden where Caroline is buried. It is very peaceful and quiet there. There are many trees, you can hear the birds chirping, and it is just a beautiful place. The weather for her memorial was fantastic. It was chilly, but the sun was shining and the sky was crystal blue. I kept thinking what a beautiful day it was, and I know the beauty Caroline sees every day in Heaven is a million times more beautiful. She is buried right beside a pond, and there was still snow on the bank of the pond during her service. I could go on for days about her service and how beautiful it was. There were a lot of absolutely gorgeous flowers, that meant so much to us. I know my sweet little girl would have loved fresh flowers as much as her mommy!
Before her service began, Rhett and I took Wesley to the memorial park early. We wanted to have some time alone with him, and try and explain to him what was happening. He did amazingly, and in his own sweet 3 year old way, has a wonderful picture of Heaven. We opened her service with a sweet friend of ours singing "It is well with my soul". Cheryl did an amazing job, and it meant so much to us for her to be able to sing. I truly do not know how she did it, but I am so thankful she did. That hymn is one of my favorites, and although my heart hurts every day over our sweet Caroline, and the journey we have had with her, it is truly well with my soul; because I know that God holds us all in His hands, and His plans are perfect for us. Even when we don't understand why or how, He does, and that is all that matters. Our preacher did an amazing job! His words were very encouraging and comforting. The promises from our Heavenly Father, given to us through Job's many trials in his life, are so true and uplifting. He was correct in saying that in the beginning of our journey we had to put our minds around her diagnosis, and then through it, and now we have to put our minds beyond it. Her service was concluded with our music minister singing "Because He Lives". Another of my all time favorite hymns. The only way I can face tomorrow without my sweet baby girl, is because I have a Savior that lives, and loves me, and has a PERFECT plan for my life. Because He lives, we can all face tomorrow!!!
At the end of her service, we spent some time talking with our family. It was very hard to feel so much pain and grief, and also to see how several of our family and close friends were grieving our baby girl. Caroline's life was very brief, but every day, I see/hear about more and more ways that she had a positive effect on some one. I am thankful God chose me to be her mommy, and I am even more grateful for the many ways she is making me a better person. After every one left, Rhett and I spent some time alone at her grave, and then we headed home. As we left, I had many emotions. I could not believe I was walking away from my sweet baby girl, but I was also thankful for the closure we were beginning to experience, and for the "new normal" that would develop over the weeks/months to come.
After the service, we had some fellowship time with our family at our house. We enjoyed a great lunch provided by my sweet friend Carrie. Having our family here to support us and celebrate Caroline's life was wonderful. We are so thankful for every one that cared for us and her, and for those who travelled a long way to be with us. Rhett and I decided in the beginning that we just wanted to be alone with our boys after our journey with Caroline was over. Thankfully, our family respected our wishes, and after lunch, every one headed home. We were truly exhausted, but all we wanted was to love on each other and our precious baby boys. I just knew that my sweet boys needed as much normalcy as I could provide, and honestly Rhett and I needed room to breathe. The weeks and months leading up to Caroline's birth and death were filled with so much uncertainty. We were worn out from labor/delivery, and all of the many decisions we made in such a short amount of time, and we welcomed the quietness in our home that afternoon. We knew the emotional rollercoaster was in no way over, but we were ready to embrace the healing and closure that we so desperately needed.
Thank you very much to all of our family and friends for loving us and our precious daughter. It has always been our prayer that she would be a blessing to others, and we are so thankful we were chosen to help full fill her purpose. It is comforting to hear how her story has been a blessing to some one. We are doing really good, and every day gets better. There will never be a day that I do not miss my baby girl, but I know we will see her again. Heaven has always sounded so wonderful and amazing to me, but now it is even sweeter, because I know I will hold and kiss my lovely baby girl again. I hope Heaven is your desire, and Rhett and I are praying for all of the lost souls in this world. I pray that every one can experience the joy in knowing eternal salvation and happiness, that can only come from Jesus Christ! To God be the glory, great things he has done!!!