The morning of Friday, October 08, 2010 came too fast for me, and at the same time it came just when it was supposed to. Our families had come into town for the memorial service and our home was full. We had prepared the urn (a small wooden box that was built by a friend of Robin’s family) in which Sienna’s remains had been placed, gluing to it items that defined her life to us. A butterfly was placed upon it-a symbol that has become synonymous with the loss of an infant; a sand dollar that was given to us by a dear friend and also something that reminded us of Sienna’s nursery at our home; an arrowhead that was made by my father-in many Native American cultures it is believed that in the next life one must have something with which to hunt in order to provide for oneself; a 2010 un-circulated penny-symbolic of Sienna’s un-circulated life; the yellow bow that Lauren (one of Sienna’s nurses) had placed into Sienna’s bow box and placed onto her head numerous times during her short stay on this earth; a brass name plate bearing her name; and one of our Tiny Warrior bracelets-to remind our sweet girl that she had not been alone in this fight. Before dressing myself I placed this urn into the crib that I had imagined would be the one that she would sleep in. For me this was symbolic of her resting before a long day.
At approximately 12:45 pm I could hear the rumble of the Harley Davidson motorcycles on King Street and I knew they were coming to my house to escort our four vehicle convoy to Arlington National Cemetery. As the five motor officers pulled up, each dismounted and approached Robin and I to offer their condolences. The route was discussed and explained to each vehicle then with the orchestration of a fine symphony they led us to the cemetery, stopping traffic at each stop light and sign along the way. At one particular intersection, North Washington and Oronoco Streets, Robin grabbed my right hand and cried, begging for us to not get held up there. That was the intersection at which I nearly lost my own life in April of 2009.
Our arrival at the cemetery was met by the presence of the Police Honor Guard and a number of other officers who had come to honor the life of a little girl that none but one of them had ever met. Among them were chiefs, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and the troops that I go to work with everyday. We felt honored to have each of them there with us.
As we made our way to the door of the building where we were to wait I noticed the Marine that I knew had to be our body bearer. He was a young Lance Corporal who stood about 6 feet tall and weighed every bit of 230 muscular pounds. I approached him and introduced myself. I then explained to him that the box he would be carrying that day would certainly not be the heaviest of the boxes (caskets) he will carry during his career, but that inside were the remains of a tough little girl who fought each of her sixteen days of life. I feel certain that he would have done a wonderful job regardless of what I told him, I just felt that I needed to express how very important this particular carry would be. Despite the fact that the funeral director had told us that it is usually the honor of a family member to place the urn into its final resting place, Robin and I had decided that we would give that honor to this Marine.
Inside the family room of the Administration building we were joined by many friends and family members to include two other NICU families and two of the nurses that had cared for our sweet Sienna Grace. And when the time came to head to the columbarium, though sad and knowing that Sienna’s remains would be placed forever, I felt peace about the fact that her earthly resting spot would be among some of the bravest men and women that this country has ever known; that her soul was already looking down upon us; and that her loving arms were wrapped around the body of Avery Rose.
With a truly brave and wonderful Police Sergeant driving our vehicle to the columbarium, I cried. And then with the motor officers standing at attention I stepped out into the sun and watched as the body bearer, following the commands of the Gunnery Sergeant, lifted Sienna’s urn and carried it to the niche with our procession in tow. After the Chaplain gave a short sermon and said a prayer, our dear friend Andrea read a poem – Sienna’s Grace. Then another of our awesome friends, Lee, read the butterfly release instructions and we released butterflies as a symbolic release of Sienna’s flight. The butterfly that was released by Lauren, the nurse that was with us when Sienna passed away, refused to leave for a few seconds, lingering instead on her finger until its wings finally fluttered and it lifted onto the breeze just as Sienna had done almost two months prior.
At the conclusion, Maddie and our nieces, Nicole and Mikayla, passed out two tulip bulbs wrapped with pink ribbon, and a CD of music that Robin had made (“A joyful music tribute to the Tiny Warriors”) to the nearly 100 people in attendance.
The service was short, but looking around at the faces of the many who had come to support us during the ceremony, I could tell that our family was not the only one feeling the loss. Perhaps the people there were crying because of the loss of a child, perhaps they were crying because they felt for Robin and I. But just about everyone there had tears in their eyes. Maybe crying is just what you’re supposed to do at a funeral. I feel certain, though, that the tears were brought on by our Sienna’s Grace.
Thank you again, to all of you who came to honor our family, and held us in your thoughts on Friday. We appreciate and love you all.
Sienna is an angel, sent from God above, to steal her parents’ hearts away and fill them with such love. Her 16 days upon this earth touched so many hearts, we have all been praying for God’s grace from the start,
Her features were so delicate and yet so very strong, she loved to hear her mommy sing the words to her favorite song. Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.
Our dreams turned to heartache as her boat shifted sails, we prayed for God to spare her, as we know his love never fails. Our prayers didn’t go unanswered; we know that God knows best, when he took our precious Angel and laid her down to rest.
He gave her time to listen and enjoy her story time, “Officer Buckle and Gloria” and “Bailey by My Side. What precious time he granted as we waited on his call. Her touch, her smell, her eyes, her face-Lord we loved them all.
Sienna, we held you in our arms so tight and gave you one last kiss, we let you go with Jesus knowing forever you’ll be missed. A part of us went with you on that sad, sad day, forever you’ll be in our hearts as we watched you sail away.
You left behind a sister for our hearts to hold, and promised to walk beside her until her days of old. so sail our sweet Sienna and thank you for your Grace, in calming our rough waters until we again see your precious face.
You’re in the arms of Jesus and we know he’ll see us through, the long journey set before us and days of missing you. So sail our sweet Sienna, all around this place and know we’ll always thank the Lord for Sienna’s Grace.
We love you, baby girl. Your legacy will forever stay. Our sweet precious angel, we’ll carry you with us every day.