I hear you're coming to one of Gavin's special services. Whether you're coming to the viewing tomorrow night or the funeral Tuesday morning, I want to say thank you. And I also want to say... I know you are probably nervous.
So am I.
I remember my first (and only!) memorial service for a child. Way back when, when Gavin was an infant, the two of us lived at Nemours A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children for a few months. He was very sick with RSV and Botulism and I was also very sick with worry and fear. During our stay, he contracted a bad stomach virus. This was the worst case scenario for me. I never liked to leave him alone - but with all of his blankets and clothes from home I was forced to do wash in the hospital's laundry facilities they provide for parents. I would wait until he was sound asleep - BOLT down the hallway and throw my wash in - BOLT back to the room - repeat. One day, breathless from my run and tossing laundry into the washer, I met Amy. She introduced herself and asked why I was there - I told her my tale of woe about Gavin's illness and now the stomach virus. She told me she was there with her daughter, Arden, who was fighting Neuroblastoma. I always tell people that you can't compare pain - that everyone's battles are important and scary and all uphill to them - but I won't lie... in that moment I felt like a big jerk. I had very little to complain about next to Amy.
I said goodbye to Amy and my washing clothes and BOLTED back to Gavin. He woke up and things went south for a while with him which required my attention... and I just forgot about the laundry. Amy did not. A while later, the nurse carried in a pile of perfectly folded clothes and said, "Amy from the laundry room wanted me to deliver this to you."
Unfortunately for Amy - and the world - sweet Arden passed away. I was crushed. I knew I wanted to go to her memorial service and support Amy in any way I could. Ed was out of town and I was pregnant with Brian. The thought of going alone induced major anxiety. But I kept thinking of Amy - and her grace. I knew I had to do this. I decided I'd feel better if I had a job, so I nervously approached Amy and asked her if she wanted me to photograph the service so she wouldn't forget any of the details - pictures of the church, the photo boards, the weather... anything. I ended up making her a video that evening - it made me feel less helpless.
Driving to the church that morning, I was shaking and crying the entire way. I remember rehearsing what I would say when I saw them. When I got to the parking lot, it took me about 15 minutes to get up the courage to get out of my car. I was SO nervous to see them... ESPECIALLY nervous to see Amy. I really assumed I would find a broken Mother who needed someone to hold her upright. I couldn't believe it when I saw her and she seemed to take on the role of comforter to everyone who approached her.
All this to say, I have been there. A child's funeral is awful. Please don't be nervous to see us. Please don't worry about trying to figure out what to say. We know there is NOTHING you can say that will reverse the order of events that brought us here. But also know that it's possible you'll fumble and say the absolute wrong thing. We don't care. There is no right - and there is no wrong. You being there to show your love for Gavin and our family is enough. A simple silent hug works for us. We love hugs. And don't worry about trying to hold it together - if you're like us, it's sometimes hard to hold it in. We won't expect you to.
Me? Right now I am falling apart. Yesterday and today were very difficult, emotionally, and I have been struggling with pretty bad anxiety. It's been very busy - my sisters and nieces and Mom have been here helping with photo boards and entertaining Brian (who has been having a great time with his cousins over the weekend) and ironing my dress and hugging me and helping me edit a program that, thanks to Meghan from hope.joy.photography, looks more beautiful than I could have imagined. She was so generous to donate her time to design them - and even had over a hundred people on my Facebook page wanting to donate to her paypal account to pay for them. Something I didn't expect - but too many people were wanting to help. She is planning to give the leftover money to one of the charities we chose in honor of Gavin. And our wonderful friend and the boys' regular hairdresser, Silvia, made a house call today to trim my hair in my bathroom. People are amazing. We have been surrounded by love.
I am hoping I can learn from Amy and have even a fraction of the grace that she showed at her beautiful daughter's service.
But I can't make any promises.
A Mommy with a very broken heart.
P.S. - You know how people make photo boards for funerals? Do you also know how many photos I take of my children? Imagine combing through each day over 5 1/2 years - multiple photos. I had a very hard time choosing - so there are two photo boards for each year. You might want to come early if you want to see everything. And please humor me and tell me you looked at every single one? I remember every moment in every photo - what we were doing, where we were, why we were laughing... and that says a lot for this old lady with a bad memory. I can't remember my passwords, but I remember every moment with all of my children. They are ingrained in my heart.