Going back home was odd. We walked outside from the hospital holding a pillow, duffle bag and a plastic patient-belonging bag containing all of the sweet mementos of our Charlotte. That felt wrong. We were holding all of these beautiful imprints of our daughter but not her. I hated it. I was sore, obviously bleeding and empty-handed holding a trash bag. Wrong is an understatement but it’s one of the only words I can often come up with. Wrong.
The first thing I did when I came home was go to her nursery. I had to face it. I couldn’t do anything until I faced that space. I remember walking upstairs and lying on the floor beside the pretty things Peter and I had all ready for her. I remember weeping on the floor and muttering some sort of prayer to Jesus. This aching and longing for her were raw and literally painful to my core. It actually hurt.
Peter and I spent a lot of time upstairs in our bedroom, just the two of us. It was interesting to have all of the people I love so much in our new home yet not engage with them like I usually would. Typically, I’d be hosting, cooking, cleaning, and socializing. But nothing about this was typical. Instead, Peter and I were in our room calling funeral homes.
The hospital social worker had told us about a bunch of funeral homes. We just couldn’t process picking one while there. So, when we got home, we called two different funeral homes that had good reports. We had prayerfully decided to have Charlotte cremated. Truthfully, I had never been a fan of cremation. I myself want to be buried when that day comes. Who knows, my mind could change on that.
But we thought, how could we bury Charlotte because where in the world would we bury her? We are twenty-five years old. Who knows if we’ll move. Who knows what will happen. Who knows. The loss of our daughter has taught us, really taught us, that we don’t know a thing about what tomorrow holds. What twenty-five-year-old couple should even be thinking about this? God, it was so wrong. It is so wrong!
We called the first funeral home together. We could barely even get out words to explain the situation to the funeral home director. God was so faithful though because when one of us could not speak, the other rose up. The bond with my husband had never felt so strong. That verse about the strand of three cords was being lived out in our home.
Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 NLT
The first funeral home we spoke with was professional and kind. He then quoted us a price with the breakdown of expenses. It felt so wrong talking about money in conjunction with the death of our baby. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that these things cost money and people have to make a living. It was not in the least disrespectful of the funeral home but to me; it simply felt wrong to have money in the mix.
We then called the second funeral home, which was also compassionate and cordial. When we asked about finances, the funeral home director said, “It’s all free.” We paused. “What do you mean, free?” we asked. We felt like there must be some sort of catch. This has to be too good to be true. Who would just do that? Nevertheless, the funeral home director reiterated that they would take care of everything. However, they did need us to meet with them for paperwork reasons. So, we set up a meeting with that funeral home director for later that evening.
Having previously worked as a hospice nurse, I was a bit more familiar with funeral homes than my husband. There is a distinct odor to them and this funeral home was no exception. The funeral home director was beyond caring. He told us that he would try to speed things along as much as possible so we did not have to be there too long.
He handed us paperwork to sign in which we had to identify our relationship to Charlotte. Signing above the “mother” line made me so proud and simultaneously so sad. Choking back tears, Peter, too, signed above the “father” line. Trying to break the ice, Peter said, “Hannah, you have to remember that I don’t have as much experience with this whole ‘emotion’ thing.” We chuckled. And that was good.
Then, the funeral home director handed us the financial document. He said for legal reasons, they’re still responsible for us to sign it, even if the cost is zero dollars. The spiritual metaphor for this experience is uncanny. Through every cost that we would normally accrue, the funeral home director slashed through it and wrote in, “$0.” The page was filled with zeroes!
Then, all we had to do was accept their generosity and sign our names. On the cross, my Jesus slashed through every sin! He paid every debt I owe. All I have to do is say “yes” to Him with an open heart and worshipful lips. The same goes for you.
The funeral home wasn’t obligated to help us. They didn’t owe us that. Similarly, God doesn’t owe me anything. I’m not entitled. But now, through Jesus, I owe nothing. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
Before leaving the funeral home, I asked the director, “If you don’t mind me asking, why is this free?” He proceeded to explain that they have been around for a while and starting to notice couples, often young couples, coming to them for services, just like we were. Paraphrasing, he said something like, “A lot of these couples are just starting out and what they’re going through is so horrible. We just figured this is something we could do behind the scenes in the community to help.” Wow, I thought. Just wow.
The thing about this funeral home was the humanity of it all. We could have gathered up the money but the fact that we didn’t have to was beyond humbling.
But there is no way that I, as a selfish, sinful person, could ever scrape up enough good works or right behavior to pay my debt to God. Only Jesus! Thank you, Jesus.