Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A Precious Goodbye

This week on Walking With You, we are sharing about saying good-bye and experiencing the memorial service or funeral if applicable.

Since we knew about 4 months ahead of time that Carleigh wouldn’t live, we had time to plan for her arrival and for her funeral. We met with the funeral home several times for pre-arrangements. The only thing we did not prepare for ahead of time was her service. It wasn’t until after her birth that our pastor came to our house and we went over how we wanted the service to go. I really didn’t know what I wanted, which made me wish I had looked into some things beforehand but we still had in my opinion a beautiful service.

Carleigh was born on March 28th and we delivered her to the funeral home on March 29th. On March 30th we returned to the funeral home so that I could dress Carleigh in her burial outfit.


We arrived at the funeral home and we went over some last minute things with one of the directors before I dressed Carleigh. The room she was in was already set up for her first visitation and her casket was at the front of the room and she was lying in it. Just seeing her in a casket brought tears to my eyes. Even with her small casket she was still so tiny in it. It was very obvious she had been embalmed. She was cold and swollen and didn’t look quite like ‘her’, but she was still my baby no matter what she looked like. I picked her up and Anthony and I spent some time holding her while we waited for his dad and brother to arrive. We had to keep tissues on us to wipe her nose as the embalming fluid was leaking out.

Once his dad and brother came we moved to a different room with a sofa so that I could dress her on it. Anthony and his dad took pictures while I dressed Carleigh. I took my time dressing her because I wanted to be with her as long as I could, even if it was just her body. Her outfit was a little big, which I expected, but she still looked so precious to me.


It was so good to see Carleigh and spend time with her on that day. I only wish that I would have went and saw her through the rest of the week before her service. The funeral director said that we could but I didn’t. I wish I would’ve taken advantage of that time.

Our first visitation was held the evening of Friday, April 3rd, at the funeral home. I arrived at the funeral home well before the visitation was set to start so that I could spend time with Carleigh alone. Once I got there I realized I forgot Carleigh’s fuzzy pink blanket at our house so my dad went back to get it for me. I didn’t want to hold her the whole evening without it, but I didn’t wait for him to come back to pick her up. Once I got her out of her casket she didn’t go back in it until it was time for us to leave.

Many people sent us beautiful flowers and we even got stone monuments from family members (that now sit in our flower bed). It was sea of purple and that was such a nice sight since the color purple is the color that makes me think of her (even though she never even wore the color purple-perhaps I should have gotten her a purple outfit!).

We had quite a few visitors that evening…family, friends, coworkers, church members, neighbors. Many people traveled a few hours to be there since most of our loved ones lived back where we both grew up. I was so appreciative of those who took the time to come. I held Carleigh the entire visitation except for the few times Anthony held her and when 2 family members held her. There were tears, but for the most part the atmosphere was light. My mood was generally good because I was so happy to see my little girl again. Leaving though was difficult because again I had to leave her behind.


Saturday, April 4th, we had a morning visitation followed by a service, which were both at our church. I got there early again so that I could spend more time with her alone before people arrived. I also brought some keepsakes and set up a table to share with those who came. After I got the table set up then I went and got Carleigh out of her casket and kept her with me the entire time.

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So many people came that morning and I was glad to see everyone who came. I was able to smile throughout the visitation but the service was harder.


We had the actual service both videotaped and photographed. I’m so glad that we did both. The service began with our pastor praying and reading Carleigh’s obituary. I wish now I would have made it more personal but at the time I didn’t really know. I had never written an obituary before and didn’t know you could write it however you wanted. Next, a slideshow of pictures and music was shown. The pictures included ultrasound pics, maternity pics, and pics from labor, delivery, and after. My uncle gave the eulogy and a couple friend and family members shared their hearts. Our pastor gave a message and read Psalm 23. The song He Will Carry Me was then played. The service ended in prayer and everyone was dismissed by row to greet us. I cried a lot during the service and I held Carleigh so close.

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After everyone came through to see us it was time to put Carleigh in her casket. Our family said their goodbyes and Anthony and I walked our daughter to her casket. We both kissed her and then I changed her crochet hat to a little bonnet that matched her outfit. I didn’t put it on her before because it was big for her head. I laid her in the casket and then took off her pearl bracelet and the cross necklace she was wearing to keep. We placed a small heart in her casket that fit with a larger heart that we kept. I covered her up with the delicate crochet blanket Anthony’s grandma made. We gave her even more kisses. I couldn’t give her enough. I cried.

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It finally came time to close the casket. I didn’t want to do it and not be able to see my baby girl again on this earth and hold her. With difficulty, I closed the lid and sealed the casket. Anthony and I stood there for a few moments before turning around and walking out of the church. We stood outside and waited for her to come out.

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We were blessed with a beautiful day on the day of her service and burial. The sun was shining where the day before was rainy. My brothers-in-law were the ones chosen to carry Carleigh’s casket. They brought her out of the church and she was put into the back of the hearse.

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We were provided with a limo to ride to the cemetery. Anthony, Kyndra, and I rode in it along with our parents. Kyndra was so happy on the ride out to the cemetery and that helped me not get too emotional at that time. We arrived at the cemetery and waited for my brothers-in-law to carry Carleigh over to her plot.

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We followed them inside the tent that was sent up and I sat down with Anthony on one side of me and my mom on the other. Our pastor prayed and read some scripture and as soon as it had begun it seemed to be over.

