The expenses of final arrangements for a loved one are often overwhelming, and this is almost always the case for parents who bury a child. Children's graves are the ones I most often visit to photograph for parents, and often these resting places are unmarked in conventional ways.
We think of a burial as something that involves a headstone or marker that recognizes and honors the person's lifetime, often with some personalization such as a quote or a picture. These stones range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. After paying basic burial costs (and especially when death punctuates a long illness), stones become financially out-of-reach.
This is heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking for anyone who grieves. In the community of bereaved parents, there is a colorful, vibrant, and unique solution.
Resourceful parents without the financial means to provide a stone make grief homes for their children in other ways. This young girl's family embraced her love of horses and created a stable for her. A pink stable. The stable has a modest fence, a beautiful and bountiful garden in the back, and Anna (from Frozen) lovingly tends to the four horses.
She had asked her father for a pony for years, and he was seriously considering making that happen for her when she received her cancer diagnosis. She was ten years old. He knew she wasn't physically able to ride between the rigors of treatment and the ravages of cancer. He began to promise her the pony she asked for, and shortly after her burial he delivered.
She has no stone. While I look at her place and wish she had a beautiful granite marker that will help to tell her story for generations, I understand and admire her family's alternative. This is beautiful, and this says so much more about who she is than any stone could.
Many nonprofits exist to help parents in this circumstance and offer financial assistance for final arrangements. Little Love Foundation, which assists parents who have suffered the loss of a baby, put together a fantastic online reference of resources. Help is available. And sometimes the alternative can be more comforting in the short-term.
I see a lot of incredible moments of the human experience while being with families in love and grief. From each family I learn, and those lessons and points to ponder are what I wish to share with you here.