How do you create a headstone for your daughter? And not just that, but how do you allow it to be primarily for your daughter, but also appropriate for yourself and your husband in the (hopefully) distant future. It is a strange thing to have a cemetery plot and headstone already set up for yourself at 35 years old! I've been trying to figure all of this out for about 8 years.
It's hard to believe we accomplished all that we did in that one week between her death and her funeral, but choosing a cemetery for Eveyn to be buried in was one of the first things we had to do. We traveled all over three counties in the area in search of a peaceful, beautiful spot that could match her own peace and beauty. We found that place in one of the last cemeteries we came to. A peaceful little hill in the back of a beautiful, old cemetery, under a young oak tree. Immediately, I knew that was her spot. What a strange thing, to be excited over a spot in the ground to place your child. But God gave me that place, and he gave me joy and peace in it.
I remember walking through the cemetery with the representative/salesman as he showed us around, told us about their rules and regulations regarding headstones. In the specific section Eveyn is buried, we are required to have an upright headstone, not one that lies flat in the ground. He told us we could take as long as needed to have one installed, and that some people never actually get one done because of crazy family feuds, or indecision, or just lack of money to have one made. I remember thinking, "How sad. How could I let Eveyn be here without any marker or indication that she is here, that she existed?" I wanted to have this headstone designed and installed by her first birthday at the latest. Little did I know the amount of grief, depression, and life that lay ahead of me that would prevent me from doing so for 8 years.
In my first attempts of planning Eveyn's headstone, every time I thought about it, I would quickly push it away because having it completed was the final step. It was a type of closure that I didn't want. As long as there were open-ends, it allowed me to hang on to her and be closer to her. This was the last undone item. After her headstone was installed, I would have nothing left to do, nothing left to work on. Having her things to take care of meant taking care of her. An innate desire and need to take care of my little girl. I know logically she doesn't need me to take care of her. It's the same reason it feels impossible to leave the cemetery every time I go out there. It's just not natural to leave your child all alone as you drive away. I ache, heartbroken every time. A mother's need to care for her child never leaves, whether they are 4 years, 40 years, alive or dead. It's always there.
Now the last task has been finished, and now I have to just sit in the knowledge that she really has never needed me to do anything for her beyond those only 9 months of her life; but I have needed her. I still need her, but I will have to find a new way to allow her to remain with me while not hanging on too tight. A new phase in this lifelong journey.
So here it is.
Unfortunately, I had a serious shadow on the front that makes it harder to see, but it's the best I could get.
Each aspect of this headstone has a purposeful design and reason to it. First, the color of the marble is a peach/sunset color because I wanted to reflect the delicacy and beauty of Eveyn when she was born. We asked everyone to wear pink to her funeral, because I never wanted any dark, somber colors to have anything to do with her life. And I wanted the same thing represented in her headstone - no gray, black or other heavy colors.
I wanted the foundation of the artwork to be the peacock in the tree. The peacock has long been used in art, and specifically in Christian art as a symbol of Christ. It was originally thought that the peacock was an immortal being, whose flesh did not decay, hence the reference to Christ and eternal life. When Eveyn died, we had a priceless gift given to us. We had some friends commission a painting for us which was created by an artist who is a mutual friend. In this multi-dimension painting, he depicted Eveyn as a white dove (her spirit) flying with a white peacock (Christ). This painting continues to hold a prominent place in our home and in my heart. Our neighborhood is also full of real peacocks, strangely enough. I love going on walks just to find them and marvel at their beauty and reflect on this eternal, mortal and immortal life we have in Christ. God gives some people rainbows, others butterflies, and others sunsets as reminders of his promises and love. He gave me peacocks, and I love them.
The flowers at the base of the tree are daisies, forget-me-nots, daffodils and chrysanthemums. Daisies are the birth flower of April and they also symbolize innocence and child-like joy. Forget-me-nots symbolize just that. They are a simple flower of remembrance. Daffodils represent rebirth, and the chrysanthemums are a symbol of optimism and joy. All of these things are the things that my heart simultaneously experiences and knows when I think of Eveyn, see her picture or hear her name. She was a beautiful little flower of peace, innocence and joy.
There is a plain little butterfly above her name that is simply a picture of her new life, as a new creation. Below her name it states "Born into the arms of Christ." I wanted to have something written, other than just her birthdate, since normally on a headstone there is a date of birth, and a date of death. In her life, it was the same date, so I wanted to say something that reflected this. I had seen something similar stated somewhere else and thought it was just right and spoke the truth of her birth. When I delivered her, she was alive for mere moments before her spirit was welcomed by God. She truly was born into his arms before she ever graced mine.
On the back above the verse we chose to use a trefoil instead of a cross because I wanted to emphasize the work of the trinity as a whole in our lives and the life of Eveyn.
And finally, there are two verses on the headstone. They are both verses that speak of the most important aspect to all of this: We WAIT in HOPE. Waiting and hoping. God is our only hope in all of this. We know he will make all things new and right. One day, it will all make sense to this feeble heart and mind. But until that day comes, we wait. Joyfully, and expectantly, we wait knowing that God's compassion and mercy lead us and follow us every step of the way.