35 years ago, Wendy Renaud, then a 17-year-old mom buried her infant who died after only living a few hours. She's been searching for her gravesite ever since. Her daugther-in-law has finally managed to track it down in Guelph.
Credits: BOB TYMCZYSZYN Standard Staff
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. -- After 35 years of grief, Wendy Renaud is finally at peace.
She has found the grave of the baby daughter she lost in 1977.
"Seeing her resting place will be the closure I need," Renaud said. "The last piece of my heart will be back together."
It's a place she's always yearned to find.
"I didn't know how to go about it," she said.
With the help of her daughter-in-law, Mandy Holden, Renaud now knows where her baby was buried in Guelph, Ont.
Melissa Mary Marlene Wright died when she was three hours old due to a series of medical problems including an enlarged heart and lungs.
She was buried in the baby vault at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Guelph.
Renaud, who was 17 years old at the time, was still in the hospital when her daughter was put into the grave.
Upon her release, grief consumed her and her family didn't take her to visit the cemetery or tell her which one Melissa was in.
"They thought they were protecting me, but they made it worse," Renaud said.
Holden said talk of Melissa always brings Renaud regret for not being able to visit her resting place.
So Holden called the hospital in Guelph where Melissa was born June 15, 1977.
From there, she made numerous calls to city hall, Service Ontario, cemeteries and politicians.
Within four days, she traced Melissa to Woodlawn. The family is planning to visit the gravesite later this month.
She is buried in the Children's Memorial Garden in the cemetery, along with more than 900 other infants put there before 1985.
"Baby vaults were very common when the cemetery first opened," cemetery manager Paul Taylor said.
He wasn't surprised to hear about Renaud's quest to find her daughter's resting place.
"I've heard this story before," he said.
In the past, when families came to visit infants in the baby vaults they were taken to a spot of grass with no markings. That's why they created the memorial garden, which has a monument that offers loved ones the opportunity to put a plaque on it.
"It pays tribute," Taylor said.
Renaud plans to place a memorial to Melissa on the monument.
Holden said St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley's office is helping the family get copies of Melissa's death certificate and long-form birth certificate.
Renaud said her grief over Melissa has changed since she's found out she will be able to visit her and obtain records of her life.
"This is how I need to close this, so I can be in peace and my daughter can rest in peace," she said.