I can recall in the first year after Matthew died, going to the cemetery several times a week. Not only would I visit and tend to his grave, but I would also tend to the ones around him and the ones that looked neglected in Baby land. There are markers from as far back as the late 1800s for little ones born too soon, or too sick. I remember at least once a month I would see this elderly couple visiting the same marker. They would prune it, clean it and sit with it for just a brief moment, holding hands, lost in thought. One day, I walked over after they had left, just out of curiosity if nothing else. The marker was for a baby girl. She passed away at a month old in 1962. And that made my heart hurt. Here it was, 50 years later and they still visited their little girl every month. I think it hit me really hard then that we didn't just lose our baby for today or for tomorrow, but for a lifetime. A lifetime of mourning, a lifetime of missing, a lifetime with part of our heart gone. And my heart hurt for them and knowing the pain they were experiencing.
In the past year, I don't go to the cemetery as much. Kaitlyn was growing to hate it, it's about 45 minutes away now and I've reached this point where it doesn't matter. Me going or not going, us going and tending or not tending doesn't change anything. It doesn't prove our love, it doesn't mean we've forgotten, it doesn't change anything. It is nice to have a place to take things to his body, a place that is truly his, a place to think only of him, but that doesn't mean it's the only place that any of that is done.
There are pictures of Matthew in every room in our house, I wear his picture around my neck every day (although the necklace is in poor shape and I need to come up with something different and a tattoo design, but that's another story for another day), we talk about him frequently. In the backyard we have a memory garden for him. He is always on my mind and in my heart. A place doesn't change that.
I remember talking to a friend a couple years ago about the thought of having another baby and how much it scared me to think that a new baby would bring new memories and I would lose precious memories of my baby boy, just as his memories kinda pushed out some of Kaitlyn's. It's inevitable really. There isn't much you can do to stop it. And I do work hard to keep not just the memory of him alive, but my memories of my time with him. Of our times together as a family of 4. Of the times in the NICU, him coming home so teeny tiny weighing as much as a sack of flour, of the first time Kaitlyn held him, of the times daddy held him, of his loud cry, defying the world that he had weak lungs, of the times we just spent together in bed staring at one another, of that almost smile he would give, keeping his smile to himself forever. Of so much I remember.
Lessening our trips to the cemetery doesn't mean we've moved on. I don't think you can move on from the death of a child. I just don't think it's possible. But, as a family we have moved forward. We've moved forward towards what is our now future. We've moved forward as a family of 5 missing one. We've learned to accept (most days) that there will always be an empty space, a missing chair, a missing little boy and that is sadly just how life is going to be for us. We cannot change that.
And that brings me back to the couple who still visit the cemetery every month for their little girl. I believe that they too have move forward, but in a different way. 50 years ago we didn't have digital cameras and camcorders like how we do now or did nearly 4 years ago. The cemetery might be the only place that they have to honor their daughter. While I don't know the circumstances of her passing, it is very possible that they do not have so much as 1 photograph of their little one. We have been blessed with so much more. Anytime I feel like I'm forgetting any tiny detail of his perfect face, I have over 600 pictures to look at. If I ever crave hearing his voice, I have video that I can watch over and over again. And while it may be short, it's something.
I feel as though because of modern technology, we are able to move forward in a way that a generation ago wasn't possible. For that, I am thankful. I am thankful that we live in a time where we can have pictures, videos and the like to help lessen the pain. And I'm thankful that we can both, love, miss and mourn Matthew with so much of our hearts, we can also move forward.