Saying Goodbye

glasgow coat of arms

The dark clouds above the Glasgow landscape, holding onto their own tears, foretold of an emotional day.

Saying Goodbye recently held a service in my home city, within the Gothic structure of Glasgow Cathedral. With a history saturated in feud, this Cathedral is no stranger to death and tragedy; it has truly stood the test of time.

Approaching the Cathedral, it was fitting to walk under the lampposts that prominently displayed the Glasgow Coat of Arms; the words behind this mural are largely unknown:

Here's the bird that never flew.

Here's the tree that never grew.

Here's the bell that never rang.

Here's the fish that never swam.

Obviously, these words were never intended to reference pre and neo-natal death, however one cannot fail to draw parallels with the children who never walked and the children who never grew.

How fitting then, that the Saying Goodbye service was held within these ancient walls, on this day.

Blank Headstone

It was an emotional service, that served no judgement towards those who cried. We could grieve outwith the spotlight; everyone was an equal. There were no eyes burning holes within individuals. There were no hushed whispers of 'those poor parents' because everyone was the same. We all had a child that had died; some had lost many children.

At the climax of the service, while the choristers sang their beautiful eulogy, I was clear in my mind that each child who was being mourned was present, sitting beside their parents, asking what the fuss was all about.

Speaking to some people before and after the service, it was obvious that, despite the sea of grief, there was still a collective spark of hope in the wet eyes of the parents with empty arms. It was obvious that the death of a child was not enough to deal a fatal blow to the hopes and dreams of those in attendance.

We left without saying goodbye to anyone, rather we used the standard Glaswegian departing salute of 'see you later.' This was not a day for farewell, but a day for forming friendship.

As we dispersed, I looked to the Necropolis, lying a stones-throw to the South of the Cathedral. This Victorian graveyard holds remains from the fallout of some fifty thousand departing souls. Poignantly, only a fraction of these graves are marked with stones; another tragic parallel with the plethora of infants whose final resting places are unmarked.

I expect Death was loitering amongst these magnificent stones with interest, as he watched the collective gathering of sad, yet defiant, parents who refused to forget that their children existed.

I wonder if he fleetingly considered whether he had taken on too much when he claimed our children; when he looked upon this unusual gathering whose tears were accompanied with laughter. We are the parents of the stillborn, the parents of the miscarried, the parents whose children died soon after birth. We will not be silent in our grief.

We privately reminisced afterwards, as Ethan's parents. We looked at the Museum of St Mungo that acknowledges life, death and religion. We wandered westwards along Cathedral Street, past the landmark of Strathclyde University - a place where much of our education took place. We then headed south to the Merchant's City; a place we often visited while still in possession of the innocence of youth.

fathers grief homepage

We drank, we ate and we talked of what the future might hold; just like the old days when Ethan was unknown, even to us. We talked of the scars we bear with pride. We talked of how Ethan's name will be remembered.

Saying Goodbye? Not yet; I will continue to keep Ethan close to me.