It's hard to believe that Gavin's been gone for one year and six months.
Hope has been with us for 46 weeks, to put THAT whole other nutty event into perspective. It's still on a pretty regular basis that Ed and I look at each other shaking our heads with a "Can you believe we have Hope?" look that we know without having to say a word. She has absolutely helped our hearts to heal.
I was told early on that the second year was much more difficult than the first after a major loss. I didn't want to believe that. I was cruising along for a while - even able to lift others up who were grieving. And then, almost like a light switch, it hit me. When I put two and two together - and I'm bad at math - I realized that this was what everyone was talking about. The dreaded "year two."
Lately, I've been finding Gavin in the nooks and crannies of our home - almost like these little gems were purposefully hidden treasures meant to be discovered just at the right time.
While wiping up some of Hope's lunchtime spills on the kitchen floor, I saw the lotion between the cracks. When Gavin was five, I left him alone in the kitchen to run to the bathroom which was right around the corner. Somehow - someway - we'll never figure out how - Gavin got a container of lotion from the counter and opened it and... had a lot of fun.
It took me forever to clean this very concentrated lotion off the floor - and eventually I gave up on the lotion between the cracks in the hardwood. I'm so glad I did. Seeing that lotion brought back that fun moment and made me smile and cry and miss him all at the same time.
As Hope chooses toys to play with during the day, I find that she gravitates not only to the same toys that Gavin played with (that were HIS toys, actually!) - but the same activities. She loves to explore the house and cruise the furniture. She loves musical toys and things that light up. Do all babies like these things? Probably. But for me, every toy has a story. Ever song has a memory. And each little sound or activity is like a trigger that brings me right back to Gavin. I hope those memories - in every detail - never go away. I want to be able to tell Hope and Brian the stories I hold in my heart about their big brother.
Thank God, though, that I wrote from the time he was two months old. Thank God I took what seemed at the time like WAY too many photos. Now we know the truth - who cares if you take "way too many photos" or write "too many details" - there is no such thing. I am so grateful to have his life - and his death - documented in detail.
So much has changed in the last year and a half. My daily life has changed dramatically. I no longer have loads of paperwork or insurance challenges. I am alone in the house with my children - no aides, therapists or teachers in and out. It's still hard to get used to the fact that we can pack for a vacation - or even just a day trip - with such ease. That seems like a good thing, but it actually makes us feel sad. We miss pureeing Gavin's food in bulk - it became a project that Ed and I would often tackle together. We would go back to the days of extra work and extra planning and extra everything if it meant we could have him back.
Wouldn't it be great if we could just "have him back?"
Other things have changed as well. Relationships have changed. Some for the better... some for the worse. I have changed, too. I have less time and patience for drama or any other issues. I see every issue with an entirely different set of glasses. There's been a major shift in my perspective. I guess what I'm trying to say is - when one day you wake up happy with two healthy children and go to sleep (or don't sleep as the case was with me) that night knowing your oldest child is going to die, it puts things into perspective.
The way we parent has been a constant since April 14, 2013. That hasn't changed. We still put our children first. We continue to be very honest with Brian. We still include Gavin in conversations with Brian and celebrate his special days. We stay positive and enjoy every minute with our children on earth while somehow managing to balance that with our grief.
We didn't know what to expect from Brian after Gavin died. I will tell you the truth - I was nervous. Here I was pregnant, he was starting a new school, his brother was gone - it was a lot to handle for a 4 year old. But Brian has been incredible. There has been no acting out... he has expressed his feelings to both of us along the way... he still talks about Gavin and thinks about him and loves him. He has accepted Hope into the family and adjusted to having a baby in the house perfectly. We couldn't have asked for - or predicted - how well he would handle everything. He's blown us away.
One of the hardest things for me is the calendar. As the days and weeks and months go by, I know I am further and further away from the last time I saw him smile.
Things will continue to change. People will come and go from our lives. Life will go on and Brian and Hope will grow. We will create wonderful, happy memories as a family. But two things will always remain the same...
We will never stop grieving our firstborn son.
And we will never stop believing in...or expecting hope.
Mommy loves you so much, Gavin.