One week ago, Ben and I placed Gabriel's ashes in his niche at Greenlawn cemetary. At 2:00 on Monday July 25, 2011, we met Monsignor Frost at Greenlawn for this private ceremony. Two members of the Greenlawn staff joined us in front of the wall where Gabriel's niche is located. A tent was set up along with about ten chairs for family, but Ben and I were the only members of Gabriel's family there.
Monsignor Frost, who baptized Gabriel, officiated over the brief but beautiful ceremony. A Greenlawn staff member named Sandy, who sat in the second row of seats, sang "On Eagles' Wings." We then took the small box containing Gabriel's ashes to his niche in the memorial wall. I had never taken much notice of these walls on previous occasions at Greenlawn cemetary. With the marble faces removed, the wall was just a cement structure with openings. Gabriel's box was sprinkled with holy water, I gave him one last kiss, and Ben and I placed his ashes in their space, along with a St. Gerard prayer card. We were given a crucifix, which pleased me as I didn't know if we would get one since Gabriel was cremated, and the crucifix was blessed too. The crucifix, which rests on the blanket where Gabriel's ashes laid in our home, will be hung above the door to our nursery, the room that I was only able to rock Gabriel in one time, but which I believe will sleep our babies in the future.
Monsignor sang the first verse of "How Great Thou Art," and Sandy, who has a beautiful voice, sang along.
I cried on Monday more than I have at any one time since Gabriel died. There, in the privacy of our ceremony I finally felt free to let the tears flow for a while, and they did. During that ceremony, which lasted less than half an hour, my mind finally wrapped itself around the idea that my son is dead. Though he took his last breath in my arms, though I've noticed the empty feeling since he's been gone, I didn't dare believe it until that moment.
I will not often cry when talking about Gabriel in public. I want the world to know that I stand by what we did with him, that I believe carrying Gabriel to term was the only right thing to do, and that carrying him gave me a strength I didn't know existed. But making the right decision was not easy -- only easier than the alternative, letting my son go without giving him every chance to live. So I finally cried, with my husband, Monsignor, and two strangers in a cemetary that has seen many tears.
But I would not let the tears flow for long. Before we'd left the cemetary I collected myself. Our day had started early, with Ben having to go to the Marriott one last time to clean out his office, and it would be a long day as I still had a closing shift at the bar ahead of me. Ben and I left Greenlawn and went to Target, where we purchased a gift for my co-worker who had recently learned she was pregnant with a girl. We presented her with the gift, a two-pack of pink sleepers, and learned that we were the first people to give her any apparel for the baby. It was a bittersweet moment as we toasted Gabriel and also celebrated the life of a new baby girl who I pray will be perfectly healthy. Another reminder that life goes on.
Today I visited Gabriel's niche. The marble faces have been put back in place, but evidence that the section that covers his was recently removed still remains. The cement hasn't been filled in completely around the section, though the curtain that covered the empty spaces is long gone. Gabriel's nameplate won't be in for two to three months, so only Ben, Greenlawn cemetary and I know that Gabriel's ashes lie behind that marble. When his nameplate arrives any visitor will know that in that space rests the remains of Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude, who lived from June 10, 2011 to June 20, 2011. They will see that he was just an infant when he left this earth. They will see a third line with a term of endearment, a secret that we are waiting to reveal with his nameplate, which will tell the most important detail of the life of Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude.