#11 - The Journey with Twins: Plans for the Memorial

The morning following the twin's birth, I invited my Mom to come to the hospital early in the morning at 6 AM so she could have a chance to meet Alan and Aiden before Burke and I called the mortuary to come and collect his body.  We knew that with Aiden spending the night in my room that he wouldn't look great when she came and sure enough, he looked significantly worse when she arrived.  We had a tender hour together as mother and daughter introducing her to her identical grandsons before she headed home to take care of the girls and allow Burke to come over.

Once Burke arrived at the hospital, he joined me in the nursery where we spent a few more minutes with Alan and Aiden together before wheeling Aiden to our room.  It hurt so badly to know that would be the last time the boys would be in one another's physical presence.  After a few more minutes alone in my room, Burke and I prayed together and held Aiden again before we notified the nurses that we were ready to call the mortuary to come and get his tiny body.  We had about 30 minutes before a duo of serious men in suits came respectfully into our room and asked a few questions relative to our desires concerning the burial and body.  Honestly, it's been so long ago now that I can't remember a thing they said, but I just remember feeling a rising despair knowing they were just minutes from taking my son away from me for good.  I had an irrational desire to tell them to beat it and somehow hide my baby away, stalling the inevitable separation.  In the end, they quietly left the room and said to take as long as we needed.  Burke wrapped his arms around me and our bundled up son as I wept over my Aiden Burke one last time, kissed his head and fervently whispered of my love for him multiple times.  It was agonizing to allow Burke to take the bundle from me and place it in the hospital bassinet, wheeling him to the door and passing him along to the mortuary employees who simply nodded their heads and took him away.  It was the last time I saw my baby boy.

Rather than continuing our story chronologically as I have done in the previous 10 posts about the twins, I am going to glaze over the next 11 days briefly.  There is much to tell about Alan's first few days as a newborn in the hospital and the joy of bringing him home just 5 days after he was born as a tiny 4 lb 8 oz preemie, but right now I want so badly to "finish" Aiden's story.  I need to feel a little more closure as it has already taken me 9 months to write this far in the story and I feel a lot of guilt over this incomplete record as I know that many of the details have begun to fade over those many months - precious, priceless details - and I simply don't want to lose any others.

Over the next few days as I recovered from the c-section in the hospital and focused on Alan, Burke juggled time at work, at home with the girls, at the hospital with me and managed to begin coordinating plans for a memorial service for Aiden on top of it all.  I still don't know how he did it all.

A friend of my sister Cassie's in St. George (Sara Esplin) had reached out and told us of a man near Cedar City who makes coffins for infant losses, free of charge, as a sort of therapy for his first child who died over thirty years ago.  His name is David Rhoton and our experience with him was incredibly touching and inspiring as he exuded a gentle sympathy and love.  Burke met him for the first time (while I was still in the hospital) to measure the coffin so Burke and his brothers could build the cement vault to hold the coffin.  He came back and told me how humble and kind he had been.  We were both amazed at his generosity of both time and resources.

Burke also reported back on the awkward nature of meeting with the funeral home to make plans for the memorial.  He spoke of sitting down with a soft spoken man at Southern Utah Mortuary who had brochures for coffins, vaults, and the like sitting on his desk with prices ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.  "How much do you love your dead child?" the brochures seemed to be asking.  "500 dollars?  1,000 dollars?  5,000 dollars?"  When Burke told the man we had a coffin and vault and would only be needing transportation of the coffin in a hearse to the church and then to the cemetery, the man slowly drew the brochures back, not seeming to know what to say as a sale slipped through his fingers.  The funeral industry is so so strange.  (Perhaps this is too harsh a critique of the business of death, but it was the uncomfortable impression I was left with during this time and my only experience with having to make arrangements for a deceased loved one.) I am forever grateful that Burke took care of those details and shielded me as best as he could from them at the time while still gently including me in every decision.

A few days before the service, Burke drove to Parowan with the girls and met up with his brothers (Mike, Kevin and Brett) and his father to work together to construct a vault to put the coffin within inside the grave.  This was one of the burial details I would have had no idea existed before this experience and building one turned out to be a little more complicated than they had expected.  Burke had purchased one 80 pound bag of concrete and they ended up having to run to the hardware store to purchase several more, using a four 80 pound bags by the time they were done.

