Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mommy's Eulogy to her Superhero...


We are home... and exhausted.  Thank you to everyone who came to honor Gavin today.  It meant the world to us to see family from all over, friends from far and wide, familiar faces and yesterday's strangers that are today's friends.  Gavin's funeral mass was beautiful.  Father Kelly, the priest who married us and baptized both boys, gave the most personal and heartfelt homily.  And we paid a special tribute to all of Gavin's therapists and teachers and aides - all of which were there and had a special part in the ceremony.  We are exhausted.  That's worth mentioning twice.  If you came and we didn't get a chance to talk - forgive us.  You'll never know how overwhelming yesterday and today were.  But we are so, very grateful that over 400 last night and another 400 today came to say goodbye to our beautiful child.  

I gave the first eulogy and this is it in its entirety - minus the shaking and fumbling and trying to remember to breathe. (You can see it on video in this post.)

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First, on behalf of Ed, Brian and myself - thank you.  Not just for taking the time out of your lives to come today to honor our sweet son and older brother... but thank you for loving Gavin.  It was hard not to love him.  And it was hard not to be inspired by him.
Going to a funeral is sad.  Going to a child's funeral is just wrong on every level.  Will we leave here sad and grieving and maybe even a little bit pissed at God?  Probably.  But Ed and I feel strongly that we want people to leave here feeling mostly inspired.  Not inspired by us - or inspired by how "strong" we seem.  We want you to leave this church inspired by Gavin and his life's journey.  If we've ever been sure of anything, it is this:  Gavin was sent here to this Earth to work through us to inspire others.  To change people.  To open people's hearts to endless possibilities.  To inspire hope and healing in even the hopeless.

I feel very grateful that I have written about Gavin since he was an infant... and then Brian... and even our sweet Darcy Claire.  My online journals are, essentially, beautiful eulogies to honor all of my children.  Because of that, I don't feel the need to share specific memories or accomplishments about Gavin's short life.  

I also know that I don't have to tell you how utterly devastated we are.  How, as Gavin's main advocate, I feel incredibly empty and useless at the moment.  My identity was wrapped up in all of Gavin's many needs - and my wants for his life.  It will be a long and hard adjustment for me, I know.  We are both just heartbroken to have lost our son - and we ask for your prayers for wisdom and grace that we'll handle this in a way that will be best for his little brother.

The reason I am standing up here today is to deliver what I feel will be the most important message of my life.  I hope it will be important to you, too.

We called Gavin our "Buddha Baby" - and it certainly wasn't because he was chubby in any way.  He barely made it onto the growth chart.  We called him "Buddha Baby" because he just came with this quiet wisdom and inner peace that belied his years. Despite his many needs, Gavin was really a very easy child.  He went along with anything... smiled often... and loved everyone he met.   

I personally believe that we all come from this magical, unknown place full of wisdom and knowing. We arrive here with everything we need to know and a clear purpose set out for our lives.  I like to believe that ALL of our souls sat with God before we arrived here on Earth and together with Him created our life's blueprint.  We chose what lessons we needed to learn, what message we wanted to deliver and what our mission should be.  Because I believe that, I have a different way of looking at my children.  I am able to see them as my greatest teachers.  

Ed and I often say - to each other and others - that Gavin saved our life.  We were two single people who met late in life, set in our ways and you could say we were rather self absorbed.  Enter this child - with all kinds of mysterious problems - that coincidentally required ALL of his Mommy and ALL of his Daddy.  It was impossible to stay self absorbed because Gavin needed us.  We were the perfect parents.  Not because we were good parents, don't misunderstand.  We were the perfect parents because we were the two people in the whole world who were needing the lessons that Gavin would teach us the most.

