A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Mary O’Dea
“We’re here, Baby. Hop out of the car.”
“Okay, Momma. What is this place again?”
“It’s called a funeral home.”
“Do they have funerals here?”
“But we’re here to just pick up Grifﬁn, right? We’re not having a funeral are we?”
“No, Baby. We’re not having a funeral. We’re just going to pick him up and take him home.”
I was thankful for my daughter’s hand in mine as we crossed the blacktop to the front door. My ﬁrst clear thought was, at least it’s a pretty building. Then at the door: Automatic doors. That’s good. Then people don’t have to struggle opening the door.
Inside, the place felt hermetically sealed, almost padded. No sound from the outside world could permeate. A hushed family rested in the main room on mauve furniture. Cheerless, questioning faces searched ours us as we entered: did they know us? No, we were strangers. But for an instant, our families wordlessly mourned together until a pretty young woman scurried out to greet us from some unseen room on the right.
“May I help you?”
“Hi. We’re here to pick up Grifﬁn O’Dea’s remains.”
“Oh. The baby,” she said. Her voice unexpectedly broke.
“Yes, The baby.”
She led the two of us to a side room to wait at a large, mahogany conference table while she scurried away again. I guessed that large families must convene here to make decisions about their loved ones. We were small. Stillborn babies don’t occasion family gatherings. We took up only two chairs in the corner.
“Momma, what are all these boxes on the wall?”
“They’re for people’s remains, baby. They’re boxes like the one you got when you and your dad picked up Spike from the vet.”
“Is Grifﬁn going to be in a box like one of these?”
“Not a fancy one like these. They put him in a little ﬁlm canister. You know the little black ones like your dad keep ﬁlm in for his camera. We’ll have to get Grifﬁn a nicer box.”
“Can we pick out one of these boxes?”
“No. We’ll have to get him a box someplace else.”
“Maybe we can go to the store by Publix that has all the pretty stuff in it. I bet they’ll have a good box.”
“We’ll have to go there and see if they have something we like.”
“Will there be ashes and bones in the box? When I shake Spike’s box a little, I can hear the bones. If I listen carefully, I can hear the ashes.”
“There will be ashes, but maybe not bones. Grifﬁn was pretty little, and his bones were very soft. You may not be able to tell there were bones.”
“But he had bones didn’t he?”
“Yes, Baby. He had bones.”
“Why didn’t Spike’s bones burn up, Momma?”
“I guess they were too hard. Grifﬁn’s bones weren’t as hard as Spike’s because he was still a baby. Spike was nineteen, remember?”
“Oh, yeah. Babies’ bones are very soft, aren’t they? And babies have the soft place on their heads that you can’t touch.”
“Momma, was Grifﬁn bigger or smaller than Spike?”
“Grifﬁn was smaller than Spike, so his box will be smaller than Spike’s.”
“Can we put the box on the mantle next to the angel we bought for the other baby?”
“I think that’s a good idea. Baby, will you come and sit on my lap?”
“OK, Momma. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
I wrapped my arms around her, trying to protect her from the world while I garnered strength from her live, young body. I felt my own body begin to gently rock in the comforting movement of motherhood. She nestled her head into my neck.
“I miss my brother, Momma.”
“So do I, Baby, so do I.”