I think the process ended up being very therapeutic for all of them and was a sweet way for these tough farm men to come together and feel useful and needed during a time where many expressed feelings of helplessness.  I am so very grateful for these truly good men and the love and support they have shown to us since day one of Burke and I dating until now.  We are so blessed to have them in our lives.

The Adams Men: (L-R) Kevin, Brett, Burkie, Mike and Alan with Aiden's casket vault. 

The next night, Burke and I had to go to pick up the casket together, so he was unable to head back to Parowan to paint the cement vault white and was feeling quite stressed about finding time to do it in the last remaining day.  Right then Mike (Burke's oldest brother) texted to say he was taking care of it.  Later Mike texted to let us know it was done and confided that he had spent that special time alone talking with Aiden and had a neat experience feeling close to him.  We were beyond touched by his willingness to serve both Aiden and us.

That night, we drove over to get the vault from Mr. Rhoton after the girls had gone to bed.  It was dark and the rain was beginning to fall in one of the first fall rainstorms of the season.  The weather reflected our moods as we somberly approached the door.  I slowly shuffled up the wet path, clutching at my sides where my c-section incisions still ached painfully.  David Rhoton, a shy man in his sixties, answered and showed us back to a workroom where the casket waited.  I don't know what I was expecting - perhaps some kind of pine wood box - but when I saw that beautiful pure white casket, the tears could not be contained.  It was so tiny and so perfect.  David had labored with love on the outside and we discovered, upon opening, that his wife had labored with love on the inside creating a beautiful silk lining on the interior with a pillow with a silk flower corsage attached at the top.  It touched me more than I can say that they would go to so much effort for a tiny baby who had never taken breath, who would never know the comfort and loveliness of his body's final resting spot.  We tried our best to thank him for their generosity, but I don't know if I could ever adequately express how much their selfless act meant to Burke and I.  As we carried the casket to the car, Burke ran to shield it from the now pouring rain and then came back to aide me in my slow progress to the car, opening the door and helping me to slowly sit down.  Once we were both inside, we said a prayer of gratitude, asking Heavenly Father to please bless the Rhoton family and help them to know what special people they are.  I laid my head on Burkie's shoulder and cried much of the way home as the rain splattered on the windshield and Burkie's free arm stroked my head and squeezed me tight.

With the memorial services arranged, the casket and vault completed, the casket flower topper ordered with the money sent to us from the immensely kind Mormon Moms of Multiples group, we turned next to pay Parowan City for some kind of grave fee (can't even remember what it is called now...maybe it was for the hole to be dug beforehand?), but when Burke called someone had already paid the couple hundred dollar expense.  To this day, we don't know who took care of that expense for us, but if they are reading this, please know how much your kindness meant to us.

The last bit of logistics that needed to be taken care of was the program for the memorial service.  I mentioned back in post #7 (found here) that the day we discovered Aiden had passed, my sister Cassie had used an image of an arrow in her inspired Family Home Evening lesson and coined our beloved phrase "Aim for Aiden" which has become a hashtag for every post I write about Aiden.  In the two weeks since his passing, arrows had become a symbol of our son and were easy to spot as they are trendy in both decorating and fashion right now.  I looked online tirelessly to find the right arrow image to represent Aiden, but couldn't find what I was looking for.  My sister Chelsea is quite artistic and I turned to her, asking her if she could create what the internet had not supplied.  We brainstormed and sent several emails back and forth until we landed on this perfect pencil drawing which is now found in numerous locations in my house to remind us to do exactly what it says - Aim for Aiden.  The head of the arrow is shaped subtley as both an "A" and a heart showing our love for Aiden.  The shaft was shaped to resemble the "iron rod" spoken of in The Book of Mormon which signifies a straight and narrow course leading back to God and our eternal family.  The 5 feathers represent each member of our little family (Burke, Daphne, Darcie, Alan and I) with a subtly missing feather between the two dark feathers on the right hand side to show that an important member of our family, who we are aiming for, is currently missing.  I will forever be grateful to Chelsea for crafting such a treasure for us to forever remind us of our son.

A couple of days before the memorial, I put together a program.  We decided to use Aiden's hospital footprints for the front and the scripture that had brought us so much comfort the day after we discovered he had passed.  Now all that remained was trying to find the right words to express how such a brief life could have such a tremendous impact.  But then, as now, no amount of words ever seemed to capture the depth of our love for our stillborn son.