“CONGRATULATIONS!”: Leaving the hospital, I am holding sympathy flowers in my lap as I am being wheeled to the exit. An innocent person, smiley but ignorant of our situation, congratulated me. Ouch. I am not angry. They didn’t know, but ouch. There is just no running from this pain. I’m going to encounter it everywhere.

MASTITIS: Distracted by the magnitude of everything, I have completely forgotten about my milk coming in. The physical pain of overfilled breasts adds insult to injury. The implications multiply the emotional pain. I am headed toward mastitis because my baby girl isn’t here for me to nourish and nurture. I will just have to suffer through this, too.  

THE LOGISITCS OF DEATH: Should we have a funeral? How do we plan one? How are we supposed to make important decisions right now anyway? We meet with Dean and Justine from our church, and they help us figure it out. It won’t really be a funeral because Trinity won’t be there. It will be a memorial service. And Dean and Justine will take care of it. It’s a big relief.

What do we do with her body? Do we bury her? We know we are not settled, and we have no idea where we will end up later, so burying her somewhere alone is unthinkable. We decide on cremation, so we can keep her ashes with us until we settle someday. Cianna steps up to hold our hands through this process. She unfortunately has experience with death, so she finds a funeral home for us. We make an appointment, pick out her tiny urn, and specify the engraving. This was terribly draining, but also a relief. After we make it through each difficult step, we can stop to rest. We are making some progress with these awful, unavoidable details.One less thing to dread.

FAMILY: The simplest arrangements are nearly insurmountable. All nine family members are from out of town and will not fit in our small condo. Feelings are hurt about who gets to stay with us and who has to get a hotel. One night, those staying at our condo cannot decide where to sleep, and I am called in to help. I’m still embarrassed about the string of expletives that spew from my mouth. I can’t believe a bunch of grownups can’t figure where to sleep. Richard and I feel like we somehow need to take care of everyone who is supposed to be taking care of us. Every meal is a chore. I don’t feel like I can stay in bed, where I want to be. Richard needs backup. But grace prevails, and we realize that everyone else is grieving and incapacitated, too.

THE MEMORIAL SERVICE: It’s a drippy Saturday evening about dusk. We arrive early to the roomy, but cozy Axis Café. The living room type furniture is arrayed around the fireplace. More chairs are aligned in rows behind. The room fills with people while soft music plays. As guests arrive, we receive the first of countless embraces.
Family and friends sign the guest book that Joanne has made, complete with photos. 
Picture
© Joanne HoYoung Lee
Picture
© Joanne HoYoung Lee
The last photo is of Richard, Trinity, and me, and catches my mom off guard. She points it out to my Dad, Sisters, and Grandma.
Picture
© Joanne HoYoung Lee
Joanne has also assembled a shadow box from the contents of the hospital keepsake box and added photos to that, too. It is on display with pregnancy photos she’d taken of me, a picture of Trinity, and a mosaic tile goody box my sister, Jamie, had made during my pregnancy. It is all carefully arranged with flowers and one white votive candle.
Picture
© Joanne HoYoung Lee
Picture
© Joanne HoYoung Lee
The program is poignant, well thought out and well executed, led by Dean and Justine. Lisa sings a solo, accompanied by Mike on the keyboard. 
Friends share sweet words. 
Somehow Richard manages to speak, and it’s beautiful. There is no way I could have done that, and I am amazed at him. 
Dean closes with prayer and light refreshments are served. We thoroughly enjoy everyone for the whole evening. It is a lovely culmination to a hideous week.
It means everything to be surrounded by family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and friends of friends. Family dropped everything and flew in from the East Coast and Midwest. Friends changed plane tickets and plans. Friends’ significant others who barely know us are here. People we don’t know are here from church volunteering. We are overwhelmed by love in action, and are forever grateful for each and every person that has reached out to help us survive this time.