The Reburial of Baby Donald

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The Reburial of Baby Donald

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Sojourn With Luz Leigh

The Reburial of Baby Donald

Written by Luz Leigh - 27 March 2008

The morning began as so many ordinary mornings do. Fed the outdoor cat who loves most anything I put before her; put additional food in the indoor cat's bowl; she's the picky one ... cares not for people food, prefers her special brand of cat food. Breakfast for myself. Following a short phone conversation with my daughter, I walked to the mailbox and retrieved the morning paper. Nothing outstanding there.

Just as I was trying to decide if I felt like helping deliver meals today, I received a phone call that set my day in motion. It was from a dear friend telling me this was the day of the exhumation of a body at our family cemetery. I serve on the board that oversees the maintenance of the cemetery and when a grave is opened, I am one of the directors who is contacted by the funeral home. Earlier this year I had spoken with a representative of a funeral home and signed the necessary paper work for the procedure that was set for this morning.

The baby, who died at birth, had been buried near some relatives. Last summer the daddy had been buried a "few doors down and one street over." Meaning the daddy was on a row to the west of the baby and about six graves south. The mother had decided to move the little one's body to be next to her chosen gravesite, next to her husband.

The original burial had taken place some thirty-six years ago and because she was much too ill to attend, the mother was not there on that day in February 1972. The two men who had been dispatched to perform this job were Christians and very caring. The younger one said he has worked for that company for about five years; the older one has been at this job for twelve, but neither had ever done an exhumation. Out of the hearing of the mother, the older one whom I shall call Randall, told me this was his first time to do this and he was not exactly sure what the protocol was. He and his helper, whom I shall call Charlie, were using hand tools to dig with so as not to disturb any remains that might still be intact.

While Charlie continued the painstaking job of removing the hard clay, Randall used the backhoe to prepare the little grave near the dad's grave. The new grave was about three feet deep.

Finally, Charlie called his boss over; Randall began to carefully lift the dirt out. There was the top of the little casket, but only dirt (dust) remained below it. He got into the grave and began to ever so gently lift the casket top so it could be moved to its new home. Charlie was in position to receive it, but the mother stepped to the graveside and said, "Here, let me carry it." With loving arms holding what was left of the once pretty blue casket, Janna walked to the new gravesite. Charlie walked along side her as did her daughter Julie who was a nine-year-old little girl when her baby brother was interred the first time. Because it was impossible for Janna to lay the casket lid in the freshly dug grave, Charlie was preparing to step down into the new grave, but before he could do so, Julie climbed in, took the lid that once covered her precious baby brother's body, and lovingly placed it on the cool earth.

Just before the workers began moving the remaining dirt from the first grave to the second one, Janna asked Charlie to place a little wooden box in the grave with the casket lid and any remains that might be moved there. She shared not with those present what the box contained and no one asked. It was the last loving touch a grieving mother could give to the little boy she never even held during his ever so brief life on this earth.

At one point during the exhumation, we four women present stood in a circle with arms wrapped around each other, as I did my best to voice a prayer without becoming emotional. I was able to pray, but it was not easy. I prayed for comfort for this mother and sister of the baby, the aunt who was there, and for those two workers who were doing their best to make it as easy as possible on those involved.

During the course of the morning's activities, I commented to Shirley that I was sure those men were not accustomed to having four nosey women overseeing their every move. But the men complained not.

When the reburial was completed, it was nearing lunch time. Janna invited the workers and the rest of the entourage to join her at the local restaurant for nourishment. We made our way to town, four women in three cars and the truck carrying the "grave diggers." During the relaxed mealtime, it was learned that some at the table had mutual friends; one of Janna's sons-in-law had coached Charlie when he was in high school. Randall's son had played in a football game here last fall and had become dehydrated, calling for a trip via ambulance to seek medical attention. Randall and I share some mutual friends. More than once the term "small world" came into the conversations.

Finally, it was time for the men to return to their task of setting the headstone for the Bruce family. Baby boy Bruce would now rest between his Aunt Denise and his daddy, except this time his full name would be engraved for the entire world to see.

It was a wonderful day.

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