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Everyone was invited to attend the dinner at the church after prayer but no one moved. Everyone just stood there and it was silent aside from tears and the horses beside the cemetery. (The horses stood by the fence the entire time at the cemetery like they were paying their respects.) I just stared at her casket. Finally people came up to give us hugs. Then after sitting for a while I stood up and told Anthony that it was time. We went back to the limo and left for the church.

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The meal was good and the cake was just delicious (especially the frosting!). We had quite a few people gather with us and it was lighthearted, which was nice. After pretty much everyone was gone we packed up and went home.

♥ Sweet baby girl……we love and miss you. ♥

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I think it is important for parents to realize that they have a right to do whatever they want in regards to funeral/burial planning. Don’t be afraid to speak up for what you want. Don’t be afraid of what people might think. What is most important is what you want and fulfilling that desire so you don’t have regrets later. I'm sure some people questioned why I would hold my daughter the entire time. I loved it. I knew I would never get those moments back and I wanted to spend them with her in my arms. Before long they would be empty forever. Some people may have even thought I was a crazy, bereaved mother. Yeah, I’m crazy alright-crazy over my daughter.

Something I never considered before was a home funeral. If I had known that was an option at the time I definitely would have looked into it and possibly even planned it that way. I would have taken my daughter home with me for several days like some families have. I think it is a great honor caring for the body of your loved one and I think I would have liked that opportunity instead of her being with strangers, even if they were so kind to us.

No matter what route you choose, if it feels right to you then that’s what you should do.


But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Philippians 3:20-21


Caroline said...

Thank you for sharing all this. I remember following your blog & reading. Such a beautiful service for a very special precious <3 Carleigh <3 I remember when you sent me her picture , we have it in our dining room. Carleigh & all of you have a special place in our hearts. So many {{{{Hugs}}}} & love always.

Michelle Karr said...

How special!! What a blessing to hold her in those times! Thank you for sharing, Holly.

Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

I am in awe...always in awe of the way you have walked this walk. I know I say it over and over again. The tears are falling heart is aching with you, and each one on this walk. I am struck by the great beauty of you...a mother loving her daughter. The preciousness of you dressing her, mothering her, saying goodbye to her. Your pictures are amazing...and tell this story with such raw truth and great beauty.

Thank you for your words of encouragement to mamas facing these decisions. Mamas who do not know they are allowed. Thank you for your courageous be "crazy" for your daughter...crazy for Carleigh. Thank you for being you.

I'm so grateful to know know honored to read her story...every step. Every time.

Much love and continued prayers...

Misty said...

Oh Holly these pictures are beautiful! Carleigh is just amazing. I am so glad that you got to spend this time with her and were able to think about the things that you would want to have later on. Not that it makes it any easier. I wish I had been given a chance to do all of these things with Jay. I was in such shock at the news I didnt even think about any of it. Carleigh is simply beautiful. You are always in my thoughts. (((hugs)))

brigette said...

These pictures are amazing. They truely show your love for sweet Carleigh. Like Kelly said sharing this information with people who have never had to experience this is such a great idea. Your a beautiful amazing woman. Hugs

Sarita Boyette said...

Holly, I have read all your Walking With You posts, & although I have read about Carleigh nearly from the time you started this blog, I always appreciate your sharing her with us. You are so eloquent with your writings. (((HUGS))) to you - can't believe it has nearly been three years. xoxo

Mary said...

Merci pour le partage. Je suis heureuse que vous ayez eu du temps avec votre fille. Quand je regarde les photos, je vois une maman, de l'amour, de la paix mais jamais une folle. Je pense comme vous il faut faire comme notre coeur nous guide et ne pas prêter attention autour même si ça peut être déconcertant pour certains.

Kate said...

What a beautiful way to honor Carleigh. Thank you for sharing!

I love that you were able to dress her. The nurses at the hospital put a diaper on Drew and dressed him and at the time, I was so in shock, that it never occurred to me to ask to do it. It's one of my biggest regrets that I never got to change his diaper or dress him, so I'm so glad (and jealous, in a good way :)) that you got to experience that.

It's such a little detail, but something I miss so much.. it really is something that will bother me for the rest of my life. So, I'm so glad for you that you had the chance to do such a "normal" motherly thing!

Trennia said...

(((hugs))) A beautiful way to remember your precious,beautiful daughter,Carleigh.

Karin said...

Holly, I am in tears again. I am so inspired by you and the way you show your love for Carleigh. What special moments. What a gift of time you were given. I feel like I've said it all before, but I've learned so much from you, especially about loving in a way I didn't know possible. Thank you.

Nat said...

So so beautiful Holly. I remember reading that you held Carleigh through her service while I was still pregnant with Seb, and I wondered if I'd want to do that. I chose not to, nor to do some of the things you did to cover her with her mother's love, and some of those things I wish now I had done. We only got that one time to give them all the love we can as a mother, and you did that so perfectly. So beautiful xx

Laura Beck said...

I can not tell you how much that i wish that Jeff and I would have done something like this. I had no idea until after the fact. It's a road that you don't know how you are going to handle until you get to it and i admire the way you took your road, Holly. What a beautiful and special way you said goodbye to your little sweetheart.
thank you so much for sharing the pictures and reaffirming to those out there that you can say goodbye the way that want to and need. MUCH love. xo

Christy said...

Those pictures are amazing, Holly. They completely tear my heart open. I am impressed that you share them because it is such an intimate time for you and your husband. I am glad you do, though, because it is important for others to know that they can do whatever they want for the funeral of their child. There is no right or wrong thing to do. I'm glad you have so many photos to remember this by, too. Sending you lots of love....

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