Planning our little boy’s funeral – wow, that is something I never thought I’d write. But no one does, do they? Losing a child was always my irrational fear, I remember always thinking ‘it will never happen to me, it just doesn’t happen to people like me’ … and it did. My most irrational fear is now my most rational, because it’s my reality. It DID happen to me, and after it happened to me, I had to plan my son’s funeral.
Otis was born on a Friday morning, we spent two AMAZING days with our little boy before he was collected by the funeral directors on the Sunday at midday. We chose to organise his funeral with Champs Funeral Services in Clayton-Le-Moors, and they were honestly nothing short of wonderful. The service they provide and compassion they show is second to none. I truly believe they helped make Otis’ funeral so perfect.
We sat with our funeral director, Lianna, on the Monday following Otis’ birth. It was sudden, but we wanted his funeral for the Friday that was coming up, due to him deteriorating so quickly after birth.
We decided to have Otis buried. I’ve come to learn that most parents of stillborn babies decide to have their child cremated. Having Otis buried was a decision I pushed on to Chris because I desperately wanted Otis to have his own little resting place – somewhere that I could go to recollect and speak to him, somewhere to be alone with my own thoughts, somewhere where his big sisters can go and play, somewhere people can visit without having to ask us first. In hindsight, despite being a decision made in the midst of confusion, it is not one I regret.
If Otis had lived we would have opted to have him Christened, just as his big sisters were Christened when they were babies. Because of this, it only felt ‘right’ that his funeral service be held in a church, as opposed to a crematorium, at his graveside or at the funeral home itself. Otis’ service took place at All Saints Church in Clayton-Le-Moors, the same Church his big sisters were Christened in. It was heartbreakingly beautiful (from what I remember). The day went by so quickly. I knew if I was to cope, if I was to make it through, I had to focus on myself and myself only. The only people I remember seeing that day are my dad, Chris, the girls, my friends Abby, Jodie and Mel, and Otis’ tiny blue coffin.
The service was short, but sweet. Chris carried Otis’ coffin in to the church to Eva Cassidy’s version of ‘Over the Rainbow’. Seeing him holding Otis in his coffin, knowing it was the very last time he would ever hold our son in his arms, is something I will never forget and nothing short of agonising.
I wrote a letter to our little boy that was read out during the service by the vicar as I didn’t have the strength to read it myself – I may share it in a blog post later down the line. We also chose for his big sisters to light a candle for him during our time of recollection.
We chose for Otis to be buried in a little ‘baby garden’ in a local cemetery. I have the ideology that with him being buried alongside other babies, he will never be alone. One of mine and his daddy’s favourite songs (Otis Redding – Dock of the Bay) was played at his graveside as his coffin was being lowered, and once his coffin was in the ground we sprinkled glitter and stars on him, as opposed to the usual ‘ashes and dust’.
One of the hardest decisions during planning Otis’ funeral was the songs we were going to use. It was difficult for two reasons:
1.) Will the song be ‘suitable’?
2.) How much do I like this song? Because I will never listen to it the same again.
And I can’t. I cannot listen to Otis’ funeral songs without breaking down. I can’t listen to them without imagining his tiny, lifeless, beautiful body lying in that coffin. I can’t listen to them without thinking about what we are missing out on; without thinking about who and what he would have become; without thinking about the fact I should now have a precious one month old baby in my arms.
Planning Otis’ funeral was soul destroying, but it was the only one thing we would ever be able to do for our son as his parents. We won’t ever be able to plan a birthday party, we won’t ever be able to help him with his homework, his daddy won’t ever be able to teach him how to ride a bike or how to fish (though he’d struggle with that because he can’t really fish himself!).
The funeral went by without a hitch and we had nothing but compliments about how we had done Otis proud in organising that special day for him.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; we miss you, we love you & we will do both eternally.
Please find listed below the songs we played at Otis’ funeral, and please think of him and all the other babies born sleeping whenever you hear them or choose to play them.
1.) Eva Cassidy – Over the Rainbow. (Walking in to church)
2.) Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven. (During time of recollection & thinking)
3.) Oasis – Let There be Love. (Walking out of church)
4.) Otis Redding – Dock of the Bay. (At his graveside)