We had no idea how to leave the hospital.
You imagine these things happening. You imagine how you would act. React. But even your most macabre wonderings never wonder how to leave the body.
I called my boss. My new boss of two weeks. I woke him and his wife up at 5am on a Sunday morning in the middle of a holiday weekend to ask them to come and walk out of the hospital doors with us. Because we didn't know how to. We couldn't do it on our own.
You engrain the philosophy of watching over your children every second of every day. Never leaving them with strangers. Always protecting them. Snapping in their belts. Making sure they're warm.
I think the days leading up to Ryann's funeral were the worst. Knowing that after we kissed her for the last time, left her on the hospital bed, returned to our warm home, knowing that she would be rolled into a morgue, laid on a cold table, cut open to find out what had happened.
Ryann travelled from the hospital in Lincoln to her autopsy in Omaha to the funeral home back in Lincoln. Driven by a stranger. Laying down, not buckled. Naked, not warm.
A stranger dressed her for us to say goodbye one last time. Tucked her dolly into her arms. Snapped the buttons on her shirt.
She had a bruise on her left temple and her forehead wasn't quite smooth. We were told to bring a shirt with a high neck and a hat. To cover the cuts. She didn't have to wear the hat after all, we could touch her hair, see her curls.
And after we left we knew that they would slide her into an oven. She would become ashes. That my little girl's rosebud mouth was gone. That she was in a box. It didn't make sense. Doesn't.
After we buried Ryann we went to the zoo. We had been planning to go to the zoo on the day that she died instead. The zoo heard that we were all coming for a little girl's funeral and let us in for free.
Other people saw us through those days. They still do. And they're not always the people we expect. The funeral director who assured me he would take care of Ryann and personally drive her back and forth for her autopsy, who dressed her in playclothes and put her dolly in her arms. The detective who called us in to read us the preliminary autopsy findings the day they were written. The zoo-people who wanted to help in some way and let us through the gates for free. The nurses and doctors and pediatrician and imaging techs and anesthesiologists and EMTs and secretaries at the hospital who all had tears in their eyes and sobs in their throats. Strangers who allowed themselves to be cut by our pain and through that somehow carry a bit of it for us.
|Ryann's family at her funeral.|
|You can just see Ryann in her little cherrywood box.|
|Cousin Clara saying goodbye.|
|We were so thankful to have old friends who were able to be with us.|