Pic courtesy ABC
Back in 1982, our first child, a girl, was stillborn.
We (my bride and I), dealt with the grief much in the same way as the two thousand plus parents who share the experience annually in Australia.
Most people aren't sure how to approach those who are grieving the loss of a child in this way, so many simply avoid discussing the experience, even if they feel deeply for the parents. Although we had lots of support from family and friends, this was true for us.
We named her, held a funeral service, and the baby was buried in Townsville where we lived at the time.
We got on with our lives, had four healthy children, and moved away from the north. In the intervening thirty eight years, the fact that the grave was unmarked became one of those things that we really had to remedy.
The child remained vivid and real in our memories, but there was nothing physical to mark her existence.
We decided to set this right, and I have just today returned from a 2600 km round trip, organising a simple headstone, and commissioning a monumental mason to make it. The biggest problem turned out to be finding the grave in a vast cemetery.
With the help of the very efficient staff in the cemetery and their excellent records, and a groundsman who knew the site like the back of his hand, after an hour of searching, I found it. The rest was easy. It was interesting to discover that monumental masonry is a separate and distinct trade.
So after nearly forty years, the job has been commissioned. What I wasn't expecting was to arrive at the cemetery to see a notice board revealing that a boy with a disability who was one of the original students in my school had been buried there the day before. I remembered his mother, who was P & C president back then.
Our baby died because she was born with a congenital abnormality which caused a fatal aneurysm during birth. I often wonder whether my exposure to dioxin in Vietnam was a factor. Quite a few of the children with congenital disabilities at my school at the time were fathered by Vietnam veterans.
Townsville was, and remains, a garrison town.
This is one of life's loose ends that has now been tied.