We took her to the beach

March 4, 2013
In 2012, we tragically lost our beautiful daughter, Talia, to stillbirth. Everyone around me kept telling me, ‘There are no words.’
 
I appreciated the sentiment, but this seemed an awful poverty to be in. A place without words, as if we had tumbled off the edge of language and there was nothing left to say. In this dark and bleak time, this was the very moment that words were needed more than ever.
 
As a writer, I felt the burden falling to me to find the lost words.
 

We took her to the beach

We took her to the beach
she wasn’t even been born
all she would have seen was dappled light
falling on the outside of her world
and hear distant sounds with muffled ear
But we would know
That she’d been there
and as she’d grow
though probably wouldn’t care
we’d tell her of that shore
It’s in the pictures on our walls
A place of honeymoon and holidays
and so much more
how her father, mother, sisters and brother
all had their feet
planted in that hallowed sand

A midwife’s shaking hand
phone call, Hayley’s shaken voice
no choice
“Get me to the hospital now”

A consultant’s silence
she will not say
yet tears face no delay
for I have seen
that dark, still screen
be still my beating heart
like hers

Her mother, my wife
most precious one to me in life
must still give birth?
Oh, why on earth
can they not just remove it?
but I watch her, as a mother,
sign her name and approve it

Labour pains to push out death
no holding breath for that first cry
and so I hold her
and, to my surprise
father’s pride swells
though I’ll never see the colour of her eyes
or hold her hand ‘neath wedding bells

Burial or cremation, that is no choice
when neither lets us hear her voice
does either really matter?
but a choice we are forced to reach
we’ll take her to the beach
and gently scatter her there

A body burns, but not the bone
so heavy stone must take its turn
clear your mind, don’t let that take hold
and so you find some words of old
ashes to ashes, dust to dust
so surely in this box it must
be half her ashes
and half her dust

We took her to the beach
arms reach heavenwards
ready to let go
but cannot bring myself to throw
my daughter from my hand
and so I stand quite still
and over dune and rolling hill
comes gentle whispered breeze
in grace it frees her from me
she takes to the air and leaves
and I’m spared the task I could not face

still inside the box
a thousand grains of goodbye
yet to spill
until there is nothing to do again
nothing to gain
from holding back those last few grains
they fall so gently on sandy streams
and sail to join the broken dreams
of a million creatures crushed beneath our feet
the last grey specks fall like rain
this beach, now complete

We leave, not in pieces
but in peace
and leave behind a piece
of holidays and distant honeymoon
those stolen moments within those dunes
to a place returned again and again
to a place we’ll come back
and yet always remain

Rake from those ashes a dear memory
of that timely choice
that deep inside, she would hear
clear blue seagull song
and a throng of familiar, happy voices
of a father, mother, sisters, brother.
We took her to the beach.

'We took her to the beach'

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