Greenlawn Cemetery, north of the city, has a special section for the graves of the stillborn, and those who died as infants and toddlers. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

The 56 graves, most of them decorated, are a bright splash of both love and loss.

The headstones are small. Many are carved with only one date.

Placed at the base of one headstone are two real baseballs. Another stone has a toy dinosaur. I see tiny race cars. A “Cat in the Hat” doll.

(Photo by Steve Pokin)

A little girl, born on Halloween and killed 2½ years later, has pumpkins near her grave.

(Photo by Steve Pokin)

One decoration consists of the words, “You are my sunshine.”

(Photo by Steve Pokin)

These stillborn, infant and toddler graves are in the Greenlawn Cemetery north of the city of Springfield. The dates on the headstones go back to 2015.

(Photo by Steve Pokin)

The decorations are fresh. The visits are frequent. The love still lives.

The hope of a reunion in heaven

Carved into one headstone is the outline of a giraffe. Many of the stones have images of a winged infant resting its head in slumber.

There are references to heaven.

“We knew you would be here today if heaven wasn’t so far away.”

“We will hold you in our hearts until we can hold you in heaven.”

“May we find peace knowing you’re in heaven with Jesus”

Remembering Adam with friends

On the evening of Christmas Day 2019 my wife and I went to the grave of a boy named Adam who died stillborn Christmas Day 1998. His mother almost died that day, too. His grave is at Hazelwood Cemetery, not Greenlawn.

We went there at night with Adam’s parents, Kevin and Lynette Cummings, who are good friends, and their son and their two daughters.

It would have been Adam’s 21st birthday. We had a drink, acknowledging that on this day he would have been old enough to legally drink alcohol.

Kevin and Lynette’s connection with their stillborn son will never be broken.

A headstone at Greenlawn Cemetery for a child stillborn in 2015. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Can’t say I care about streets paved in gold

It is a sunny fall day of 70 degrees and I think about heaven as I look at the 56 headstones at Greenlawn.

I can’t say I care much about streets paved with gold or even eternal life.

But if there is a heaven, if it offers just one thing, I hope it’s a way for parents who have suffered the greatest of losses — the death of a child — to reconnect, somehow, and convey their abundant love and in return know that it has been received and acknowledged.

If, on the other hand, there is no heaven, I hold no grudges.

Funeral home makes donations

I look at the headstones.

“Our sweet baby boy, forever in our hearts”

“You touched our lives for the briefest of moments, yet you will stay with us forever”

“Mommy’s princess girl. Daddy’s little hot rod.”

“Beloved son.”

(Photo by Steve Pokin)

James Spackman, with Greenlawn Funeral Home, tells me that when parents have little income Greenlawn donates the headstone and the burial space in stillborn deaths, infant deaths and toddler deaths.

“We do that basically because so many of the babies are from young women and men who just don’t have any money,” he tells me. “We are basically trying to help the young couples get through a terrible situation.”

(Photo by Steve Pokin)

It charges $500 for a casket and a funeral service.

A newborn death of 77 years ago

The cemetery has two other spots where newborns are buried. Both have been filled over time. One location has deaths that occurred starting in the 1980s.

I drive the short distance to the original location in the cemetery for infant burials. These are graves from the 1930s and 1940s.

Along the cemetery paths and roadways are people walking for exercise amid the trees, which cling to their remaining brightly-colored leaves.

I am surprised; a few of these infant gravesites from decades ago have recently been decorated.

Clyde Bryant Jr.

Born April 26, 1945

Died Sept. 28, 1945

Although this baby died 77 years ago, against the headstone is a bright knickknack that says “HARVEST,” a colorful pinwheel and new silk flowers.

This infant, who died 77 years ago, has fresh decorations at his gravesite. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Infant Clyde was 5-months-old when he died.

He was loved then. He is loved now.

Is it possible, I wonder, that love lasts longer than we can even imagine?

This is Pokin Around column No. 73.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin