December 1, 2009

My Thanksgiving was, all in all, pretty wonderful.  Mom and Dad drove over from Montana, bringing a giant turkey and pie, and we fed Thanksgiving dinner to two grad students who were dealing with their first big holiday away from family (they brought pie, too).  The house looked good, or good enough, anyway, and I enjoyed soaking up a little coddling from my parents for a while.  I’m lucky in my family.

I have much to be thankful for, and if I’m a little fuzzy on who or what I should direct all this thanks to, well, that’s okay.  It doesn’t stop thankfulness from welling up.

And, as I’ve come to expect from holidays now, there were tears mixed in with the laughter.  Mom and Dad asked if they could see the urn that holds Teddy’s ashes.  I was a little surprised that they hadn’t seen it before, but we didn’t have a memorial service, which is, I guess, where casket and urn viewings tend to happen.  Also, asking people (even close family) if they’d like to see my son’s urn doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’m not sure where the surprise came from.  I brought it out of my dresser drawer, where it’s been tucked away since our move, and carried it into to the living room, and…

It’s so small, this urn.  I can cup it in the palm of my not-so-very-large hand.  It’s a “keepsake” urn, really, meant to hold a small portion of ashes after the rest have been buried or scattered, but it’s big enough to contain the entire physical remains of our five-pound, ten-ounce baby boy.  I know, have known, have wondered and marveled and grieved over the size of it for over a year now, but it’s different, showing it to someone else.  Showing my parents this tiny container and watching them be hit by its size, by how little we have left of him.

Showing it to them, I wanted to say, I know.  It’s really tiny. And what I wanted to yell was, He should be 15 months old now and taking up his own seat at the table.  He should be demanding space and attention and this is what he has, instead.  And it’s so wrong I can’t stand it.

Except, I can stand it.  Somehow, I’m standing.  I’ll never be thankful for the size of that urn or for the fact of that urn, but I’m thankful to have known Teddy.  And the turkey was delicious if not quite as good as the turkey soup that Mom and I made the day after Thanksgiving, and there was pie for breakfast.



  1. it’s hard to explain how this moved me. the little urns shouldn’t hold all that they do. little urns shouldn’t be in our houses. and yet…well…they are. and we got to know those little boys. and we are still standing. and that is mostly stuff to be very thankful for.

    i think it’s nice that they asked to see it. 🙂

  2. I’ve often had the same thoughts about the tiny casket in which Ezra was buried. Why do they even make caskets that small? I’m so touched that your parents asked to see the urn.

  3. This image of the tiny urn in your palm has been sitting with me. I remember thinking when Brian’s sister died 6 months after Henry how big her casket and grave looked, for I was so used to the tiny casket, the little patch of ground that had been opened for him.

    It is amazing how we go on standing.

  4. It is amazing, how we can stand it. It’s so sad, and it’s so very sad that we know it so well that the edge wears off after awhile.

    I’m glad your mom and dad asked to see it.

  5. Erica – You always take my breath away, and bring the tears that need to come. And you take the words from my mouth. Like Sarah, what you wrote about the size of Teddy’s urn took me to that moment I first saw Tikva’s coffin, and recognized just how small it was. Small and light enough for the undertaker to take it out of the huge hearse and carry it to her grave in his arms, rather than on the gurney that would shrink and stretch in size, depending on the size of the coffin it needed to hold. It was just so small. She was so small. And because she died so young, the cemetery and funeral home didn’t charge us a penny for her burial or grave site. They give you that after all you’ve been through losing a child. That, too, breaks my heart. The natural kindness of it.

    AND… somehow I’m still standing too. And so deeply thankful that I got to know and hold and will forever love Tikva. That I have this beautiful sweet soul to miss is a gift, even if I wish I didn’t have this reason to miss her, and could save the missing for her first summer at sleepaway camp.

  6. Oh Erica, this is EXACTLY how I feel about Iris’ urn. This is perfectly written. x

  7. It is staggering how those tiny little urns can hold something that means so much. Sometimes I’m still taken aback by how little I have of G. There is always less than I remember somehow.

    It is wrong.

    Yet, somehow, we are still standing. I’m glad your that you got a little bit of coddling over the holidays. xo

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