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shopping with my daughter

Em is a mother of four children. As she describes it, "Three sons on earth who bless me daily and one daughter in Heaven who has impacted more people than I know in her too-short life here. I miss my daughter with every breath." Em writes about her and her life after Eva on her blog After Eva. Em's essay was selected in the spring guest post submission process, and we are so pleased to welcome her words here today. Please join in the conversation in the comment section. --Angie

I took you shopping today, my sweet.

First we dropped off your brothers with a friend. You didn't mind being left alone in the truck for a few minutes while I brought them inside. Then we went to the second-hand store the church runs on Friday mornings. My heart was heavy within me as I caressed you in my pocket while I drank coffee with another mum. The other children there were so demanding. Not you, my sweet. You were quiet as a mouse. I saw a pair of shoes on the shelf. Little shoes that should be just your size. I wanted them. I ached for them. I left them there.  Actually I had donated them to the store a few weeks earlier. They were to have been yours, my dear.

Then we went to pick up some photos. Photos of you, my sweet. It's amazing how good a deal photographers will give you  when the child in the photographs has died. They couldn't find them. Never mind, I'll pick them up another time.  We went on to the grocery store. I bought milk, tomatoes, yogurt, cucumbers... I didn't buy any baby food. We don't need any in our house. You don't eat it anymore, my darling.

Next stop, the mall. This special stop is why I brought you with me, my treasure. This is why you accompanied me shopping today. We stopped in at the little booth that does engraving. The lady there commented on how cute the little rocking horse was that I wanted engraved. She held it up and looked at it. She asked what I wanted engraved on it. I told her it was you she was so casually holding in her hand. You, my sweet, encased in a rocking horse that should have been a piggy bank for a living girl, not an urn for a dead one. You never should have been able to fit inside that little horse. We engraved your name:

Eva Ruby Christine-October 15 2010 to August 15 2011.

Beloved Daughter, Sister, and Granddaughter. There are so few things I can buy for you, so few ways I can mother you.  So, I get your urn engraved. I caress your name etched into the pewter and the tears stream down my face at how beautiful it looks. How beautiful you are, my sweet.

We left the mall and carried on. We had many stops to do today. You didn't cry or fuss about your car seat. I took you out of my pocket when I was driving. Let you get some sunshine. We went out for lunch together. I put you on the table in front of me and I ignored all the people who looked at the tears washing down my face as I ate my lunch with you. I thought about how different it would have been  to have lunch with you if you were breathing. I wouldn't linger over coffee, and what would you be eating my darling? Would you want to hold a french fry in your chubby hand?

We drove back together, along the road we had come. I caressed you again in my pocket, rubbing my thumb along your newly engraved name, and we went to pick up your brothers.  They came tumbling out of the house. Full of joy. I gently showed your little rocking horse to my friend who babysat your brothers.  She didn't know what she was holding as she commented on how surprisingly heavy it was. That's when I told her it was heavy because it was full of ashes. Full of you, my treasure.

I didn't let her hold you long. I jealously reached back for you, and safely ensconced you in my pocket once again.


If you chose cremation, where do you keep your baby's ashes? Do you ever carry them with you? Have you ever taken them out with you? If you did not choose cremation, tell us about the ways in which you carry your baby or babies with you, i.e. through memorial jewelry, t-shirt, trinket, or tattoo.

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Reader Comments (24)

We had Finley cremated. I sometimes wish we didn't. I wish I had a place to go that would feel like 'home' where I could sit with him and talk to him.

His ashes are in a tiny ceramic teddy bear urn. There aren't many choices available for children's urns.

The teddy's eyes always feel like their staring. Almost chastising me for not picking it up and holding it like it was my baby.

But it doesn't feel like Finley to me, doesn't feel like my baby. It just feels like a ceramic urn that holds ashes. Maybe I'm strange, but for some reason that container of ashes just doesn't have any emotional draw for me.

I carry him with me always though. In my heart. In my mind. His footprints tattooed on my leg with his name. His photographs on my phone. I have conversations with him sometimes in my head. I tell him how much I love him.

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
We had Finley cremated. I sometimes wish we didn't. I wish I had a place to go that would feel like 'home' where I could sit with him and talk to him.

