Thursday, October 14, 2010

Planning: Cake (Part 3)

(You can start reading this series here: Planning (Part 1) and Planning: Picking the Music (Part 2).)

We wanted Elihu's memorial service to be a celebration of his Homecoming and of our hope that some day we will be celebrated as we return Home to Jesus' arms. So we wanted cake and balloons. That's what really signifies a celebration at our house. We have cake and balloons at every birthday party and I knew that I wanted the same for Elihu's Homecoming party. And that's what we did. But as with most things dealing with our loss it was not easy.

I took the boys along with me to the grocery store to pick out a cake. I didn't want to call and order one because I didn't want to have to spell his name and have them ask me questions. So we went to the bakery and saw all the pre-made cakes. I like white cake and white frosting and there were only a few of those left. I looked around for cupcakes because then I wouldn't have to talk to anyone but there were no cupcakes. Which I thought was really stupid.

My oldest wanted me to pick a cake that was very colorful and had plastic balloons poking out the top. But it looked too happy. It kinda made me sick. I stared at those cakes for a long time while many wonderful helpful staff asked me if I needed help and I kept telling them that I was just looking. Meanwhile my 2 and 4 year-old were growing restless in the shopping cart. I finally picked up a cake with white frosting and green trim. Then I had to wait to ask to put Elihu's name on it. She asked me what I wanted written on the cake and I was thinking "Baby of Mine - Elihu Siloam." But I couldn't bring myself to say the words out loud. I just said "Elihu" and then spelled it several times so she got it right. My heart was aching as she handed me this plain cake with only his name on it written in bright green. I was weeping inside as I put the cake in my cart and headed to the checkout. I couldn't say the words "Baby of Mine" because it would be too real. To be picking out a cake for my dead son. I couldn't bear it so I kept those words hidden in my heart.

I thought the cake was too plain and wanted the cake to have a little bit of joy so I thought "sprinkles!" We went to the baking aisle and the selection of sprinkles was minimal so we went down the block to our local hobby store. Inside the boys and I wandered to the baking aisle/birthday party aisle/party aisle. And I stared at those sprinkles for at least 25 minutes. My boys were so well-behaved and I am so grateful for that. Because, if any of you know them, they are not lacking in the energy department. I meandered through the party aisles multiple times looking for the "right" sprinkles for my cake. But I didn't find the "your baby died" party aisle. There were no angel sprinkles. There were plenty of baby bottles, and pacifiers, and pink and blue sprinkles. There were happy birthday sprinkles and birthday toppings. More sprinkles and party favors for a pirate party, a luau, a princess party, a boy ball party... But nothing that says "my baby died and I am terrible grieved." I cried and cried and my boys kept giving me their helpful suggestions of what to put on Elihu's cake. I think the older one knew why I was crying. He was so sweet with his suggestions like he just wanted to help make mom feel better.

I finally picked out a generic bottle of colored dots and went to the check-out counter. The check out girl was so slow as I stood there with my bottle of sprinkles and a tear-stained, red, puffy face. I just wanted to get out of there! But it was as if time stopped as that girl checked out over $150 worth-of brick-brack for a middle-aged woman. I was irritated. I was mad. I was frustrated. I was embarrassed. But mostly I was sad. So sad because this was reality. It was becoming very real that we were to have a Heaven celebration for a child that I had never met. It was too real. Too real to be standing in that line with tears streaming down my face crying over a bottle of sprinkles. Crying over my dead, faceless son.

I got home with my boys. They helped me pick out all the pink and purple sprinkles from my bottle (and I let them eat them they ate them) as I topped Elihu's cake with yellow, green, blue, and orange sprinkles. And it looked like a happy little cake. Almost too happy. But at the same time too plain. No personality because I will never know his personality. I wondered to myself "What he would pick for his birthday cake? Will it always be a plain-too-happy-not-enough-personality cake?" We put the cake in the fridge and I cried as I shut the door knowing the fridge was cold and dark. Elihu's cake in my fridge surrounded by half-empty milk jugs, containers of leftovers, sippy-cups of juice, bottles of ketchup - all small symbols of our life. And there sat Elihu's lonely cake.

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