Nothing happens by chance.  Gavin chose a Mommy who overshared in a very public way.  This little boy who never uttered a word had a very loud voice in me.  I wrote nearly every single day of his life - and shared some incredible moments.  It's not every day you hear of a child with permanent hearing loss and itty bitty hearing aids have his hearing restored.  It's not every day that three leading hospitals tell you your beautiful child will lose his eye or have a very noticeable and permanent scar after a severe corneal abrasion.  Gavin proved them wrong on both counts.  It's not every day that a child with "the lowest tone I've ever seen," said one of his doctors and who wasn't expected to be able to sit up on his own would go on to take his first independent steps just before Christmas. Along the way, I wrote it all down.  And in doing so, parents and doctors and therapists and people all over the world were changed.  Not because of my writing - but because they found hope and inspiration in this little boy and his incredible journey.  And we, as his parents, we were changing too.  I truly believe that the multitude of people that were helped along the way were all part of the blueprint for Gavin's life.  Because truly, we are all connected.

I have not had the chance to grasp what's going on in Gavin's name online - I have heard that people all over the world have been inspired by his story and doing wonderful acts to honor him.  People have been looking at me with wide eyes and saying, "You don't realize, do you?"  But in a way - I think I do.  Because I can tell you this - if people all over the world are feeling even a fraction of what we have felt over these 5 1/2 years as Gavin's Mommy and Daddy - inspired, lucky, blessed, hopeful - then my heart is full.  Gavin is continuing to change people.  Help people.  Heal people's hearts... including ours.  Choosing to donate his organs was the easiest and most difficult decision we have ever made.  Gavin was a helper and a healer his whole life.  To selfishly keep him from continuing to help and heal would not have honored him in any way.  It brought us great comfort to know that he died a hero - and that we were spreading around parts of his spirit to a very lucky recipient.  His kidneys were successfully transplanted into a young 40 year old man who recovered nicely, I was told.

As many of you know, Gavin died on my birthday.  April 14th.  Although it seems like a tragic and cruel irony from the outside looking in - I was able to see it differently.  I was lucky enough to birth this beautiful soul into this world on his birthday... And it was a beautiful gift to me to help usher him into Heaven on mine.  I knew there that his body would experience a freedom that it couldn't attain on earth.  There are always unexpected miracles along the way - even in the worst moments of your life.  If you take the time to look for them, you'll find them in your life, too.  Gavin taught me that.  I'm just the messenger today.

The message here is not "go home and hug your kids because you don't know how much time you have" - because we all do that. The true message here is don't lose hope.  And never let anyone tell you that you can't chase rainbows.  As I look out at this sea of faces, I know that each of you have been inspired by Gavin's story.  Gavin, really, was everyone's child and I was happy to share him with all of you.  But you can find hope and inspiration and important life lessons in your own lives.  In your children's lives - young or old.  In your journeys - even when the path seems impossible to walk… like this one for us.  Everything is an opportunity to learn… to help others… to grow.  Gavin taught me that.  I'm just the messenger today.  And I will continue to be his voice until the last day of my life.


Gavin Leong - the Superhero - is off to save lives.  Even still.  But the first lives he saved were ours.  




61 comments:

  1. Just beautiful...there is no other word. Thank you for the reminder that every life, every journey has within it hope and inspiration, if only we remember to look. Rest in pace, Gavin.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful boy with us, Kate. Holding space for you, Ed and Brian- and everyone else who loved Gavin.

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  3. absolutely beautiful. Your blueprint in life is as important as Gavins. You have truly blessed many of us by letting us experience your life. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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  4. This is stunning, Kate. Thank you for sharing it with us, with the world. Chasing rainbows and clinging to HOPE... xo, Anna

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  5. Beautiful and perfect....just perfect....

    Thoughts and prayers are with you, Ed and Brian.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful words & your Hero son & your gorgeous family... Rest well superhero Gavin... You have done well my son. More than most adults in their lifetimes..... We will soon be reunited.... I hope you will be able to post the program for us to view.... Lots of love & prayers for you Kate, Brian, & Ed.... <3 <3 <3

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  7. Absolutely beautiful, tears are streaming down my face. Bless you all.

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  8. Kate,

    Sweet, sweet Kate. I have been sitting with my hand over my heart thinking about you. I found you from Momastery.com.

    I hold my heart partly as a show of solidarity for the pain I can only imagine you are experiencing but also as a way to signal how much gratitude I have for how you are moving through this process.

