“Who knows. Maybe everybody’s end isn’t the day they actually die, but the last time anyone speaks of them. Maybe when you die you don’t really disappear, but you fade into a shadow, dark and featureless, only your outlines visible.” ― Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish
In April, my twins, Sophie and Aiden, will have been gone for 9 years. NINE YEARS. You know what I’m going to say, right? It feels like just yesterday but also like it happened in a different lifetime, to someone else.
I recently went to see the new Pixar movie, Coco. If you haven’t seen it, the basic premise is that it is the Day of the Dead and on that night, you can cross the bridge back into the world, but only if your photo hangs on someone’s altar. If you’re no longer there…if you have been forgotten, you have to stay in the land of the dead.
Related: Will She Be Forgotten?
My heart was tugged through this entire film. Images and memories of my sweet babies flooded my senses and I was overwhelmed by the fear of them somehow knowing that they aren’t remembered anymore. That no one has spoken their name; no one has even a memory.
My biggest fear as a bereaved mama (besides, of course, my other children dying) has been that Sophie and Aiden will be forgotten. That there will be a day when someone is cleaning out a nursing home room full of junk and find a tiny blue and a tiny pink urn and have no idea what it is. That their urns will be tossed into a trash dumpster along with unwanted belongings of a long life. That their short little lives will fade into the shadows, as though it never happened.
I often question my decision to have them cremated. Perhaps if they had a gravestone and a marker, someone would be walking past and whisper their names into the universe, a message that would somehow send them peace. Of course, my decision-making skills then were nothing short of impossible. I didn’t know which way was up, let alone have the ability to establish the pros and cons of cremation vs. traditional burial. Still, the guilt eats at me and I wish someone could just tell me what to do. I wish someone could sit me down and say, “Look, Christy, this is the best way to do it.”
I wanted them close to me, without the guilt of visiting a gravesite. Now I worry. Will anyone remember them after I’m gone? Should I go back now and find a burial plot for them? I left instructions in my will for their urns to be placed with me someday when I die, but will anyone follow them?
Related: Never to Be Forgotten
I’m sure it seems ridiculous to some. They are dead; that is a fact. But when you are a bereaved mother, the only way you get to mother your children is to remember them. We hang stockings for them at Christmas, we bring teddy bears to family pictures, we tell their story. Not a day goes by that I don’t speak their names, but what about when I’m gone? Then who will remember them?
If I don’t remember them, who will?
Christy Wopat is a 4th grade teacher and writer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and who hilarious, energetic children, and without her boy/girl twins, Sophie and Aiden, who lived for a very short time in 2009. She is honored to share her words in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding infant loss and grief.