a sacred space too distant

Tomorrow would have been Emily Rose‘s ninth birthday, except that Monday will be the 9th anniversary of her death. She lived for one hour and fifty-three minutes. In that whole nightmare of diagnosis, preparation and birth, I didn’t get the one thing I kept praying for, but got one little thing that was important to me: her birthday and her death day were different days.

It’s not always bad. Nowadays it’s not something I think about with tears, although sometimes I think it really stinks to have one baby who died. It was a nightmare to go through, but having gone through it, nine years later, I can tell you it’s survivable. I’m glad to have had her for as long as we did: 23 weeks before her diagnosis, 20 weeks afterward, two hours after birth. The day after she died, I was praying and heard myself say “Thank you.” Thank you for her, for Emily, for the community that pulled together around us. Thank you for a hundred photos, stronger friendships, a deeper marriage, a different perspective, a gravestone.


That last is the problem. The gravestone is sixty-five miles from us, and as at Christmas, we’re simply not going to get there for her birthday. We may be there next weekend, but not this one.

For the past seven years, I would go to the cemetery on her birthday and on the day she died. I’d leave a balloon and flowers and sing Happy Birthday, and once I brought my guitar and played a haunting Irish melody while alone in the cemetery. At night, at home, we’d have a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday To You. The next day would be for being sad.

I’m out of my element here. How am I supposed to honor her birthday when I can’t go for a visit?

It’s not as if she’s there. I know she’s not there. But when it comes to cemeteries, there are “goers” and “non-goers” and I’m a “goer.” I always found it peaceful there, just to sit and be silent or to feel like I was close to her.

What am I going to do for her on Sunday? On Monday? I’m not sure. I was hoping you guys had ideas for me. I’m not sure how to carve out a sacred space when her sacred space isn’t nearby any longer.


  1. Lane in PA

    The image of a lovely rose garden dedicated to Emily Rose, growing in your yard, came to mind.

    You are not alone in this situation since our society is so mobile now. I understand how you feel — surely someone will have the perfect solution.


    1. philangelus

      We haven’t been able to locate another Emily rose bush. Who knew the only living one in the entire world was at our old house? And I did try to bring cuttings from it, but none of them survived. 🙁 I’m on a wait list for when a nursery starts making them again, but until then, no Emily rose bush.

      Maybe I should find some generic kind of rose, though, and plant that for her tomorrow or Monday. Maybe find some kind of memorial marker for it too. We used to use this one:


      Someone stole one off her grave. I have another one somewhere in this house still packed from last year. If I can find it, that would be a good thing.


  2. Lane in PA

    I think your Emily rose bush truly is the only one left in the US. After some frustrating search results for “Emily Rose hybrid”, I finally found this link:


    They will ship to the US, but can’t guarantee the export, which is understandable. But it’s worth a try.

    The Emily Rose is a beautiful flower, name, and life remembered.

    (Shame on the person who took the flower fairy from Emily’s grave.)

    1. philangelus

      I’d asked the ehellions and they came up with the American nursery that has a “mother plant” but isn’t selling plants yet, which is where I’m wait-listed. My Patient Husband wants to stage a commando raid on our old house and go get another clipping.

      The buyers probably would let us grab some, but I’m not sure it would survive any better than the first ones did. 🙁

      The person who stole the flower fairy is probably going to get his or her own, don’t worry. They went through the cemetery cherry-picking any ornaments that looked like “garden” stuff rather than “cemetery” stuff. They probably had a yard sale. I’m thinking Emily is a bit mischievous and most likely, those jokers probably lose their car keys three times a week nowadays. 😉 But only when it’s raining. (“Again? How could I have locked the car keys in the trunk again? I could have sworn they were in my pocket when I shut the lid!”)

  3. blueraindrop

    maybe do a balloon release instead of taking the balloon there?

    1. philangelus

      The environmentalists got to me. 🙂 I remember that some kinds of balloons are bad to release, only I can’t remember which kinds.

      We did once have kind of an accidental balloon release. 🙂 It was Valentine’sDay 2001, and I bought a balloon for Kiddo#1 and a balloon for Emily to bring to the cemetery. While I was bringing the balloons inside, her balloon let go of the string and blew away. It turned out it had been attached badly (the other one did the same thing inside the house) and the store replaced it. But when I related that to Wendy, she said, “Well, I guess she got her balloon.” 😀

  4. Crystal in Kentucky

    Having not been through it, I can’t say for sure if these suggestions will be helpful, but here’s my ideas…

    1. Create a page at an online memorial site for infants like … http://www.christianmemorials.com/memorials/infant-memorials.asp so you can visit anytime. The link I’ve listed also allows you to light a virtual candle.

    2. Write her two poems; one for her birthday and one in memorial.

    I hope you have at least one thing on each of these days to give you strength in the midst of your grief. It always helps me to imagine Jesus catching all my tears.

  5. Samantha

    Her sacred space is always with you, as she is in your hearts. While visiting the cemetery is something you do each year, you visit with her in your heart each day. Emily Rose knows this… and your heart is her sacred place.

  6. jaed

    I’m not sure why, but I keep thinking of your ride through the cemetery the other day.

    I know it’s not where your daughter is buried… but it might be a peaceable place to be for a while and remember her.

  7. Diinzumo


    I’m at a loss, but I do like the idea of the garden.

  8. JennT

    Jane, Happy Birthday to Emily Rose.

    Today on Facebook, another friend posted a story about someone who had lost her child to anencephaly and you immediately came to mind. I had no idea until I googled your name and found your blog, that today was Emily’s birthday.

    Prayers for you and your family. I’ve wondered a lot how you’ve been the last few years.

    God Bless,
    Jenn T from the Feb. ’04 Babies Yahoo list