…continued from Someone, please, stop those babies crying!
The day after we returned home from hospital empty handed, Sukhie and I woke to a feeling of real emptiness. There was no reason to get out of bed. There was nothing to do. No baby to look after. No bump to nourish. And anything else, well it just didn’t matter. So we stayed in bed. We reflected. We questioned whether it was real. We worried about Jiya being alone in the hospital. We contemplated life. We conjured up the insensitive questions people would ask us. We just wanted someone to tell us it had all been a bad bad dream. But it wasn’t was it? It was our reality and we had to wake up to the next step in that…the funeral.
Jiya was born on Tuesday 19th April 2016, her funeral was booked for Tuesday 3rd May 2016. I don’t remember much of what happened on the days in between, other than getting some visitors and panicking that Jiya had nothing to wear for the funeral.
Getting visitors – My mum, bless her, got on a coach from Birmingham in order to come and look after me. With Dad gone, it was the only way she could get here. I wanted to pick her up from the coach station with Sukhie. I needed to get out of the house. All I remember was seeing her waiting in the Krispy Kreme café, walking up to her, hugging her and both of us bursting into tears right there in front of everyone. People were looking at us but we didn’t care. She travelled pretty light apart from the home-cooked food parcels she’d made for me!! Mum didn’t quite understand it all, she certainly didn’t know what to say, but she did her best and looked after me in a way that only mums can do.
The following day all of my family came from Birmingham to see me and those that couldn’t sent us cards and gifts. I tried to be strong for them, but it was when my little sister hugged me and said it was ok to cry and that I didn’t need to be strong that the tears started. The pain spilled out and I could feel my heart break one inch at a time against her tight hug…I think she felt it break too. There were lots of tears from us all that day, but it felt good, I didn’t need to be strong in front of them and they didn’t ask me to, you know the way people say “you have to be strong, be strong for Jiya”…they didn’t say that. That’s the cruellest thing you can say to someone whose baby has just died. No, I don’t have to be strong just because you don’t know how to deal with the tears. No, I don’t have to be strong because right now my heart is broken and I’ve forgotten how to be strong. So don’t repeat those words to anyone. Instead, hold them when they cry, tell them it’s ok to let it out, cry with them if you feel their pain and tell them to just feel what they need to feel.
Additionally Sukhie’s mum, aunt and cousin came to see us, but other than that it was a pretty lonely few weeks. I suspect people stayed away because they assumed we wanted to be on our own, maybe they didn’t know what to say, maybe they thought we’d be rushed off our feet with people coming round or maybe they were just busy or had their own problems to contend with, who knows? But at that point in time feeling emotional and hormonal, it was a pretty lonely time.
Panicking that Jiya had nothing to wear for the funeral – It hit me all of a sudden that we had nothing to give to Jiya. She had no clothes to wear at her funeral. Nothing from the shop would have fit her, so in a panic I called my grandma and asked if she could make her a small cloak with a hood, like the one that came in our memory box (but that was a bit small and looked like a mini dress on Jiya!) Immediately she began knitting. Seeing my grandma making the cloak my aunt asked me if she too could make some little shoes for Jiya. She didn’t pressure me and said if I didn’t want them that that was fine. But I was so touched, that I immediately said yes. Then I decided to make something for Jiya too. I can’t knit, but I can make quilts, so I decided to make a tiny one for Jiya using the embroidered heart that Jayne had made for me. I made two quilts, one for Jiya and one for me to keep. I was grateful to have something to do, something to focus on instead of just my thoughts. I was excited to be able to make something special for my daughter, the only gift I’d be able to give in her short life.
My gran and aunt worked all day to make the clothes and post them the following morning so they would arrive in time for the funeral. I was just made up when I opened up the envelope, there was a beautiful cloak, hat and shoes. My Jiya was going to look amazing. My aunt learned how to crochet that day just so she could make Jiya’s shoes, she stayed up late adding pearls to the entire outfit to make it extra special, she told me that she felt honoured that I let her make something for Jiya, that she would now have an eternal connection with Jiya. I felt so moved by this. I felt happiness and relief that people were talking about Jiya as though she was a member of the family, that she mattered to them just like she mattered to me, that from now on they would join me in remembering my baby. These acts of kindness and love helped mend a tiny portion of my broken heart and I will never forget them, ever.
The funeral – How do you decide who to invite to your baby’s funeral? I didn’t know what the etiquette was. Would people come if we invited them? Would I be offended if people didn’t come despite an invite? Was it fair to make those with small children attend, why should they have to go through that? I didn’t know what to do. So, like many things at the time, I just told Sukhie to do what he thought was right. Sukhie decided it was best for just our parents to attend. My gran stood in for my dad and my youngest aunt came to support gran, mum and me. We’ve done everything together, me and my aunt Rav, so it felt right to have her there.
We had a post-mortem done on Jiya, so we weren’t able to see her again before the funeral. We didn’t get to put her new clothes on her, but the lovely lady Rachel, from E Sargeant & Sons Funeral Directors, who led the funeral service said she personally dressed Jiya that morning and that she looked beautiful in her knitted clothes, esp the shoes! She tucked her up in the quilt, with the embroidered heart covering her chest perfectly. This made my day. I was so thankful that this complete stranger took the time, effort and care to dress Jiya with the only things we could give her. It meant the world. Rachel understood what we were going through, she got it, and she did everything she could to help us through the funeral.
On the day of the funeral, the sun was out despite the chill. I remember arriving at the crematorium early and seeing the order of funerals, Jiya’s being the first of the day. At a normal Sikh funeral you would have a Sikh priest lead the service and say some prayers. But I didn’t know if they would do the service for a baby born too soon, but we asked anyway, and I was made up when the priest arrived on the day. He was lovely and said some comforting words as we waited for Jiya to arrive. I was so grateful for his presence and doing the religious rites for Jiya. It felt complete, like we’d done the right thing by her.
The hearse pulled in and I could see Jiya’s beautiful white coffin, with the heart-shaped rose wreath on top. Rachel hugged me very tightly. She asked if I wanted to sit with Jiya in the car and have a final moment with her. I did. Then she asked Sukhie if he wanted to carry Jiya’s coffin into the crematorium. He did. He gripped it tightly and walked gently with her, in time with the waheguru simran playing in the background, carefully placing her on the table. I don’t quite remember the order of service, but everything we planned to do, was done. The priest said some kind words and led the prayer. Sukhie read out a poem, the croak in his throat at the end bringing us all to tears…
We chose ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole as Jiya’s song and that was played as we pressed the button, then the coffin began to move until it was out of sight behind the curtain.
Rachel told us to wait as the others left the room. She asked if we wanted to see Jiya’s coffin go into the furnace, without really thinking about it we said yes, not wanting her to be alone in her final moment. We watched it go until we could see it no longer, Rachel hugged me, the priest put his arm around Sukhie. When we got outside we could see the smoke rising above the building, and just like the recent story in Coronation Street, there was also a lovely rainbow adorning the sky at that very moment. How amazing. I think it was a sign, a sign that Jiya was in her new home in Heaven…a sign that she was ok.
We left the crematorium, I remember looking back just to take in every moment of my last goodbye to my baby. It felt right to go to the Sikh temple with the priest and just sit in the tranquillity of the hall, praying for Jiya and praying for the strength of all left behind to mourn her. It was just a perfect end to an unimaginably painful day that no parent should ever have to endure. But endure it we did, with peace, prayer and pride.
…to be continued