    Glennon over at Momastery.com just posted a piece I wrote about how we have made it through the first 5 years of raising a son with a life-threatening heart disease. The message I hoped to get across about how we've made it this far is "pull people in close". It's the only way we have made it this far and I know it's the only way we'd make it through losing our son (we came *mighty* close).

    You are doing that, Kate. With your writing and your honesty and your gratitude, you are pulling people in close. As you know so well already, there will be a time and a place (many probably) for wailing and angish and just being so fucking pissed that this happened and not being poised and articulate and gracious or wanting people close. And that is just right too.

    We can be filled with rage and still be grateful, I think.

    Sending you so so so much love to you AND your family.
    -Jaime

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  9. Thank you for sharing and allowing us to be a part of your spetacular son. I pray that you are allowed some peace in the next few days to allow your family to rest. Know that you are loved.

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  10. Beautiful. May God bless you and your family. My heart hurts for you all...I am so inspired by your grace. Your Gavin was indeed a Superhero! Thank you for sharing him with us. Thank you.

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  11. Kate, thank you for sharing this beautiful message with all of us. You have shown how truly positive you are in a time of turmoil. I don't know you, but I live in the area and found your blog though Facebook. In reading though your journals, I cried along with you and celebrated joys. The one thing that comes to mind is what a priest said at my grandfather's funeral: ~We are sad not because we are afraid of where our loved one went to. We know where they are- in heaven. We are sad because we miss them.~ Over time I came to realize that those words are so simple but so true. We are not afraid for them because of where they went. They are in heaven, but they are with us still just in different ways- hanging out with us throughout our days, along for the ride to the store or celebrating holidays. They are with us still. Gavin (and your sweet Darcy) are with you- just in a different way. When you feel the emptiness, try to remember that he is right by your side. I will keep praying for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your most personal moments and memories on this journey!

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  12. I'm pretty positive that this is the most beautiful thing that I have ever read. Gavin is absolutely an inspiration and without a doubt a superhero.

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  13. It's remarkable the large number of people who showed up, were touched by and cared about Gavin throughout his life. I hope you and your family get some rest. One day at a time.

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  14. I don't know what to say except thank you. Your words have been such a comfort to us as we lost our 21 year old daughter on Jan 1, 2013. What you have gone through with your son is truly remarkable. Thank you for what you have done and continue to do.

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  15. This is beautiful. I have been so touched by your child and your family. Your journey and your attitude ARE an inspiration to people you will never meet, and never know that you have even touched....we are in Memphis planning our own pay it forward Gavin mission. We also have a special needs child and seeing the lives of others touched through him is such a gift. I am amazed by you and your family and praying for you all.
    Suzanne and Clay Culpepper
    www.theculpeppers.com

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  16. I was blessed and honored to be able to attend Gavin's celebration today and am still overwhelmed by your beautiful tribute and the courage and strength with which you delivered it.

    The reading by Miss Sara and presentation of gifts by Gavin's team of angels were two of the most profoundly moving moments that I have ever borne witness to. Amazing, simply amazing.

    Know, without a doubt, that your superhero is so very proud of you today. I know that he is thankful, just as he has been for the last 5 1/2 years, that his mommy never hesitated to be his voice.

    God bless you supermomma and may your memories bring you peace and comfort in the days ahead.

    Praying and holding space,

    Lisa Roman-Lucci

    p.s. - I left a book for you today - one that I thought Brian might like too. It is called The Next Place That I Go and it has brought me endless comfort on many occassions. I pray that it may do the same for you. Hugs.

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  18. Breathtaking and totally true. He is and always will be touching lives.

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  19. Kate, I will never, ever forget listening to you read this. I felt the inspiration surging throughout the room, even as the tears flowed. Today's mass truly was beautiful—the words you chose, the songs you chose, Ed's homily, Miss Sara's reading of on The Night You Were Born, and the gifts by Gavin's therapists and teachers. I was glad to get a chance to talk with Ed, Miss Sara and your sister. I was so glad to be able to give you hugs.

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  20. Just beautiful! You are an amazing family and I can't imagine how difficult this all has to be for all of you..but I know you will continue on , being the wonderful people that you are.. for that is what Gavin would want. You will continue to be in my prayers...

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  21. You are an amazing person & mom. I'm humbled to read the eulogy you beautifully wrote for your son. Prayers to you all for healing hearts.

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  22. So honored and blessed to be able to hear you deliver this in person and celebrate Gavins life mission with you. You were the epitome of strength and grace today, hope the hug from the random "stranger" / blogger / SN's momma didnt throw you, thank you for welcoming it.

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  23. Kate, Thank you for sharing Gavin's journey and your heart with all of us. He is truly and inspiration to all of us both in the special needs world and outside the special needs world. I believe you when you say he was put on this earth for a reason, a purpose. He has touched all of our lives and hearts in more ways than one. You are all in my thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time and beyond. I know that Brian will be o.k and will be one day thankful for the way you have chronicaled everyday of Gavin's life. Because of this he will always know how beautiful his big brother is.

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  24. Gavin had a wonderful mother and father, that is why he chose to be your son...he chose you because he knew you were just as special as he was. God bless your family, I've told my children about a superhero named Gain. He amazes me as do you Kate.

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  25. prayers to your family, and thank you for sharing your super hero's story of HOPE.
    RN in Texas and friend of the little boy who almost got the super hero's liver

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  26. What a beautiful tribute to your little man. I believe Gavin did pick you and Ed and will always be with you, smiling that same wonderful smile he always has. i bet he's bragging up there all about you for a change and telling anyone he can about his amazing Mommy and Daddy who did all they could for him, every minute of every day.

    I can't imagine what you're going through, but I wish you as much peace as possible over the next few minutes, days, weeks . . .

    - Sheila

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  27. Gorgeous, Kate. Simply beautiful. I have been in awe of what has been happening online (and off) in Gavin's name. My blog post this week will be about this. I feel that what is happening is so much, much more than we can see right now. The effects will ripple on and on. Gavin will go on and on. He taught us all so much--and it is now up to us to make sure we never forget those lessons.

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  28. Rip little Gavin and may god bless you with peace for now your superhero has went on to his next journey. Thank you for sharing your family's special story it has touched me in ways even I can't believe. Please let us know how you are doing from time to time, oh and by the way I wore my blue proudly today. Love from our family to yours. Linda

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  29. Dearest Leong family-

    My deepest sympathy and prayers to your entire family in your sorrow. I can't imagine what your are truly going through. Know in your hearts that Gavin and Darcy Claire are together in peace. Your posts have touched my heart in ways I couldn't have imagined. Kate you are a superhero also, and a role model for all of us mothers out there. May God watch over your family and keep you in his warm embrace. He has a bigger plan for Gavin, your superhero is making changes in the world!

    Your words are an inspiration and what you have shared with the world is a gift. Thank you.

    Brigette

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  30. Thank you for sharing him with us. You were the perfect parents for Gavin. And Brian. And Darcy Claire.

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  31. Kate, children are sometimes the greatest teachers of all. It is through their simplicity that they share their wisdom. This came through in your eulogy for your sweet Gavin. His lessons will go on for eternity because he has taught all of us to be caring, humble, and generous.

    Sweet dreams, Superhero! Look out for your mommy, daddy, and little brother from heaven. Keep teaching all of us to create a better world, too!

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  32. I can't get Gavin off my mind. I cant get you off my mind...what you might be feeling now...you are incredibly strong and i pray that as the days go by and family and friends start returning home that you would feel the peace of God wash over you and feel the loving arms of God holding you close. Gavin is in heaven...of that I have no doubt. And yes he is getting to do all those things he couldn't do on Earth.Take care of yourself and Brian. You all will be in my thoughts and prayers. God blaze you all!

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  33. I think of you every day. I don't need any reminders to check your blog because you always come to mind. May hope be abundant for you all...may you be surprised by joy.

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  34. Thank you so much for sharing. Holding you all in my heart.

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  35. Ann Dillon TannousApril 24, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    I think Gavin's was the most beautiful funeral I have ever been to.
    To paraphrase a Bible verse, we came in weeping and left rejoicing. Not for the loss of Gavin, obviously, but because of the recognition and thanks for the profound effect he had on the world.

