Forever In My Heart Friday. FIMHF. Week 36. There’s a big difference between support and pity. I realize now that if others saw how much pain my heart carries, it would frighten them. I get up every morning with a mask that is so well constructed by nothing more than the grace of God, and it covers it all so well. I often have others say to me, “You’re the strongest person I know”, “I don’t know how you do it”, or, “There is a purpose for God taking your child.” It’s truly hard to know how to respond to these remarks at times. Because it’s all too easy to say that until that child becomes YOUR child. This journey of grief that I now walk through every day is now going to be one that lasts forever. No matter how much I try to escape the thoughts and memories of the day Myesha left this earth, I can’t. Because even when you think it can’t get any worse, believe me it can.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015. It’s the day of her viewing. Not only am I overcome with trying to meticulously plan a funeral, as if I was planning her wedding, but I get the first of two phone calls that forever changed me. The funeral home calls 5 hours prior to inform me that due to the amount of fluid on her body from being in renal failure, that the outfit that I spend hours trying to decide, was not going to work. You see, I had chosen her gorgeous white formal dress that she loved so much and wore to one of her best friend’s birthday celebrations. Oh how she loved that dress! I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was to decide what to bury her in. But now they needed something that was going to cover her arms all the way to her wrists and cover her up to her neckline. I was so confused. But I had no time to question, nor did I even have time to overthink it. My cousins and I went shopping. Shopping for a funeral outfit. It was so surreal. It had to be perfect. It had to be what she would like. Her colors. Her style. Time was not on our side and all I can remember doing walking through that store, scouring through racks of clothes, was talking to her. Asking her to guide me to the outfit that she wanted to be seen in on “her day”. “Her day”, lol. It sounds so odd to say that now because it wasn’t the day as a parent I so looked forward to. But I found one. Coincidently, I knew I had found the right one because my cousins Dawn and Amanda found me a few short minutes later and had the exact same one in their hands as well. We all looked at each other and smiled. Yep, Myesha was definite making sure that we picked out the right one. We rush to the check out to pay and the next phone call comes in….
So apparently the technician that normally does the deceased’s make up was on vacation and they didn’t have a staff member available or trained to apply make up to someone of her decent, as she was bi-racial. “ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS??” At this point there is no time. The clock is ticking and my baby needed her mother. I stopped off at the house and grabbed all of my MAC make-up, throw it in a bag and head off to the mortuary.
As I enter the building I can feel my heart beating out of my chest. I approach the front desk and simply tell the girl working up front that I am here to bring clothes for Myesha Reed and that I have also brought the make-up necessary to prepare her for her viewing. A viewing that was now just 3 hours away. With no questions of whom I was the girl quickly took us back to where Myesha was. We passed through a room with a body on display for viewing. I just kept looking forward trying not to stare. But no sooner could I think about that, and then the smell hit me. You could smell it. Death. Formaldehyde.
The next set of door opened and I find my daughter lying on the cold steel table covered in a white sheet up to her neck. Her Aunt Jean is already there and is working on her hair as we had arranged. I am fighting back the tears. I am trying to “stay strong”. I look over at Dawn and tears are streaming down her face. Amanda has now turned her head towards the opposite side of the room and is fighting back the tears that have now surfaced down her cheeks as well. I tell them both “Stop it!! No crying!!! Damn it I need you right now! But I need you to not cry right now because you have to be strong for me. So stop crying!!”
I look down at my child. My first born. I could still see the tape marks across her face from where the hospital had to tape her breathing tube in place. I starred at her for what seemed like an eternity. I felt like I had left my body for a few short moments and was trying to find my way back in. I slowly move the sheet down away from her body only to discover that her entire body is covered in a thick heavy plastic body suit, similar to the pajamas I would put on my children in the winter. The only part exposed is her hands. The suit is gray taped around her wrist. The morticians have now come into the room and I ask them why she is in the “body bag”. They inform me that when a person dies from MRSA, that the infection will look for a heat source to survive or a way to escape the body. With that being said the underneath side of her body, including her arms and legs was now covered in boils and blisters. I lift her left arm to see for myself. This can’t be real. This can’t really be happening to me, to her! Sure enough though, the plastic covering clings to the once beautiful brown skin that adorned her body, to what is now nothing more than rotted flesh. I place her arm back down and pull the sheet back up to her neck.
That’s the day I put my “mask” on. I could not stand there and cry. I could not let my grief consume me. She needed me. For the last time, my baby needed her mother and damn it, it was time to make her look beautiful! I adorned the gloves the mortician gave us because we were not allowed to “work on” her with our bare hands. Surround by 4 other dead bodies being embalmed or waiting for cremation, I applied my daughter’s make-up one last time.
I will never forget the fluid that kept seeping from her nostrils while I was busy applying her eye shadow. The way I had to keep wiping it up as if she had a cold so not to leave marks on her upper lip from the foundation that I had already applied. I will never forget the smell of formaldehyde filling my lungs as I tried to take deep breaths to maintain my composure. Her skin was so cold. The gloves did nothing to hide that chill. I will never forget the way her skin felt. As if I was applying make-up to a doll, stiff and hard. Then it was on to her hair. Aunt Jean did such as amazing job flat ironing and curling her hair as I took the pieces and pinned them just where Myesha would want them. Just like she would wear her hair. Dawn never left my side and was gloved up and helping me along the way, even taking all the bobby pins out of her own hair to use for Myesha’s. Amanda making light talk with everyone to help alleviate the tension. When it was all said and done, through the help of 3 AMAZING women, my daughter was now ready for her final appearance here on earth, her “grand finale”.
The truth is child loss changes us permanently and time cannot change us back to who we were before the loss of our child. In my case, you know my loss, but you only know parts of my story. The grief I have over the death of my child will never be tamed. My journey is one that is permanent and life- altering. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I would do it all over again. Why? Because Myesha is worth it!! Mommy loves you Myesha!! FIM <3 F