“So, how do you want to do this?” Vasishta asked. Janice looked at him with a serious look and then sighed. She had hoped that this day wouldn’t come so soon and now that this day was here, she wished she could change everything about it.
“I don’t know,” Janice said.
“How about we burn the body in an airtight furnace and then pour the ashes in the ocean?” Vasishta suggested.
Janice sighed again. “You think a grave would be a bad idea?”
Vasishta nodded. “I don’t think a grave would be enough.”
Janice looked at the body, so did Vasishta. Vasishta was surprised how calmly he was handling the situation, even more, surprised by Janice’s calmness. It was either that or they had both lost their minds and were now in an alternate reality where they were completely normal by what was happening.
Janice hugged Vasishta a little tighter and Vasishta covered them with the blanket, covering the baby almost completely except his head. It had been three hours since they left the hospital. Three hours since their 4 months old Jeremy had died. Jeremy didn’t look like he was worried about these things at all. He was peacefully sleeping between Vasishta and Janice as they decide the best way to do the final rituals of their baby.
It hadn’t come as a surprise to them. Jeremy had a heart condition and Vasishta and Janice were told that he would not survive more than a year. Four months was a little short of what they had hoped and they realized that they were not prepared to leave the baby so soon.
“How long can we keep him?” Janice asked.
“I don’t know,” Vasishta replied truthfully.
“Why aren’t we crying?” Janice asked. She patted her cheeks but they were dry.
“I don’t know. Maybe because we knew this day was coming.” Vasishta replied checking his own eyes.
Four hours ago, they were in complete disarray, when the doctors were trying to revive Jeremy, trying to ensure that he survives a few more months. Janice was crying and Vasishta was disheveled. That all changed the moment the doctor came out and told them the news. Complete silence and calm settled over them.
“You think we will survive this?” Janice asked Vasishta.
“What do you mean?”
“I was reading about it. Many relationships go south when they suffer a tragedy of this kind.”
“No. It won’t happen to us.” Vasishta said twirling the ring on Janice’s finger. “We can postpone the wedding though.”
“Yeah. The only reason we were having it in a hurry was to have him in the wedding photos.” Janice said rolling her hand over Jeremy. “He’s getting cold. Can you increase the heat, Vasishta?”
Vasishta changed the thermostat setting and the two cuddled further with the baby.
Eight months had passed since Jeremy’s death. Vasishta had taken a lighter project in the past eight months to spend more time with Janice who quit her office job and focused on working from home. She had finally pursued her passion for art and was doing well now. Her art was getting appreciated and she was getting several freelance projects that kept her busy and occupied.
Vasishta and Janice decided to go through the wedding finally and with a fair bit of support from their families, they were able to do the unthinkable. Get Jeremy prepared for the ceremony. It all started with moving the date even closer – three days after Jeremy’s death. After that, they kept Jeremy’s body in the deep freezer where it could be kept for more than a week.
Vasishta and Janice admitted to their whole family that it was creepy to have the baby’s body at the wedding but the families gave their blessings to the couple. Vasishta and Janice got married in court and had some ceremonies done at home. Their focus was on taking the photos in their wedding clothes with the baby, also dressed in wedding attire.
“Honey! I’m home,” Vasishta said entering the house.
“Took you long enough. It’s almost midnight,” Janice asked.
“Yeah. The project is almost at its end.”
“What happened to taking it lightly?”
“Babe. This is taking it lightly. At least I don’t have to work over weekends now.”
“Nah. Too tired. Let’s just go to bed.”
“First see what I painted today.”
Vasishta looked at the painting. Jeremy with a coat he was wearing at the wedding. He looked serene and just looking at the painting melted away all of Vasishta’s tiredness. And then he realized.
“Tomorrow is Jeremy’s birthday!” Vasishta said.
“At least, you remembered before the birthday,” Janice said and laughed. She brought the cake in the bedroom which said – “Happy Birthday Jeremy”.
“I don’t have any present,” Vasishta confessed.
“It’s okay. I’m sure Jeremy won’t mind,” Janice said and turned to Jeremy.
“Would you Jeremy? Do you care if daddy forgot a birthday present?” Janice said in a cooing voice.
Vasishta picked the cube in which Jeremy’s body was kept, covered in antioxidizing material to ensure his body doesn’t deteriorate. The cubicle was powered by a refrigeration system that also kept the temperature below freezing to ensure that there was no microorganism growth. Inside the cube, Jeremy looked the same as the day he died – four months old and at peace.
Vasishta kept the cube in the middle and they celebrated the birthday together. After sharing the cake, Janice and Vasishta kept the cube in the middle of the bed and laid down on each side.
Vasishta covered them with the blanket, showing just Jeremy’s face. He looked at Janice’s face as she looked at Jeremy with the same motherly eyes that she had eight months ago, that she had when Jeremy was born.
“We will keep him forever,” Vasishta whispered and held Janice’s hand. Janice smiled.