I left the hospital in the afternoon of July 18, 2011. The same day that my son was born still. I left him alone and cold. It was quite the contrast to the noise, hustle and bustle that would greet me when I walked out of the hospital that day. It was July and it was hot. In the middle of downtown Toronto, I sat in the passenger seat on the way home and remember looking around me. The streets were full, the sun was shining, people were walking in a hurry to get to wherever they needed to be, and traffic was everywhere. I lost my son but the world around me hadn’t stopped. Only my world stopped.

We Are All Carrying Something

And that’s the thing about stories and heartache – we all carry them but no one is the wiser. I sat in the car that day just like any other person in that busy downtown core. No one knew my pain. No one knew my grief. No one knew that I just left my dead son in the hospital and had to now plan his funeral. Me and my gigantic grief were specks of dust in the world around us.

A Gaping Hole

I arrived home just 20 minutes later. The sun was scorching. I was bleeding. My breasts were already hurting with what would become lots of milk. But mostly, I was empty. I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of emptiness. My arms were empty. My body, which was full of life just days before, was now empty, too. It felt like I was free falling from an airplane – jumping into an enormous empty hole with nothing to hold me, trying to catch some air.

Preparing for the Funeral

I had to plan his funeral. My parents graciously took it upon themselves to sort out most of the details and the costs. But the finer details – his name on the tombstone, the memorial words that I wanted engraved on it, the prayer that I wanted read at the church, the family pictures that I wanted placed in his casket – I had to choose those.

Between coming home from the hospital, making the funeral arrangements and visiting my son at the funeral home, it’s all a blur. A blur that took place within 48 hours.

When the day arrived to bury him, my family and I visited him one last time at the funeral home. I hadn’t seen him since I left him two days prior at the hospital. His casket was white and he was wearing the blue crocheted outfit that the nurse dressed him in (to read more about the nurse, read this blog post).

It was just me, my now ex-husband, my parents and my brother in the room. There was also the funeral director, who happened to be an old friend from high school. It was quiet. The funeral director told us that my son had recently been removed from the freezer and that he would feel a little cold.


I touched him. He felt like cold peaches. The feeling of the slightest bit of condensation on top of a hard, cold, ever so slightly fuzzy skin.

Today, almost 13 years later, I can’t see peaches in the grocery store without thinking of him. I don’t eat peaches because the feeling of their hard, ever so slightly fuzzy skin gives me the shivers. If I’m offered a cold peach, I kindly decline. I’ve always preferred nectarines anyways.

He was so peaceful. Long with hands and lips that would look like my daughter’s hands and lips when she was born just a few years later. She reminds me so much of him.

The Walk down the Aisle and the Burial

The church was filled with family and friends. My now ex-husband and I walked down the aisle together towards the altar. If we weren’t carrying our own son’s casket in our arms, one might have thought that it was a celebratory occasion – man and woman walking down the aisle. But there was nothing to celebrate here. My now ex-husband wore all black. I wore a black skirt with a pastel yellow top; I couldn’t bear to be in all black. I had to have some light.  

I can’t remember anything from the church service except for one line that my father wrote in my son’s eulogy. It said, “Damiano, you were supposed to break furniture, not our hearts”. I often remind myself of this sentence. It’s a reminder to me now, as a mom, that no matter how unruly or disruptive my kids can get, I’d rather them be unruly and disruptive, than dead. But, for the record, they are rarely unruly or disruptive.

We left the church. I reached the outside, put on my sunglasses and went straight to the black limousine. I ignored the kind words around me and the arms that reached out to shake my hand. I didn’t want to be part of any of it. I just wanted to be alone. Alone in the back seat of the black limousine with my son’s casket on my lap.

We reached the cemetery. Many of the church-goers followed us there. They stood around as my son’s white casket was placed in the ground and covered with dirt.

And I don’t remember anything else.

The rest of that day doesn’t exist in my memory. I don’t know what I did or where I went. Did I go home? Did I go to my parents’ house? Surely, I cried. In fact, I don’t remember much of anything from the days or weeks that followed. Life stopped for me then. And, there is a clear distinction for me between life before Damiano, and life after Damiano.

Before and After

I was a girl that existed before his death. I love that girl, but I rarely recognize her. I wish that I could be her, reach her, but she’s so far now. When I try to picture her, I remember that she was an eternal optimist, always smiling, dancing in the streets, and fighting fear anytime it creeped near her. Ready to take on the world, she had wild dreams and a fire beneath her that made most of them come true. But then, life dealt her a bad hand and the first baby she ever held was her own, dead baby. That’s when she became me.

It took her – me – a long time to reignite that dimmed light. Somewhere along the way that girl’s spirit of resilience and boundless optimism crept back. While the pain of loss transformed that girl into the woman I am today, I carry her memory with me, honouring her strength and embracing her story.

But, I still won’t eat peaches.