    When I entered the Church I was awestruck first by the festive decorations and then by all the photos and mementos (including his miraculously discarded hearing aid) of Gavin's sweet, short little life. I was crying, and a woman next to me,  near tears herself, noted my tears and gestured to all the tables filling the rest of the room. But a strange thing happened. As I went from table to table, display to display, looking so closely at every photo of Gavin, Brian, their Mommy and Daddy, and all their family, friends, and caregivers, and all the little notes and explanations Kate had written, I began to feel uplifted. Rather than becoming sadder and depressed, I became so happy with every look at Gavin's face with that sweet smile. That smile. You don't know whether you want to hold him and tell him everything will be alright or get down on your knees and ask him in his sweet innocence to bless us. And you even had a table dedicated to information on organ donation.

    Kate and Ed, you stood there thanking each person for coming. I saw dear little Brian. He was such a very good boy in Church. I'm sorry, I don't know all the rest of your family, so I could not express my condolences to them.

    Every part of Gavin's funeral Mass was uplifting. Your eulogy - I must have gone through a dozen tissues, but besides being heartbreaking it was so inspiring. Ed's Prayers of the Faithful - even in the midst of all your sorrow, your first prayers were for other people who are hurting. Sara's reading of the poem and her eulogy, Gavin's godparents' eulogies, the priest's homily talking about rainbows, the caregivers bringing the flowers up, the beautiful booklets, the beautiful music. (I am so glad you chose David Haas's "You Are Mine". I had hoped you would; it is so appropriate and full of hope.) By the time I left I was rejoicing and so thankful I had been allowed to be a part and a witness to this wonderful resurrection of spirit!

    I know the days ahead will be difficult for you. The wound will be raw for some time to come. Please accept my prayers and sympathy. Although you will rejoice in having had Gavin in your lives, you will also mourn his loss. You will need time to yourselves, but also the comfort of friends. I there is anything I can ever do for you, please allow me to. It would be an honor to help the extraordinary family of this extraordinary Superhero.

    I always say that the best thing you can ever say about someone is that he made a difference. In his short, amazing life Gavin David Leong made a difference and continues to do so!

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  36. My deepest sympathies to you and your family for your loss. I cannot even begin to imagine what you are going through. Your Super Hero must have been an inspiration to you and your family everyday. Two months ago I lost my grandmother. I love and miss her so much. She was an amazing woman. I know she is up in Heaven with your superhero looking down on us and watching over us each and every day. She is my Forever Angel. You are an amazing mom/dad...you have to be to have a Super Hero like your Gavin!!! Take care and know that you are not alone.

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  37. You are an amazing mom Kate Leong and Gavin a real superhero. May God bless you all.

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  38. Kate,

    This is Maureen Hill from high school. At this moment, YOU are inspiring me. You are an extremely strong woman to express such words and strength. You still live the calm demeanor you portrayed in high school. That grace will carry you through this. I am so sorry to hear of your son's loss. You are very fortunate to have his presence in your life! I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

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  39. My emotions have been fluctuating with yours, for the past 2 weeks, since I was introduced to this beautiful, heartwarming site. Kate, you are an inspiration to every mother on this planet. As the mother of a special needs child, I know how difficult and challenging it can be. But you have shown us what love and dedication can accomplish. If I can learn to follow just a tiny bit of your "mothering", I too will be a good mother. I've read through some old entries, I cried with you and laughed with you and smiled at Gavin's charming smile in every picture. What a delightful and fulfilling 5-1/2 years you have given him. Gavin is in a better place, but you are suffering that loss. You are left with beautiful memories. I just want you to know that Gavin left his mark on this world and with your generosity of sharing that with us, YOU have left a tremendous impact on this world. Please keep sharing with us glimpses of your awesome attitude, your positive parenting, your remarkable strength. But take the time to mourn your terrible loss, the loss of OUR Superhero Gavin. I have been, and will continue to pray for you and your family that G-d give you the strength to get through this very difficult time. HUGS.
    Brooklyn, NY

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  40. What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful hero. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you, Ed and Brian.

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  41. Beautiful. Incredible. Thank you.

