April 29, 2011

The Day I Picked Up Her Ashes

[april 14, 2011]

We decided on a Thursday that it wasn’t the right day to pick up her ashes. Something just didn’t feel right about it, as if we imagined there would be a day when it would make sense to pick up the ashes of our dead baby girl. So we went on Friday, in the afternoon. We picked a particular funeral home because they only charged $241 to cremate Margot, and the other funeral home I called wanted $635. Screw that, I said to Kari after hanging up. For a split second I wasn’t calling around about the price of cremation, but something more ordinary, like the price of carpet cleaning or an oil change.

I had driven by the funeral home a hundred times since moving to Pasadena. I always marveled at the beauty of the place. The red stone walls, the spanish bell tower, the lush landscaping.

I parked the car at the back of the lot, in a place where people wouldn’t be able to see the tears that I knew were coming. We walked in through the double doors and made our way down a long hallway with classy carpet and ornate frames filled with fabricated images of nature. Kari sat in a chair halfway down the hallway and I walked up to a large woman sitting at a desk. She wore a business suit and a look of disregard. I didn’t know what to say. What do you say? My name? My daughters name?

I felt like the whole world should know about what happened to us. I felt like this woman should have seen us coming and had everything ready.

Hi, she said blandly, as if I just interrupted her.

For a moment, I wanted to slap her. Any of the anger I had experienced suddenly had a target. I felt like unloading the shitstorm of the past two weeks onto her with every gruesome detail. I wanted to ask her how it was possible to be so damn surly, even when almost every person she encounters is there because of death. Then it was gone and I’m standing in front of her with my head down and my eyes glazed over, trying desperately to find some words.

Hi, I muttered back.

I’m here to pick up my daughter.


Amanda said...

Gut-wrenching. There seem to be so many new angles of grief and anger yet to be explored. Stop, world, and mourn.

Norma said...

I find myself anxious to read each new post, as if somehow your expression of grief can help me heal from my own 25 year old grief. I wish I had been able to put into words as eloquently as you have how much pain I felt. Thanks, Josh.

Artie said...

I don't know you but your courage astounds me. I had moments like that after my early miscarriage. Nothing like what you are going through all in all, but the awkward moments on forms. Like when I got pregnant again and there's a check box that asks how many pregnancies you've had. Well do they mean successful pregnancies? How many children have you had? Well do I count the one in heaven? Can the MORONS who make up these stupid forms be any more vague or insensitive!?! I literally froze over more than one form in those days. So painful. Humiliating to have to check a box for something SO private.

I am particularly interesting in this anonymous, faceless woman you encountered. I would love to have her job, to be able to be a glimmer of humanity in moments of intense grief and pain like yours. Why can't they put the right people in such important jobs?!

I totally understand your anger. And at this very moment I am lifting you up in prayer and positive thoughts, total stranger. :)

you are very courageous. I know you don't feel like it. But you are.

jayne bak said...

josh and kari,
when i think about that little life that you so beautifully named Margot, i feel such similar emotions to jamie, no words to offer except, "i'm so sorry"

concerning the ineptness of that woman's response, when i picture that moment as you painfully experienced what never should have been, i struggle again with appropriate words...

you remind us that at all times, we all need to remember how important all our words and actions are towards others - and concerning your response to that horrible moment, i feel compelled to whisper to you, "well done"

because it matters,

glo said...

Still thinking about and praying for you and Kari. I am so so sorry for the lack of human kindness from that woman when you went to "pick up your daughter:. Down the road several months or maybe even a year so you might want to express to her or her boss how it felt to be in your shoes at that moment. I am so proud of the way you step up to the plate in your own pain to try to make things even slightly easier on your wife. You are to be commended.

Anonymous said...

I wanted so much to stand and smack our Simple Alternatives helper? representative? agent? ...

As I sat wracked with tears and grief waiting to pick up Xavier's urn, she looked at me and said "He was in good hands here"

I can only imagine if I had been able to speak the words that would have come out of my mouth.

Your family has been through an incredible trauma and I am sorry this happened to you. There are never any words that offer comfort, because there is no comfort to a grieving parent.

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