After spending the day joyfully planning for our adoption date, I felt myself longing to spend a few moments in the evening with my other daughter. My gone daughter. The one without whom we wouldn’t be where we are, the one with whom we definitely wouldn’t be where we are.
I knew that it was time to do something I’d never done before. I went to the box, the one labeled “Remains of baby G—–“. I slipped a knife in the crevice between sides, and found that the lid opened easily. And all this time I thought it was sealed, somehow. Maybe I told myself that it was, because until last night I was not ready to open it yet.
The ashes are more like sand. Grainy, and yellow-tan colored, just like a beach. Mixed in are bits of bone, some bits larger than others. I finger those jagged pieces through the clear bag they are contained in. I wonder which part of her each piece came from… a femur? Mostly the skull, surely, as that was the largest part of her body. Tiny ribs? Vertabrae? The top of the tough, clear plastic is twisted and held together by the same type of tie they put on packages of bread. Their is a metal disc attached to it with the number “5495” stamped into the thin metal. It is the same number that follows “Remains of Baby G—–” on the label of the black box. I try to make the number mean something to me. Make them somehow significant, or fated. But they don’t. They are completely random. Maybe the number of cremations they did that year, and her tiny body was just #5495. Or maybe that was the number assigned to the particular oven, the one in which she burned. Who knows. It is meaningless and yet, it is something else, however insignificant, that belongs to her.
I hold that baggy close to my abdomen, near to the spot where I last felt her movements. Tears sting my eyes as I gaze out over the water. I am as close to her physical body as I have been since they took her from my arms in the hospital room. I try to imagine emptying this bag into the water below me, returning her to world. But all I can feel inside of me is the panicky impulse to gather each shard, each grain, and put it back into this bag. I cannot empty her out. I cannot even bury her. Because how, then, could I hold her close to me again? The physical, tangible remains of a dream unrealized, a wish unfulfilled, a heart completely broken? A person meant to be, who never became… anything?