Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
– Psalm 61:1-4 –
It was a tearful drive from the hospital to my parents’ home. Luckily, we had the awkward-sized box of tissues from the hospital with us. I kept those tissues next to me the entire drive, and they are still in my car today (I might cry when I use the last one… and there won’t be more tissues to wipe those tears away). The farm became our refuge from the storm and a safe place to be and let the reality of Rayna’s death sink in. Do you have a place like that?
Our days spent there are a blur, though some details remain vivid and clear. We ate breakfast every morning on the porch, sometimes pancakes and eggs, other times bowls of fruit. Many other meals were shared outside, and we saw the best sunsets over the rolling hills surrounding the farm. I know I ate a candy bar every afternoon, and we watched plenty of HGTV. I also remember a cozy hour in a warm tub reading my book club book and relaxing all by myself. It was the first and longest time I was completely alone since Saturday. I was understandably exhausted, so I did a lot of sitting and lying around. Nick was a little more productive, and even helped clean out horse stalls one day.
Wednesday night, Nick and I went for a date night in a nearby town where we didn’t know people. I even wore makeup; though not eye makeup, as the risk of crying was still too high to even consider mascara. We wanted to be anonymous. We ate at a winery and I had a salad with blue cheese on it. I hadn’t had blue cheese yet in 2015 because it is on that ever changing and never fully agreed upon list of foods women aren’t supposed to have while pregnant. I missed blue cheese, so I had blue cheese. I also sipped a glass of wine. It was delicious, yet also sad to be “breaking the rules.” To not have my baby. After dinner we went to see Vacation in theaters. I laughed so hard in parts of the movie, and it felt so good to laugh. We left the theater in time to see the sunset on our drive home.
On Thursday, my sister whisked me away to the city for some gal time. We went to get pedicures, and I chose a sunset-yellow color to have Rayna with me. I still paint my toenails bright sunset colors to remember her in a fun way. This was also the day Nick built a box for Rayna’s cremated remains. I thought it would take him only a few hours, so after the pedicure I texted him to see where he was at. He replied with a photo of the board he selected… it had been at least two hours and he only had a board picked out. It was a nice board, but I knew my sister and I didn’t need to rush home.
We browsed Charming Charlie’s, with no real intention of buying anything. The sales person was nice, though it was overwhelming to have her cheerful, “Can I help you with anything today?” while we were both grieving and in a more somber mood. We clearly needed more introverted tasks for the day, so naturally we scheduled a massage. The massage therapist we found was great. His spouse worked as an OB nurse, so he had a deeper understanding of stillbirth than some might. He was a little chatty, but the massage was just right and I left feeling relaxed. We did stop and check on Nick’s progress before returning to my parents’. He was so focused on the project he barely said hello and I’m not even convinced he knew we were there.
Rayna’s cremated remains were ready for us to pick up from the funeral home on Friday. We were nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been around death: I grew up around the funeral home and work at a hospital, but I’ve never had to do this before. We drove into town to pick up our daughter. She had been so well cared for by the funeral home, and she was in the hands of people we knew the entire time. Knowing who provided her services meant so much to us; people went out of their way to help us provide only the best care for our daughter, even in her death. Despite Nick’s concerns, she fit beautifully in the box Nick handcrafted for her. It was a sad day, yet also comforting to have her back in our care.
Throughout the week a few people in the neighborhood and from church provided meals to our family. The food was delicious, and tasted even better knowing the love poured into each of those meals. It was also lovely to share those meals with our extended family. We had the grandparents over for a meal on Friday night, and even more extended family over on Saturday night. I loved being surrounded by family, and I am remarkably thankful for the people we have in our lives.
All week we had debated when to leave our place of refuge. When would we be ready? We considered hiding on the farm forever, while realizing we’d have to re-enter reality at some point. Sunday was talked about, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. We resolved Monday would be the day. We woke up and shared another breakfast outside. Nick and I packed up our luggage and cooler and items we’d accumulated throughout the week. It was time to go. Time to trust God’s refuge would journey with us. We hugged my family and said our tearful goodbyes as we climbed into the car. I clung to Rayna’s box and blanket in my lap as we pulled out of the driveway.