The old cemetery was less than two miles from my childhood home. Many of my youthful days were spent there. The earth offered fresh, delicious raspberries for my enjoyment each July. The winding creek was a refreshing place to cool myself during hot, lazy, summer afternoons. Many exciting, dark nights were spent with friends as we walked to the graveyard telling frightening stories about ghosts and unearthly beings. Many times my brother and I would explore the abandoned old building at the edge of the trees and go on scavenger hunts for discarded plastic flowers which once adorned some loved one’s grave. I would read ancient tombstones and marvel at the ages of the people who had died. Some were old, some were young, others just said “Infant Daughter” or “Infant Son.”
Many of my ancestors were buried in this place. I had recently said goodbye here to my grandpa and a favorite elderly uncle. I had watched others being laid to rest after very long and full lives. This time it was different. This time it was difficult to make the trip. On that day, the crunch of the gravel beneath the tires of our car as we slowly made our way to the top of the small hill held a different meaning. This time I came here to bury my infant son, Nathan.
At the end of our journey waited a hearse, an undertaker, and our pastor. Assorted family and friends were making the somber trip with us. We approached the gravesite and I was shocked by the size of the cavity in the dirt. My father had lovingly dug the miniature grave that looked no bigger than a shoebox. His old, red Massey-Ferguson tractor waited nearby. The front-end loader was cupping the small amount of dirt it would take for my husband and father to cover my son. Sitting next to the open grave was a light gray plastic object that looked like my Singer sewing machine case. Then, reality hit me. I realized this case held the lifeless body of my baby! How could I deal with this?
Countless tears poured down my cheeks that hot August afternoon as I thought of all the experiences I would be denied. I would never feel his baby-soft skin against my cheek, or see his eyes looking up at mine – trusting and dependent on me – as he nursed at my breast. I wouldn’t be able to watch him take his first steps or listen to him speak his first words. I was denied the privilege of watching him grow from sweet baby innocence, to loving childhood and on to strong, Christian manhood.
Why was this happening to me? Why was I being denied the experience of raising this child? Why not take some older, sick person and give me my child? A baby is full of promise and hope. Why would God take away my son? These and many other thoughts and questions were streaming through my mind as the tears were flowing down my face.
Our pastor began talking. He did not deliver a strong sermon, but spoke just a few, gentle, well-chosen words. He likened death to God gathering a beautiful bouquet. The most beautiful bouquets use flowers in all stages of growth, from buds to full blooms, and Nathan was a tiny rosebud in God’s bouquet. This was such a comforting thought to me, and made me realize Nathan was in a beautiful, happy place.
My painful, agitated thoughts of being denied my child were replaced with a sense of peace. My son would not have to suffer any of the pain that is in this life. The severe lung disease contracted after he was born, which would have greatly affected the quality of his life if he had lived. To watch this child suffer through life would have been so devastating for me. It was easier to think of him as a healthy and happy rosebud in God’s bouquet. I believe God knows what He’s doing.
Nathan was a part of my life for the seven months I carried him and the two days he was here on this earth. I had the privilege to touch his tiny fingers once before he was taken to intensive care. The love I felt for my tiny baby consumed me and I hoped that somehow Nathan felt all the love I had for him through that single touch. I loved my son when he came into and left my life 25 years ago, and he will always be my little boy angel and a tiny rosebud in God’s bouquet.