Cemeteries can be a pretty unique place to visit.
My daughter’s final resting place was in a section of Union Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio they called Baby Land. I haven’t gone back to visit my daughter’s grave site very often. I believe that she isn’t really there. I don’t know, maybe I don’t fully understand the significance of cemeteries.
The few times I have visited Union Cemetery, I would watch my wife carefully wipe away any remnants Mother Nature may have left behind on Lindsay’s headstone. Then she carefully arranges some flowers using those same gentle hands that had held Lindsay so sweetly while she was alive.
Standing by Lindsay’s grave, I cannot help but look about at some of her neighboring headstones. Due to the proximity of every headstone, I am usually standing on them. Sometimes I say a little prayer for those other parents, but usually I simply look at the names and dates on their little gravestones and wonder how short their lives were as well.
Some of the headstones have the same date for both birth and death. For those parents, all the excitement, anticipation, joy, hopes, and dreams were crushed forever in an abrupt instant. It must be very sad to have a baby born and die on the very same day. No, I’m certain it is.
For those parents who have held their child a little longer and then lose them too quickly, their loss is awful too, possibly in very different ways. Those parents who have enjoyed their child a little longer have many memories to savor and miss, like holidays, vacations, birthdays, first words, and first steps. Just more days to love on their child. Losing a child is dreadful and so very permanent.
Either way, it just plain sucks.
It’s silly I’m sure, but whenever I have visited Baby Land, it feels like I am standing in a small village where only the parents who have lost a small child are allowed. While Lynn and I are always there alone, I feel I’m sharing an extraordinary and mutual community with all those other parents I’ve never met. It seems there is a secret and common kinship among strangers whose child has left too soon. It holds you together, like a sacred, but scattered family.
We are all part of a common thread that passes through a place that not many parents have to, or get to, visit. You can’t help but feel the love that has been left behind on those revered stones. While there are no voices lifted out loud, the feeling is still very comforting. It shows up as a generous embrace left behind from all those parents who preceded or followed you there. Every young soul leaves the traces of a sweet life left behind in this very special place, purchased by God long before each child was born.
All of us arrived at this destination at different times and certainly through different circumstances, but for those few moments, I can safely share what it feels like to be a lonely parent. Perhaps those other parents say a short prayer as they look at my child’s grave as well. This temporary sanctuary makes it easier to stand in the midst of this special group of heroes.
Many years have come and gone since that cold week in April 1982. Since my family moved to Cincinnati, I have only gone back to Lindsay’s gravesite a few times, but Lynn’s mom always went there to lay some flowers on her grave for those special occasions: her birthday and the anniversary of her passing. Maybe she just wanted to spend some time near one of her grandchildren. I will be forever grateful for her acts of kindness and love.
After living through the writing my story, I have tried to visit that cemetery more often, sometimes by myself. It doesn’t take long for those communal hugs to surround me from all those other parents who’s child sleeps but a few feet away from mine.
Thank you for all those hugs and I hope my presence leaves some comfort behind for you as well when you visit Baby Land.