Yesterday, still sitting in a hotel room outside of Disney World, I opened up my email to see "YOU'VE MADE THE FRONT PAGE!" A friend was writing to tell me that our story was in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I clicked onto the Philly.com website and there we were!
You can see the entire piece by clicking HERE. I'm also posting the extra photos the photographer sent me that they didn't use (with captions).
Clearly we knew the article was going to be published as we agreed to allow the journalist and photographer into our home for the interview. Today I'm going to give you the back story and explain how this whole crazy thing came about.
|He had me hold one of our frames that had photos of Gavin sitting up on the hospital chapel's altar and a picture of the three of our hands as he lay dying.|
When Ed and I met with the funeral director, he was explaining to us our obituary options. I had this vision (which I now realize was a fantasy!) that I could write Gavin's obituary myself and it wouldn't be the little block kind, but the feature story kind with a photo. Ed and I even agreed on the car ride over to the funeral home that we'd be willing to pay a little extra for the feature obituary. But when we were given the prices (exorbitant, to say the least) and told that there was no guarantee that Gavin would be chosen as the feature obituary... I moved into Plan B mode. My Plan B almost always involves calling my brother who seems to know everything and everybody. I figured he HAS to know someone at the Inquirer! Maybe... just maybe... he could find someone to pull a string or two for us. I texted my brother and my sister in law, Jen... and Jen was ON THE CASE immediately and reached out to a friend. What happened after that was very interesting. I changed my mind about the obituary and kind of forgot about asking for a favor from the newspaper. I mean, let's face it - my blog is like one big obituary and it's already been seen... a lot. So the funeral came and went and we made do just fine with our little block death notice in the paper. But...in a case of whisper down the lane, my blog was passed around the Inquirer and landed in the office of Michael Vitez who heard nothing about us wanting an obituary. He read my blog and texted me this on May 7:
Kate, this is Michael Vitez at the Philly Inquirer. (So and so) gave me your number. I would like to tell your story for our readers. So many amazing pieces - Gavin's life and death, the honesty and power of your blog, the amazing social media success, the money raised for DuPont because of your blog, and more. Pretty extraordinary on many levels. Hope you'll consider. I've done this a long time and will treat you with dignity and compassion.
I googled him immediately and quickly realized - HOLY COW! This guy was the real deal... and he won a Pulitzer Prize... and he wants to talk to... ME??? I was pretty shocked. Then, when he said he wanted to come over to meet me and Ed and could he bring a photographer? I got really nervous. Then I jumped in my car to go to the pharmacy to buy that box color that you brush on your gray roots. Priorities. But then I really thought about it, before I said yes. I wanted to be sure the purpose wasn't for mere publicity. I don't care about that. If I was going to do this, I really wanted the story to be two things: inspirational to others who are struggling in life (with anything!) and another shot at bringing more money and awareness to the charities we've chosen. Michael assured me that he'd tell the story well.
|Our dining room table that is filled with cards, gifts, and items from the funeral. I'm still finding homes for everything... it's overwhelming.|
He couldn't have been nicer (the photographer, too!) and he spent a little over two hours in our home. We talked and talked - it's very easy for me to talk a lot when Gavin is the topic. He even contacted the hospital and the Gift of Life Family House to talk to them about the donations that have been rolling in to honor Gavin.
|The photo boards that are still intact from the funeral services.|
As I sat in the Florida hotel room reading our story on the Philly.com site, it was very surreal. Sometimes it feels like that over the top, dramatic life story is just that - a story - and it doesn't at all feel like mine. But it is - and I'm proud of it. Proud because I'm proof that you can overcome anything that comes your way. (You really can!) I felt like Michael did an exceptional job. It's a tough task to put my life story, Gavin's life story and our married life story into a newspaper space - but he did it!! I'm grateful for the experience and want to thank Michael Vitez for doing such a beautiful job. I also want to thank him for choosing us. It was such an honor.
|On the wall in Gavin's room.|
There was one part in the story that I got some heat for - the "rubbernecking comment" - and I want to explain that.
He asked me why I thought so many people came to my blog. The reality is, the numbers jumped up significantly after Gavin went into the hospital. I said that I thought people might have been drawn in by the tragedy - people usually stop to look when they see a tragedy. Then I said that I couldn't imagine that people would stick around because of my writing - it's not that good! That in a few months, when I go back to writing about what Brian had for lunch that people might stop reading. Michael didn't think so. He said my storytelling would keep people here. His intention was to show that I don't give myself enough credit (which is a running theme in my life!) and not at all to offend my readers. And I certainly don't feel that any of you are here for insincere reasons - I really don't. I care about all of you very much and I'm grateful for your presence here. I am very sorry for those of you who were hurt, offended or insulted because you took it in a way that wasn't intended. Truly.
I did see much of the article ahead of time (although I missed the mistake about dates: we met in 2002, were married in 2004 and Gavin was born in 2007) and asked him if he'd delete the "rubbernecking" comment (which wasn't even my word). He assured me that when I saw it all together that I'd see that it was a big compliment. By the time we got on the plane - before noon the day the article came out - I had received 22 emails already from readers who did NOT agree. Some who said they'd never be back. Why do I care so much? Well... because I would never want to intentionally OR unintentionally offend anyone. That's not what I'm about - at all. And I certainly wouldn't set out to insult all of my readers. That is just silly. I am not judging anyone who read into this the wrong way - it happens! I am asking you to not judge them either.
|The heart that Brian made at the hospital - hanging by the "invisible string" on Gavin's closet door. This is what we all tug on each night to say goodnight to Gavin and tell him about our day.|
So... the whole experience got me thinking...
How often do we judge other people - or ourselves - based on how someone ELSE tells the story? The story in this article is mine, but it is written by someone other than me. Someone who has a different style, hears things from his perspective and writes it his way. He was in charge of presenting me to the public - which is a lot of pressure for him! (I think he did an excellent job.) How often have you read an article about a celebrity (or non-celebrity) and walked away thinking that they came across like a big jerk? You always have to keep in mind that when someone else tells the story - it doesn't always come across the way the actual person would tell it themselves.
In the same way, we as parents tell our child's story... verbally and, in my case, in written form (here forever and ever online). I've been writing Gavin and Brian's story since they were born. It's possible when Brian grows up he will read my blog and think, "Man - Mom got me all wrong." I hope not - but it's possible! I want Brian to grow up not accepting anything negative that anyone tells him about himself. Or not assume personality traits that we might impose on him. "He's our shy one" "He doesn't like to... whatever" I want him to be confident with who he is and know that that's enough.
Perhaps you grew up with a parent or are married to someone or have anyone else in your life telling you things about yourself that you felt conditioned to believe - that you were ugly... fat... stupid... lazy... no good... etc. Take back that power! They're just words!! Someone ELSE'S words. You are in control of your identity. How you present yourself to the world should feel authentic - not based on other's views or feelings about you. Don't believe you are supposed to live out the destiny of someone else's predictions for your life. Assume that they didn't know any better - forgive them - and move on.
Write your own story. It will always be a best seller when it comes from YOU.