Content Warning: this piece discusses the death of a child and is based on a true story that took place almost a hundred years ago. For those wishing for a soundtrack while reading, I recommend this.
It rained that day in Bonaventure. The men in linen raincoats slicked with wet wax pried her blue and purple infant from her arms with kind eyes as they stood by the gravesite. He never cried. His eyes scrunched shut and mouth hung open to reveal white gums and a tiny receding purple tongue that never knew her breast. His little hands balled into stiff rigor mortis – the same little hands that once pressed through her skin to feel his parents’ palms. The wood and hammered metal wheelchair creaked beneath her in the gusting wisps of distant thunder carried on harried fat dollops of weather.
It was time to say goodbye.
Having never taken a breath of the sweet earthy air, she knew he only ever lived inside her. Her eyes hesitated on his blue lips. A different blue than the eyes she knew he must have beneath those unopened angelic lids. She imagined how if they had fluttered open she could have seen…
“Anna, it’s time to go.” The captain clasped a firm hand on her shoulder. “You have to say goodbye.” His body trembled, but his feet remained firm in the soggy ground.
Ever the polite grave diggers at Bonaventure – their patient spades waited for the captain’s call. To have her baby’s birth documented at all was a luxury. In the eyes of the state of Georgia and the city of Savannah, he never existed. At least Bonaventure gave her and her husband the dignity of recognizing the agony of her feverish labor after carrying her child for all those months; the right to mourn after knowing him all that time only to lose him before ever hearing his scream of life or giving him a name on paper.
In the distance, a bird flew into a patch of blue sky over the ocean on the blue-gold horizon beyond the mouth of the Wilmington River. Another drop of water hit her as she gazed over her child’s face once more. Her hand grazed the place on her stomach where she felt his final kick before the labor began – where she saw his little foot press through her skin. She let go – her tears hidden by the rain.
The men wrapped his little form in a thin damp cloth dusted with perfumed talc from a pouch on one of the digger’s belts. Smudging dirt on his forehead, the digger knelt and placed her unknown son as if asleep into the soft soil of the small pit. Beneath the morning clouds, the scene took on a light blue glowing hue. She closed her eyes and began to hum the lullaby she’d sung to him every night since she’d first felt his presence as the captain’s jerk of the chair indicated him turning away and processing along the ground. The exhaustion hit her again with a wave of nausea. Her baby boy gone forever as if he was never there at all.
In Bonaventure’s records they added:
1929 – Baby B— – Stillborn
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