His ashes are in a tiny ceramic teddy bear urn. There aren't many choices available for children's urns.

The teddy's eyes always feel like their staring. Almost chastising me for not picking it up and holding it like it was my baby.

But it doesn't feel like Finley to me, doesn't feel like my baby. It just feels like a ceramic urn that holds ashes. Maybe I'm strange, but for some reason that container of ashes just doesn't have any emotional draw for me.

I carry him with me always though. In my heart. In my mind. His footprints tattooed on my leg with his name. His photographs on my phone. I have conversations with him sometimes in my head. I tell him how much I love him.

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
We cremated our daughter Gemma.
My father in law made an urn of maple, went and picked her ashes up and then sealed them inside by gluing the lid. I hadn't wanted to do the job of picking her ashes up, but then... I wanted to see them, to see how much ash there was, what it looked like. I felt slightly insane but pried the lid up and took out the bag holding her to look at. Then put it back.
The urn sits on our mantle for now. Sometimes I sit and hold it. I am torn about what to do with it. The idea of being physically separated from her body distresses me, and so it will stay for now. Maybe in the future we will scatter them or bury the urn. I would like a place to go to visit I think.
September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
Shelby was buried in a grave with my Dad who died when I was a toddler (my mum had buried Dad in a double plot so she could be buried there too but as she since remarried she said I could use it.). I wanted her to be with someone who could look after her. Part of me wishes I had her cremated so I could have her with me always. I don't ever want to move house in case I'm too far away from where she is. I wear a piece of jewellery to remind me of her. It's a little ball that has butterflies etched around it and a chime inside so when I walk, it jingles and I think of her.
September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShelby's Mum
My Charlotte was cremated. I know this is different from most of you, but I have no idea where her ashes are. My sisters took care of the arrangements, and my mom has her. I have no idea where. I have never seen her ashes, and I never saw her in the flesh. I could not bear it, and I don't think that I will ever be able to.
September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNikki
Grace is in a beautiful heart shaped urn. It has doves outlined in blue decorating it. It is wrapped in soft pink fabric and tied around the waist of the bear we were given at the hospital, our Grace bear. During the day it sits on a quilt made for Grace on the guest bedroom bed looking out the window at the front garden. At night the bear sleeps with us. On the bad nights I hold it close. Every morning I cuddle the bear and rub it's precious belly with it's belted urn and I talk to Grace. Cremation kept her body with us, I get to sleep with my baby every night. When I die I will be cremated as well and then our ashes will share a larger urn.
September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrace's Mom
My daughter was cremated as well, which hurt even more than a burial given my religion; the Rabbi literally took Talmudic law to the umpteenth degree because she did not emerge from me alive - too frazzling to explain. I am by no means super religious but this Conservative movement Rabbi was not budging; the movement in which I was raised;-he suggested a neutral cemetary but not a Jewish one - this was a double whammy. (I have since, years later, given this man a colossal piece of my mind) I was too broken down, as was my now ex-husband, to find another Rabbi to help and I have pretty much changed my own mind about burial rites.

When I knew the marriage was done and we had been officially separated for the amount of time my former State mandated, in an absolute rage of grief, heartbreak, alcohol and anger, I threw my 23.6 day daugther's ashes from the rooftop of our building; sprinkling Manhattan. Yep. There are days I regret and days I try to forget. I wanted her to be left there.

I am removed now but not so much so as I'm still coming to this site and reading some precious DBM blogs; it's so arduous and a unique situation in that I feel I am more disconnected to her because I am no longer with her father - like it has somehow lessended the pain but it's obvious it hasn't...still coming/still reading. I am in a precarious situation to grieve because despite he knows, has heard, was witness as a friend, I can't "overwhelm" my new spouse with all of this. He can sympathize, but he doesn't really know. He's good about it but won't look at the very few pics. I have. And now WE are trying and I'm a mess.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCava
Em - It's lovely to read your words here. You are a beautiful mother and I've so appreciated your kindness and compassion in the forums.

I wear Margot in a little urn necklace. My husband found it on fab.com, and it was meant for keeping little notes or something in it. The little necklace is basically a mini urn, and I have put some of her ashes in it. Some days it makes me miserably sad to wear her around. Other days it makes me feel so peaceful to have her with me. When I bathe my son, the long chained necklace often hangs over him.