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  42. You are such a wonderful mothere Kate. Keeping your family in my thoughts and prayers

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  43. Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. ~Helen Keller

    Somehow, I thought of you. Then I came here and read your beautiful words. And finally, I am giving you a link to another amazing mother, that somehow in her writings, you too may find peace.

    http://aninchofgray.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-you-can-do-to-help-grieving-family.html

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  44. You have such beautiful words that honor our superhero Gavin. My prayers for Kate, Ed, Brian, and others who loved Gavin.

    A quote I love: "When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran~

    I think we would all agree that Gavin has been a pure delight.

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  45. Beautiful eulogy! You're right there are always unexpected miracles along the way - even in the worst moments of your life. Thanks for the reminder.

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  46. Absolutely beautiful. So eloquent. Your outlook in the midst of such a profound experience is truly inspiring.

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  47. Gavin was born with a mission - Henry Nouwen expresses it so well: "When we live our lives as missions, we become aware that there is a home from where we are sent and to where we have to return. We start thinking about ourselves as people who are in a faraway country to bring a message or work on a project, but only for a certain amount of time. When the message has been delivered and the project is finished, we want to return home to give an account of our mission and to rest from our labours."

    One of the most important spiritual disciplines is to develop the knowledge that the years of our lives are years "on a mission."

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  48. I have changed my donor status in honor of Gavin. <3

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  49. Stephenie from PAApril 24, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Kate,

    I first found your story when Gavin went into the hospital through Rants from Mommyland. I've been following your facebook page and your blog since then. I check it multiple times a day, in fact, waiting for the next post or update.

    First let me just say that you and your entire family, both here and on the other side, are in my daily prayers.

    When I first read your blog, and I read it for hours that first day, I thought "How does this woman do it? How does she go on? I could never do it. I would never have the strength." You amaze me! Your entire family does. The losses that you have had to endure are inconceivable and yet you take every step and every curve with grace and elegance. You are truely an inspiration! As was and is your beautiful son and daughter who I am sure are both laughing and playing in heaven.

    God bless you and your family! You will all remain in my thoughts and prayers!

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  50. With a heart broken into a thousand pieces, you are helping to make the rest of us more whole. That is astounding and inspiring. Your Gavin is absolutely incredible, and picking you as his parents was no mistake.

    I wish he were still here with you physically. There are thousands of us who don't even know your family, who would trade the Sun and Moon for that, for your family.

    Please know that he will be remembered and honored forever. And your Buddha Baby has already expanded so very many souls, through his own perfect Soul. Love to all of you.

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  51. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your family's journey.

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  52. Thanks so much for sharing. Your message continues to bring healing and hope for others that you will never meet.

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  53. Thank you for sharing your beautiful sweet son with us. What an inspiration he and your whole family are for the rest of us.

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  54. Your eulogy was perfect. As perfect as a mother's love. You my dear are such an inspiration to me. Praying for peace and Gavin's memory to help your hearts heal.

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  55. there are few words left to describe how I feel after reading your story and all the replies, everyone has said it all already.
    I think for me the feeling that is strongest is really that of hope and faith.
    To witness the faith and love you express and so strongly radiate is inspiring. It gives me more faith than any church ever have, faith in knowing that we are all connected, we all have a greater purose in life, that God is always with us, if we are willing to see, to feel and accept it, the answers are all before us.
    I can not comprehend fully what you are going through, your words and your story are a gift to us all.
    Thank your for sharing it and making us ull a little wiser and hopefully a little stronger

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  56. Kate,

    Yes, we are all connected. I like to say, "we are neighbors in grief and allies in healing."

    Thank you for your bravery, for your courage, for your honesty, and for your compassion. Your and your husbands' selfless acts in donating Gavin's organs is a symbol of the kind of love the world needs.

    Gavin's trust project is yet another testimony to just how special you and your family are...

    Hugs and healing, Kate...

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  57. I just wanted you to know that even now, 8 months later, your Gavin is still inspiring others. Thank you for sharing him with the world. I'm holding space in my heart for you and your sweet family as we head into this Holiday Season. Jill, Wichita Kansas

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