Grief is a tricky thing. The days we spent in the hospital were the beginning of the journey. One minute one or both of us were sobbing all over Gavin's little body. The next minute we were calmly talking to doctors or nurses or the chaplain about his impending death. Many people asked me, "How can you be so calm????" and I would always, without a doubt, feel a splash of shame on my face. I would think, 'Maybe I'm not acting enough like a grieving Mom.'
I was able to talk about his condition - his medical interventions - his brain damage - his organ donation - like a robot. Devoid of feeling. Sometimes I would feel that splash of shame again - how am I walking through this? Why aren't I falling to the floor in a heaping mess?
Planning the funeral kept me busy - and further from the grief. It allowed me to focus my energies on "doing" for Gavin - something I'm so, very used to. In a strange way, it made me happy to be "doing" for him. It almost - even if it was just for a few, fleeting seconds - helped me forget he was dead.
Now that I've been to the other side - twice - I can confirm that there is truly no "right" or "wrong" way to handle times like this. You're on a ride that you can't control... and can't get off... and you just have to hold on and don't let go.
The last two days have been tough. It's all behind us - the chaos of the emergency room and the helicopter ride... the long hospital stay as we slowly watched him drift out of his body... the funeral preparations... the exhausting two days of his formal goodbye. Now we are home and have mountains of cards and emails and facebook posts and gifts to go through. We have Brian and school and constant questions and non stop energy and "let's do this - let's do that - chase me - read me a book - no, let's do a puzzle." We have life issues that don't pause for death - taxes and insurance issues and grocery shopping and more.
Yesterday I felt the range of emotions. At one point, extreme rage. Angry that my son is gone. Resentful that I can't just be left the hell alone. Pissed that I may not live up to expectations or be able to acknowledge every act of kindness properly because I'm drowning. I'm drowning.
Then I felt happy. How is that possible? Well, when your little ray of sunshine comes bounding into the kitchen proclaiming, "I'm a rock star, Mama! Let me play the guitar for you!!" it's kind of impossible to control that emotion.
Brian is impossible to ignore. He makes his needs known, wriggles his way right under your grief and settles comfortably next to your heart. It's very convenient for two parents who might have some single focused moments. We appreciate him for that.
Brian went back to school the day after the funeral - and also today. His teacher tells us that he did very well and was happy to see his friends. On the first day he was back, the butterflies they had watched grow in the classroom were, coincidentally, ready to be released. Brian was chosen to hold each of the butterflies as they flew out of their old home and made their way into the sky. I am so, so grateful to Brain's teacher, Miss Laura, for how she has gone above and beyond to protect our son's heart during this time. She consulted a school psychologist, she read a book on grieving, she gave Brian a book that she personalized to help him through his process (which was the most amazing gift), and she has been so, so supportive. We can't thank her enough.
Everything is coming in waves, which I guess is to be expected. Ed will make himself busy and want to pepper me with questions and plans and details. He may not know that I'm about to burst and was wanting to just have quiet for a while. We constantly need to check in with each other - be patient with each other - respect each others positions on the grief ladder. It is too easy to take things out on the one closest to you - we are trying VERY hard to be conscious of that and forgive each other.
And then there are times that we're on the same page. Like last night - after watching this video:
We laid in bed together and wept.
This is not easy. But we will not let grief swallow us whole. Gavin is here with us, we know, and he is helping us get through this. I think he even helped me last night by sending me some extra strength when I threw a box against the garage wall.
It felt good.
The last eulogy at Gavin's funeral was given by his Godparents... my brother, Tom, and my sister, Bean. I couldn't have chosen better Godparents for him, truly.
Tom is a lawyer and is so used to public speaking that he only scribbled (and I mean that literally) a couple words in an outline for his eulogy and then he delivered it perfectly and eloquently, of course. He even asked, on behalf of Ed and me, for all the professionals that helped Gavin over his 5 1/2 years (teachers, nurses, doctors, therapists, etc.) to stand so the whole church could applaud. It was definitely a 'moment.' All that to say, I don't have it in print. But it will be on the video that at some point will live permanently on this blog. But here is Aunt Bean's eulogy - which was remarkable and delivered with such grace.
For many of you here today, you know Gavin as a superhero, saving lives and changing the world.
Well, to me, Gavin was my Godson, my nephew, my sister Kate and her husband Ed’s first born son, the big brother to Brian, my parent’s 17th grandchild and a cousin to many, including my own children.
My Godson – the boy who I was to encourage in his walk of faith. Yet, somehow, this little boy inspired me in my faith.
My faith in hope… My faith in ‘keeping the faith’… My faith in the power of love.
Gavin faced many challenges in his short life and served as an inspiration to many with his perseverance and hard work. From the start, Kate and Ed were told that Gavin had permanent hearing loss; he may never eat without a feeding tube, may never sit up or communicate. But we had Faith, Hope and Love on our side.
Gavin faced his challenges with patience, courage and determination.
In his own sweet time, with the love of his parents and brother, and the many therapists who so lovingly worked with Gavin, he would learn to eat pureed foods, he would sit, then crawl, stand up on his own and just this Christmas he started walking independently! He looked so proud of himself, too. His hearing was miraculously restored and just in the last few weeks he communicated with his teachers at school by finding and pushing the button that spoke ‘I want water’.
We had faith in him, hope for him and we loved him.
Gavin had fun too… He rode the fire trucks and merry go round with his brother Brian on the boardwalk in Ocean City NJ. And sat up in the sand by himself while waves crashed over his legs. He loved books, and music and everything to do with water… the bathtub, the ocean, just splashing in the kitchen sink.
Gavin shared his love with everyone he met. Without ever speaking a word, he was able to communicate his love with a silly giggle while playing with his Daddy, or a sweet smile to show off his dimple to Granny, with a simple touch to his mother’s face or his brother’s arm. There is an undeniable bond of love between Gavin, Kate, Ed and Brian that will remain forever.
We can all learn a lesson from this remarkable, sweet, 5 year old boy. Never underestimate the power of faith, hope and above all… Love.
Thank you, Gavin!