CHOOSING BAIRN’S BOXES
I hope you did not know until now that undertakers don’t charge for arranging a child’s funeral; there was a florist in Clackmannanshire who provided children’s funeral flowers free of charge too. When a child dies in Scotland substantial public, voluntary services are available for bereaved parents; those include out of hours visits from GPs and health visitors: kindly ministers open churches in efforts to enable bereaved to find solace in a place of worship before bracing to attend there for a beloved child’s service.
When there is a sudden death police attend the family home or other place of death and remove items for forensic examination. Some police officers in such circumstances are reduced to tears witnessing parental grief followed by the bagging and labelling of bedding, toys or sometimes bottles. The sight of a dead child and signing of an identification tag for the pathologist and undertaker are tasks of unimaginable horror.
Parents then must consider not the tasks of just a day earlier such as whether to dress the child for the sun or to hap up for a pram trip in the cold, in a favourite football strip or best princess dress, but rather whether their bairn meets their maker swaddled in a shroud or clad in a best party outfit with jewellery, maybe some sequins, a tiara recovered from happier days or a championship winning sports top complete with signatures.
Thoughtful all too experienced undertakers cut locks of golden hair from the back of a child’s head and store those in little boxes for Mum to keep with other memories of a life cut all too short.
Scotland’s baby box has saved and will save lives. It costs little; human savings are huge. There is no price tag on grief or the lasting impact of the sudden, unexpected death of a child. Public costs immediately and depending on circumstances also in the longer term can be significant. Premature untimely deaths do not respect class, wealth, lifestyle, political or religious persuasion.
We know in the UK today though of a family grieving publicly the loss of their dearest boy – and we shared the hopes of his parents, family and friends that he might recover. Little in life is as precious as the gift of a child; nothing can be more painful than that child’s untimely tragic inexplicable death. It is a hugely laudable act of political and civic kindness to give the best start to all of our children, to offer to each opportunity and generosity. It will be an equally magnanimous gift to provide holistic health care whereby at the end of life grieving parents can say their goodbyes in privacy with love, private attention and humanity. Bairns, not bombs.