It's not all of her. Some of her ashes we let go in her river at her memorial. Some of her ashes sit on our shelf, in a little corner dedicated to her. But this little piece of her I wear on me most days. The necklace was a birthday present and I can't imagine a more perfect gift.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKari
We chose to have Ethan's remains cremated. For a few months we had him in our home awaiting the day when we could spread some of his ashes and bury the rest with the apple tree we planted in his honor. I had never carried them with me. For some reason I didn't think I had all that much of an emotional attachment to his ashes until it came time to spread them. I chose to take a walk by myself, well...just the two of us I guess. I held his earthly remains, spoke to him, sang to him and then spread some of his ashes in the ocean. After this I walked back to where everyone else was gathered, planting the tree. We planted Ethan's ashes right along with the tree...it was beautiful.

I have worn one of two necklaces for months though, to have Ethan with me in a way that I could touch. One is charm of a forget-me-not with an amethyst on it. The other is a beautiful charm of the letter "E" for his name.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie
We had Alice's "wrapper" cremated (S calls her body her wrapper, and I like that idea - it was just what wrapped her, not actually her). Some of the hardest conversations we had the first few days after Alice's death were related to what kind of urn to buy. We didn't want something specifically child designed or with an angel or something like that. We looked everywhere (including in pet urns *sigh*) for a plain wodden box that would be small enough for Alice but yet beautiful and timeless. We finally found a small urn made of cedar from Costa Rica. Upon finding that, we immediately returned the shiny, cold, ugly burlwood urn we had found and bought the cedar. Its perfect. For now, it sits in our memory box in the baby room (hard to call it Alice's room since she never lived there). I take it out every once in awhile to hold it and smell the cedar. The only sad part is that the cedar has also taken away the smell of Alice that was left on her clothes and hat (in the memory box with the urn). Oops. We will keep her wrapper in our home for the foreseeable future. It makes us feel connected to her.

Thanks so much for sharing this, Em. Its beautiful.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
Thank you much for writing this Em, it was beautifully written.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCBP
That was beautiful. I was very moved by your spirit, and Em's.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterReader
Oh, Em, thank you so much for this. Thank you.

We buried AdiaRose. I love her spot, I love it. I feel so at peace there. The cemetery is up on a hill and the sky is big up there and there is always a breeze to turn her little pinwheel.

She is buried on top of my Gramma Sara. I asked my father-in-law to make her box, and I asked him to make it tall enough that the lid wasn't near her face. I wanted her to have space. When I was planting yellow mums and purple dahlias on her spot a couple weeks ago I dug down enough that I uncovered a little of her box. At first I thought it was a rock, but then I saw a little of the pink paint peeping through the dirt. Oh, what a moment that was. It was...thrilling. Comforting. It was like finding something you thought was gone forever. I imagine it's what it's like to have your Eva's ashes in a place you can see, and touch. I put my hand in the hole and brushed the dirt away and pressed my fingers to the wood. It felt dry and strong. I always knew where she was, but I never knew where exactly. How far down? several feet? In a concrete vault? I didn't know. The thing that popped into my head was that she is so close she can hear us when we sing to her.

I know it's a contradiction of sorts, because I know her soul is not down there. But I have a deep love and respect of her body too. It's what allowed her to be with us, it's the part of her I held and kissed and admired and couldn't stand to let go of. It was....the form she took as our daughter and sister, the physical form her soul lived in for seven months, even as she lived inside of me. It's visceral. I can't explain it. I'm attached. I'm her mother.

I have accumulated special jewelry this year to be sure. A Jizo prayer bead bracelet, a pendant of porcelain with two little angels that look like my two girls, with rosebuds all around, and a locket that is really a Tibetan box, so behind my girl's baby pictures I have a piece of my husband's shirt, my son's baby tooth, and a little curl of my dog's hair. I made a tiny Jizo dolly out of wood and he's on a ball chain with a single heart. My most favorite though is a pink plastic heart my four year old daughter tied to a thin length of red satin ribbon : ) So simple, so pretty, and made by those precious little hands.

Missing them becomes so heavy. We have to take our comfort where we can.

