When Hugo died, we were disconsolate, heartbroken.
Our son had changed our lives, and shown us what true love is.
We knew that at his funeral we wanted to celebrate his life. What Hugo meant to us, what Hugo had taught us.
To show off our baby boy like the proud parents we are.
While we are not religious, I had an urge to hold Hugo’s funeral at our local church. It is the same church where I was christened. The church turned out to be a good choice: the curate was lovely and very helpful.
The funeral directors were also incredible. There wasn’t enough they could do for us. Hugo’s funeral was held on a Monday, and they opened specially for us the weekend before so we could spend time with Hugo in the viewing room.
I cuddled and sang to Hugo, and admired his beautiful face. Both Martin and I read to Hugo. We left a range of toys and books in his casket with him, as well as some photos of us, and letters we had written to him. He also had a star scarf that I had in my wardrobe wrapped around him, and some scattered stars (of course!).
Hugo looked so incredibly handsome. Like he was just asleep.
On the Sunday afternoon I had my final cuddle. I was so reluctant to let him go. I knew he was dead of course, but we had such little time together and I wanted to make every moment matter. I gently stroked his face, and his dark hair – so beautifully soft. It is his warmth while he was alive I try to think of, not how cold he was then.
We issued a general invitation to the church funeral service, with close family only at the burial, followed by a wake at our local pub.
Our guests were asked to wear bright colours – no black. We also invited them to wear their team’s football shirt if they wished. It was about celebrating your individuality, being who you want to be, in honour of Hugo’s determination.
I wore a bright pink dress. The dress was special because I had worn it during a cuddle with Hugo, him tucked down the front. Martin wore a brightly-patterned shirt he had bought specially; he was quite particular about it. While shopping in John Lewis, the shop assistant making small talk asked what event the shirt was for. I imagine he was expecting to be told it was for a wedding, or garden party or something. He responded well when told the shirt was for our son’s funeral.
The day of the funeral was a beautiful bright sunny April day. The funeral car arrived with Hugo’s blue casket, and the flowers. We all walked behind the car – the church is only around the corner, and I needed the walk, the air.
Martin carried Hugo’s tiny little casket into the church. I followed behind carrying Hugo’s star-shaped flower tribute made by a local florist – it had exceeded my expectations.
We couldn’t believe there were more than 60 people in the church. The number included our family, friends, work colleagues, and people we hadn’t seen for years. Daily updates about Hugo’s progress had been shared on Facebook, and our tiny boy had captured so many hearts.
Martin and I both wanted to read what we had written for Hugo. I had written this poem, and Martin had written a eulogy describing how much he loved Hugo, what Hugo had taught him, and how he hopes Hugo is enjoying his adventures up in the stars. We took in in turns to read lines so we didn’t become too overwhelmed.
Uplifting hymns, such as ‘Lord of the Dance’ were sung, and we had a contemplative moment listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s hauntingly beautiful version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
We had to travel to the cemetery for the burial. The burial is not something I like to think about very much: the hole in the ground, my baby being lowered into it. Wracking sobs from me.
It was the first time I had seen the baby and children’s section at the cemetery. I was overwhelmed at the number of graves. So many. Too many.
Meanwhile, our guests had gathered at the pub. Our pub doesn’t usually open on weekday afternoons, and nor does it serve food, but he kindly opened specially and provided a buffet for us.
Our guests, while drinking and eating, were also busy drawing and writing with coloured pens in a remembrance book I had provided. It is a beautiful book, blue hard-backed, with blue ribbon ties. People were invited to write about Hugo, or about life in general.
The book is an emotional read: I feel so proud that my tiny boy, who weighed no more than a tin of baked beans and who so few people were able to meet in person, had touched deeply so many people’s hearts. Comments included how Hugo had made them laugh with his antics; how impressed they were with his physical strength, and his resilience. How they will never forget him.
These are small, but valuable comforts.
The day of Hugo’s funeral was one of the most challenging of my life.
We celebrated our son’s life. The life of a special boy whose impact and legacy belies his size, and his short life.
That thought is the one about that day that I try to remember.