After a year of waiting, we decided to inquire into the absence of a birth certificate for The Girlie. Whereupon we learned that, in the District of Columbia, birth certificates are not sent– oh, no!– they must be requested (apparently, not all parents have need or desire of a birth certificate for their beloved children).
So after a little research, Ella and I drove to North Capitol Street to the Department of Vital Records, to humbly submit our request for her birth certificate. The place was bright and clean, and we were greeted by a cheerful security guard who was happy to give us any paperwork we needed and guide us to the proper lines, desks, and windows. I filled out the request, and as I was doing so, realized with a start that I actually had two children last May 9, and shouldn’t I have a birth certificate for both? I mean, I have a death certificate, which is certainly plenty, and it seemed a waste of $23 to get one for William, but still.
So I cleared my throat, looked up and asked the nice lady for another form, please. She seemed a little confused, especially when I didn’t hand back the one I was working on, or allow that I had made some kind of mistake. Instead, I thanked her, slid Ella’s completed form aside, and started working on Will’s. It felt strange and unfamiliar to write his name again. Under ‘age at last birthday’, I saw myself write ‘deceased’, and I completed the form.
So I’ve now got two birth certificates, one death certificate, one beautiful girl (if I do say so) and one beautiful urn of gray ashes. Somehow, I’m less angry and less confused about losing my eldest son as I used to be. Or maybe I’m more resolved, and not asking so many questions as I once was. Maybe his life is becoming more important to me than his death. Maybe that’s why I’m happy to indulge in a meaningless birth certificate for a person who’s dead; a piece of paper to honor a life that was too short, but overflowing with meaning and hope.