Thank you again, Em.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Em, beautiful sentiment in your writing. My daughter was cremated too. My aunt is a potter; I asked her if she would make an urn for us. Her son (my cousin) died when he was in his 30's, from cancer. She told me that the process of making my daughter's urn was cathartic in many ways, and actually helped her move through some of her own delayed grief over the loss of her son. She is a fountain of creativity and called me three months after she started to tell me she had "narrowed it down" to 10 or 12 urns (!) I love her. I told her to send me her favorite. She couldn't choose, so she sent me two, and both were beautiful. Both have textured lids, one with a sort of relief sculpture of a flower and its beautiful roots; the other lid actually holds an embedded heart-shaped shell that she found. I couldn't decide either. So I divided the ashes in two, one urn is in my room, the other is in my daughter's old room, with her picture, and a stuffed animal she was given the day she was born. I love the texture of the lids and often reach out and just let my hand rest there when I need to feel her, or when I want her to feel me.Your urn for Eva sounds lovely also. I am sorry she is not with you, brave mama.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLi
We had our baby girl buried in a private lot off the church where we had her memorial. I never go there. The traffic from the road is an abomination in such a place and once I found a discarded soda bottle. But we are planning to plant a dogwood there and some wildflowers. I'm not one for perfect bouquets or silk flowers. We planted a dogwood for my six-year-old when she was born and one in our yard when Tess died, so a dogwood at her grave seems perfect.
My husband bought me a pendant for Christmas. There is a website whose name I can never remember that engraves baby feet onto them. The artist is a bereaved mother herself. Jason wanted it to be a butterfly pendant and she searched and searched for the right one.
Our Tess was born still on July 26, 2011. In late September of that year, I encountered the last butterfly I would see of the season and I felt my daughter. I cannot explain how, but I knew it was her. I followed it in my car until it flew out of sight. That butterfly pendant isnt' her, and her grave isn't her, and she doesn't exist in the room she was supposed to have or the clothes she was supposed to wear, but I knew that day that she goes on. Somehow she goes on, and so I must go on too.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoy
Dear all,
I have read your comments with joy and tears. So many of your urns sound 'perfect' for lack of a better word to describe something you would never choose. Thank you for commenting and for the gift of reading my words and remembering my little love with me.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Em - beautiful, haunting, lovely post. I miss your little Eva for you. Thank you for sharing this with us.

My sweet Bode was cremated and we spread his ashes over Lake Tahoe in California. My family has a cabin in the mountains there and it's where my husband and I fell in love, got engaged and have built many memories. It's a place filled with love for us. When we go to visit now, I always swim by the boulders where we scattered his ashes and imagine that he is surrounding me in that crystal blue cold water. Like a big hug. The kind that only children give their parents, pure and free and unadulterated. I took my rainbow baby girl there a month ago and dipped her feet in the cold water and introduced her to her big brother. Sad, oh so sad. Yet lovely just the same.
September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
Jen, our Yocheved is also buried on top of another grave, in our case an older man from our community who survived the holocaust and then lost an adult daughter to cancer. We don't live near either of our familes, and this man loved the children in the community and had really dedicated his life to helping it thrive. My husband helped bury him and then ten years later we buried our baby, wrapped in a white sheet, a couple of feet above him. His wife (they since lost their son) will join them some day. She saw me a few months ago and said, I went to visit E today, I told him, "we have a new grand-daughter." So I feel like we squeezed out some meaning in how we buried her too. And I also share Carrie's feelings and like the language of a wrapper. What's buried there on that hill is not my daughter, it was just her temporary wrapper. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories.
September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Em you are such a gem and a beautiful writer. I have already read this before and it brought me to tears then and it brings me to tears today. Thank you for all you do on Glow. I miss Eva with you everyday along with my little Henry.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHismommy
I do not know what happened to her body. I didn't even know I had any options. When I delivered my baby girl (who will receive her name from her family when she is born into a body that is healthy) in my 20th week of pregnancy, I was on morphine and barely remember holding her before they took her away. I had a forget-me-not pendant for a year or two and then it broke. So, I got a forget-me-not tattoo on my ankle. When people comment on it, I always tell them who it is for and how I will never forget. I'm sure it makes some of them uncomfortable, but this is my truth and I cannot hide it. it has been 8 years...
September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRella
Simone's ashes are still in the little white box that the funeral home gave her back to us in.
I think they are sitting on a shelf on the desk in my husband's home office. We have never discussed purchasing an urn for her ashes. We have taken portions of her with us on trips, the first month after she died, we sprinkled some of her ashes in the palm of the hand of the Great Indian Chief Statue overlooking the park visitors at Wissahickon. It makes me happy knowing I can visit her there, and that she is watching over the visitors with the Chief. She also went with us to the Gulf of Mexico, and we released a portion of her there, a year and a week after she died. It was harder to let some of her go that day..

I also alternate between a charm bracelet that contains 4 charms: a baby angel, baby girl booties with her name and delivery date inscribed upon them, a mother's love heart and the resurrection cross, and a footprint necklace with her name, birthstone and delivery date.

My husband drew up a tattoo using her initials and delivery date, but we never had it done. I saved the drawings in her memory box in case we decide to change our minds.
September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSME
Em, what a beatiful, beautiful story! The image of Eva, tightly snuggled in your pocket, is so striking. I can feel both the comfort of having your little girl close and the silent scream against the wrongness of it all... I'm so sorry, dear Em.

We had Stefan cremated. I couldn't bear looking at the box with his remains and my husband hid it in the drawer of of the bedside table. It is still there... I dared open it once since then, only months later. The piercing pain of the first weeks returned in full force and I rolled wailing on the floor. I cannot reconcile with the fact that my perfect baby, the love of my life, has become a handful of grey dust.

I have thought a lot about what we should do with his ashes and nothing seems right. A "resting place" where we can visit would be nice but it seems more fitting for an old person and not for a little boy who never got to experience the world. So a part of me wants to spread his ashes little by little as we travel to the far away places we told him about when he was in the hospital. We told him he'd climb mountains and swim with dolphins, and run through sunflower fields... and maybe through his ashes we can begin to atone for our broken promises. But then I also want him at home with us, where he belongs. I want to know that when I die and turn to dust myself, he and I will be one again. There just aren't enought ashes for all that I want to do with Stefan...

It's been helpful reading all the responses. They have given me some ideas and hopefully we'll soon figure out what is right for us.

Em, congrats on getting your writing published (I remember when you cautiously submitted it). It is really wonderful and such an azming tribute to your beautiful Eva.

September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMira
We didn't have a choice about cremation (it's almost always what's done in Japan), but it's what we wanted anyway. Right now, because we just moved a few weeks ago, she's in her travel container, sitting in our closet with her stuffed bear. Eventually, we want to buy a curio to put her and her mementos in, somewhere in the livin room where we can all be together as a family. I wish I had some memorial jewelry, but I'm not sure my husband agrees. Also, I'm not sure how it would work. Lauren is more bone than ash; the traditional Japanese cremation is at a lower temperature, so the body is not completely destroyed. I prefer it that way, to know that she is whole is some manner. It would be nice to be able to carry a bit of her around with me. As it is, I have a cloverleaf pendant my husband gave me for my birthday. Before she was born, we called her Lucky, so I keep thinking of clovers as being representative of her. Wearing that pendant is, for me, a bit like having her with me.
September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara
Our sweet Henry is buried in the cemetery closet to our house, so he's only 8 minutes away. I couldn't bear to do anything to his body - no autopsy, no embalming, and no cremation. I wanted him left perfect and untouched, just the way he was born. We buried him in a natural wool casket that has his name embroidered on the lid. He's up on a hill (we call it "Henry's Hill") in the children's section of the cemetery, which abuts an actual hill that's beautiful and wild. I love that the deer and other wildlife come down from the hill at night and walk among the graves.

Before Henry was buried, my husband and I went to the jewelry district and bought silver necklaces and charms that we had engraved with all five of our names on the front and "beyond the bounds of time" - a meaningful phrase for us - on the back. We put one of the necklaces on Henry before he was buried so he'll always have it with him, along with a family picture, letters from us, and pictures and a fairy from our daughters. My husband and I have been wearing our necklaces every day since, and our daughters wore theirs at his funeral. His funeral was one month ago today.
October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

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