It is Sunday morning and it is my turn to keep the church nursery. I counted four babies and tried to remember their names as I greeted parents who dropped them off on their way to worship.
We made it through the first half hour of feeding and changing with only a few tears shed. One of the littlest girls snuggles into my warm shoulder now as I sit in the rocking chair. She breathes so smoothly I wish I could fall asleep here with her. Her eyes are still closed as I hand her back to her mother, and her tiny feet draw up to meet her chest when she places her in the car seat.
Hours ago, I was standing on the cold marble floor of a hospital with a pen and paper in one hand and my cellphone in the other. I held my file folder over my funeral home name tag and hoped my dark pantsuit did not draw too much attention to my presence. I am sure it was normal to see young, professional looking women dotting this particular hallway, but it was clear to me I did not quite belong there.
I was there to meet a man who called to ask if we could cremate his baby. He said his wife had been induced close to full term, but that their baby was stillborn. Even his voice seemed sad, and I tried to respond gently. I waited for him in the bustling halls outside of the labor and delivery wing. I kept hoping he would come around the corner to look for me, but every person I saw was dressed in brightly colored scrubs or was sporting a baby bump.
I called him from my cellphone and told him I was there. He came to find me and we shook hands. He then led me to a dimly lit room where his wife sat in a rocking chair. Tears flowed freely down her cheeks as I entered the room. I introduced myself with confidence in an attempt to mask the sounds of a crying baby next door. They signed a form and we shook hands again before I made my way back out into the sunlight.
My view into the window of the intersection of life and death never ceases to amaze me. I sometimes stand in awe and wonder, craning my neck as if to peer from this world into the next. Some moments defy logic, however, and the limits of what I see in front of me can feel constricting and cold.
The small, still body of the their son is now reduced to a handful of ashes which I take to them at their home. They kept his footprints and had them framed to hang in what would have been his room. His mother hugs me hard when I go to leave, and over her shoulder, I spot a car seat with a price tag glowing on the side. Maybe they will return it soon; or perhaps they will keep it as they hold onto hope a little while longer.