05-07-11 / Celebrating the Life of The Sweetest Baby Ever Born
Today was a day filled with uncertainty. I was wanting this to be a celebration of my sweet baby boy’s life, but it was still a funeral; could I hold it together? It seemed like this day took forever getting here but at the same time it snuck up on me. Was I ready to say goodbye to him? Could I walk away from the cemetery with peace in my heart knowing that I was leaving my baby there? Would everything go as I pictured it in my head and in my heart? Would we be able to do his life justice? I just want to make my sweet boy as proud as he has made me.
The service was planned for 10:00 a.m. and I was so panicked about being late. I told everyone I would be there by 9:00 to help get things set up but I failed miserably at that; it turned out to be a blessing that we arrived when we did. Our friends were there at 8:30 to begin blowing up balloons, we had over 140 balloons to send up to Thomas at the end of the service and they all joined together to get them aired up and ready for takeoff! The guys in the band along with my dad were there around 9:00 to start getting things setup and to make sure their sound equipment would work with the generator that we brought. We had every single intention of being there bright and early to help with all of these things but in real “Holly” fashion, we were late! I shot for a 9:00 arrival and made it by 9:45, about right.
I mentioned that it was a blessing that we arrived when we did and I will explain why. When we pulled up we noticed the large crowd that had already gathered, I began to panic and told Aaron how dumb it was going to look when we couldn’t find a parking spot at our own child’s service. He pulled right up to the front and parked where I feel certain the funeral home vehicle was supposed to park; he didn’t seem to care. We started getting the kids ready for what we were about to do and they didn’t have a care in the world. Aaden was running around crazy and Kamryn was scanning the crowd to see who all she knew. Let me quickly define crowd for you; the funeral home employees estimated around 250+ people in attendance. They said it was by far the largest graveside they’ve ever hosted. Most adults don’t have the type of turn out at their farewell service that our Thomas had; he was a special kid! The reason it was a blessing that we arrived when we did is because Thomas arrived shortly thereafter.
When we found out that Thomas wouldn’t live very long, Aaron got it set in his mind that he wanted to be the one to carry him into the service. He didn’t want anyone else doing that task; he felt it was his responsibility. He walked up to the car and Hershel was so kind and gentle while showing him how to carry Thomas down the sidewalk, took the casket into his hands and walked proudly toward the huge crowd of people. Have I mentioned what a wonderful husband I have? Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have a man that loves his children unconditionally and is the true meaning of the word “daddy”? He has shown a level of strength through all of this that I truly didn’t know he possessed! I am proud to be his wife and even more proud that I was able to share in this experience with him; the life of our baby boy.
Thank goodness my dad had come to greet us when we got there because he managed the kids as we all walked in together to say our final farewell to our sweet angel. As we reached the tent we spent a small amount of time getting him just right. Each one of us had a yellow tulip to place on his casket, plus one for him; his casket “spray” consisted of 5 beautiful tulips placed one over the other. No ribbons, no flashy décor, just 5 flowers to represent each member of our family. Once we got those things in order we sat with our family and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of his service. The weather was amazing, there was a cool breeze blowing just right, the clouds were beautiful and the sun was out but didn’t seem to be blazing to the point of discomfort. Everything was perfect. Brandon Hanson spoke such kind words and simply told the story of Thomas’s life. We didn’t want this to be a typical service where they blankly talk about who this person is survived by, blah blah blah. We wanted it to tell his story, the story of the tiniest warrior; and that’s what Brandon did. We also didn’t want your typical “Amazing Grace” and “Beulah Land” type of music. Don’t get me wrong, those are two of my favorite songs from growing up in a Baptist church, but they just don’t scream “celebration” to me. We were blessed to have Justin and William from the Calvary Baptist V2 service band there to lead us in praise and worship. They sang, “Praise You in This Storm”, “Jesus Paid it All”, “How He Loves Us” and “Our God Is Greater”; four of our favorite songs. Songs that expressed how much God has done for us and how we will thank him; even in the midst of the lowest point of our lives.
At one point in the service I looked back to see Kamryn sitting on my dad’s lap crying. We’re still unsure if she was crying because she was sad about Thomas or she was sad because others were sad around her; either way, it broke my heart. I motioned for her to come to the front, where she crawled into my lap and snuggled up to me and cried. Bless her heart, she just doesn’t understand it all, it’s too much for her to grasp. Aaden was clueless, he was just exceptionally concerned about the fact that he was “so thirsty” and was demanding a juice box. Why in the world didn’t we bring any juice boxes?!?
As Brandon began to wrap things up I became sad, I wasn’t ready for it to end. I could sit and listen to people talk about my Thomas for hours and hours and never become bored. I knew it had to end at some point but I just wasn’t ready for that point to come just yet. He finished up and we sang Our God Is Greater and then the fun began. We all got to step out and let our balloons go, how beautiful to see that many baby blue balloons headed toward the heavens in honor of our baby prince. Aaden held tight to his balloon, as he still had to release his butterflies. I had ordered a butterfly kit for him a few weeks ago and we weren’t sure when they would hatch. In this kit, they send you 5 caterpillars in a jar that eventually form cocoons and then butterflies. Well, he watched them daily to see what was happening and I just knew they would hatch over the weekend that we were away having Thomas; they didn’t. When Aaden got home from my parents’ house that Monday afternoon, we got to share with him that one of his butterflies was out; he was beside himself. He couldn’t stop looking at this butterfly; he’d go play outside and then run in just to peek at it. Over the span of the week following Thomas’s birth and leading up to his burial, all five butterflies hatched. We decided there was no better time or place than at his service to release Aaden’s butterflies. How awesome that there were 5; just like our family! I knelt down beside Aaden and unzipped his butterfly house, one flew out quickly and Aaden let out the cutest laugh; this was such a blessing, to hear such laughter in a setting where there should be sadness. All of them flew off except one, it was lying on the sidewalk and I was a bit concerned that it was sick and wouldn’t be able to fly. Aaron said he was concerned that Aaden was going to go over and stomp on it. I think my dad finally picked it up and it flew off, then the sweetest thing happened; Aaden released his balloon. His was the last to enter the sky, one little balloon from Thomas’s big brother.
We spent so much time hugging, I don’t remember everyone that we hugged, we were overwhelmed by the attendance and we wanted to see everyone there, but it just wasn’t possible. We felt like we were in a spin cycle for a while, but I will never forget it. To know that there are that many people out there that love our family and that love our angel baby amazes me. I will never be able to thank each of you, but please know that it meant the world to us. Once the crowd had cleared it was time for us to say our goodbyes. We each took our tulip off of his casket and left his with him, Aaron and I kissed his casket and Aaron gently placed him in the ground. I didn’t know he was going to do that, but I’m so glad that he did. I’m so proud of him.
We left the cemetery and went straight home to a party! We had a bounce house that Cmore rentals donated for the weekend; finger foods and a huge cake from Glenda’s Bake a Cake!! It was truly like a huge birthday party! Everything had gone the way I pictured it. The service was breathtaking, the weather was incredible, the mood was just right; all in all, I feel we celebrated his life and brought honor to the person he was.
We woke up the next morning, Mother’s Day, and I was greeted by Aaden yelling, “Hey mommy, come look at my butter…..where are my butterflies?” I said, “you gave them to baby Thomas, remember?” In true 3 year old, big brother fashion he screams, “but I had them first!!!” Happy Mother’s Day to me! All of my children were with me and always will be!