Burial of baby Lily Grace on April 29 in the new Garden of Loving Memories at the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park. The unidentified baby was found buried in shallow sand on South Maroubra beach on November 30 2014. Photo: [email protected] Burial of baby Lily Grace on April 29 in the new Garden of Loving Memories at the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park. The unidentified baby was found buried in shallow sand on South Maroubra beach on November 30 2014. Photo: [email protected]
Burial of baby Lily Grace on April 29 in the new Garden of Loving Memories at the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park. The unidentified baby was found buried in shallow sand on South Maroubra beach on November 30 2014. Photo: [email protected]
Her identity – down to her ethnic background, the length of her short life, her birthday, birthplace and the cause of her death – may never be known.
But the fractured picture of her fleeting life has not stopped her from being given a name, an adoptive family and a farewell brimming with love and dignity.
Baby Lily Grace, whose body was found in a shallow grave on Sydney’s South Maroubra beach in November, was buried after a funeral attended by about 180 people on Wednesday morning.
Her informal adoptive parents, Maroubra couple Filomena D’Alessandro and Bill Green, led mourners as songs were sung and prayers said in memory of the child they never knew. Throughout, a gentle message underscored the day’s sadness.
“We hope that you could have been part of our day, for all we know you may have been,” Ms D’Alessandro, an estate agent, said, addressing Lily Grace’s mother, of whom nothing is known. Urging the mother to come forward for support, she added that the community was worried about her welfare at this “terrible” time.
Ms D’Alessandro and her husband, who have three children, approached police after reading that two children had found the newborn’s decomposing body while playing on the beach on November 30. She and her husband worked with authorities to give the baby girl a fitting burial.
For legal reasons, Ms D’Alessandro had to name the unknown baby before burying her and, with the coroner, chose a moniker that evoked waterside flowers and a graceful departure.
“She’s a child that we have claimed as our own, not just Bill and myself but as a community,” said Ms D’Alessandro. “She’s our child, so we’ve just made sure that today has been lovely for her.”
Maroubra resident Karen Carnevale’s son was at a Nippers class on the beach when the body was found. She attended the funeral with a friend.
“We feel for what may have happened,” said the mother-of-six. “You just think about how horrible the whole thing must have been.”
Mourners, many of whom cried throughout the ceremony, were asked to light pink candles in memory of the child, while butterflies and pink balloons were released as the tiny white coffin was laid to rest in the Garden of Innocence at Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park.
The new garden for children who die without families has been instated as part of Lily Grace’s legacy. The park has also vowed to honour “unknown children” with an annual dawn commemoration on Baby Lily Grace Awareness Day, every April 29, while a fundraising page to help buy equipment for the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre has been set up in Lily Grace’s name.
Detective Superintendent Gavin Dengate said the case had touched many in his Eastern Beaches Local Area Command.
“Our No. 1 priority at the moment is the health and welfare of the mother and to assist her in getting some form of closure,” he told Fairfax Media.
It remains, however, that police need to address a raft of unknowns that hang over Lily Grace’s life. Forensic tests have so far proved inconclusive, and police are seeking help from international agencies, he said.
In the meantime, the mystery of the tiny infant has brought Maroubra’s community together.
“Lily Grace, you may have been found by a few,” Det Sup Dengate said as he addressed the congregation, “but you’ll be embraced and remembered by many.”