Later that day I asked Rick to take me to the cemetery. Cemetery; a word I never imagined to be coupled along with the words containing my daughter's name. It was a word I did not like and place I did not want to go, but I had to.
After Church, my sweet husband drove me to the place where my sweet Maddie Grace was buried. A place where I know she is not, but her body is. A place that for the last month, I have been dreading walking through.
Since it was her one month birthday, I felt like it was time.
And so we went.
As we drove through the gates, my heart broke all over again. The last time I came through here, I couldn't find her grave. I didn't know where it was. Part of me was relieved as I left that day, not having visited. The other part of me felt like I let her down, because I didn't know where to go.
So, as we continued through the gates, I wept. Rick had been before and knew the exact location. It was inevitable, I had to do this, it was time.
As he drove around the curve, I found myself looking through tear filled eyes at all the others who have gone on before her. So many graves. So many hearts.
I found myself crying uncontrollably as Rick pulled to a stop. This was it.
I waited in the van as he walked around to get me. And like the day we left the hospital without her, I thought he might have to carry me out... I was weak.
My precious Husband took my hand and led me toward her grave. Oh how my heart broke. We took about 40 steps and we were there. It didn't seem real.
I looked down and I saw the angel. The vase was filled with flowers, dead from time and the cold. This killed me. Just another reminder that she was gone. I remember telling Rick, "I thought the angel was bigger, are you sure this is hers?" It was like I wanted him to tell me, no. Of course this isn't hers. She isn't here.
It was real. She was gone. The words "Madeline Grace Ross" confirmed it.
As if the empty room wasn't a daily reminder. The unfilled baby book was not enough to remember, that her story wouldn't go on in those pages. As if the closet full of clothes and unused diapers was not enough of a reminder, that she really was no longer here. My mind was spinning.
This was it.
I looked down and saw the picture laying beside the angel. This was from my Mom, I could tell. There was another angel there, also from my Mom. She missed her too and I could see she had visited often. This broke my heart.
I fell into Rick's chest and he pulled me closer. We wept as we held each other standing over the place where my little girl was buried. I could see the fresh dirt underneath a blanket of snow. The hurt was still so very fresh on our hearts as well. I was weak.
My eyes wandered to the other little graves surrounding hers. All the others who had traveled this road before us. And though this is a road I would never want anyone to have to travel down.
We were not walking alone.
I could feel all the hearts of Mommy's and Daddy's that were broken too. They knew this pain too. I was praying that they had comfort from the Lord as well. How do you go through something like this without God? Without hope?
I bent down and placed the stone bird beside the angel. I noticed that the stone angel was holding a bird in it's hands. I had forgotten seeing this. How apropriate for my birdie girl.
I laid my hand on the snow and I told Maddie I loved her.
One month, wow.
It was a long 4 weeks of crying and praying myself to sleep.
A long 4 weeks of kissing the cheeks of only her picture.
A long 4 weeks of walking by a beautiful, perfect, empty crib.
I cried out.
Rick lifted me from the snowy ground and held me up.
So many hopes and dreams were wrapped up in her. I couldn't believe that she was really gone.
I've had so many accepting moments now that my sweet love was no longer here. I knew that this visit would finish the list of the first's according to her death. After the funeral, this was my next big step. I had taken it.
Thank the Lord I know where she is. She is in the beauty of Heaven enjoying the Lord. She closed her eyes in this world and opened them to see Jesus. To feel Jesus. What a thought. What a blessing.
How does anyone go to a place like this without hope. I couldn't stand the thought if that was truly the end of sweet Maddie's life. No more.
I know that she is more alive now than she ever was on January the 6th. She is in her heavenly home with the Savior. This same Savior who has given me grace and has saved my soul, so I can one day go and meet Him and be reunited with my girl. I'm so thankful for this promise.
So, as Rick and I began to leave that day, with teary eyes, we still could rejoice. For Madeline is not here, she is in Heaven. This is just a place to go and remember. And also a place to remind me that death is real.
Oh if I can be a better winner of souls, so they can go to Heaven too. So we can rejoice in hope and faith, and have the joy of Heaven waiting for us, along with Maddie Grace.
We are not walking alone on this road. The Lord is carrying us, everyday of our lives he is holding our hands and walking with us. And one day, we will enter the gates of Heaven! We will meet with our Lord and with our precious little girl; Oh how I wait for that day!
Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shaddow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Isaiah 53:4a Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: