Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bringing Gavin Back To The Beach...

Yesterday morning we took a trip to Ocean City, New Jersey.  We had an important mission: we wanted to bring Gavin back to the beach one last time.  Ed, Brian, Granny and I were lucky to stay in our friends Geoff and Elayne's shore house overnight, for which we were so grateful.  Unfortunately when we got there, it started to pour.  I was pretty nervous - Ed and I had hoped to carry some of Gavin's ashes out onto a long pier overlooking the ocean that evening.  Not to mention, we had told Brian we were going to the beach.  Luckily, the sun came out late that afternoon.  Brian practically skipped the entire way to the beach...
...only to stop on the dunes to turn and say "COME ON!!!!!"
Granny and I parked in chairs and watched the boys play for a while.
Brian would have Ed bring him down to the ocean to fill his bucket up with water.  Last year, he went nowhere near the ocean - he was terrified.  But each time they filled up their bucket, he got a little braver.  
By the time we switched so Ed could take a breather, Brian was all warmed up... and suddenly VERY brave.  (It was FREEZING - on the beach AND in the water - which is why I'm not in a bathing suit!)
It was very emotional for me to see Brian enjoying the ocean waves as much as Gavin did.
As we played on the beach, I could see it out of the corner of my eye.  The pier.  I knew in just a few hours, at sunset, Ed and I would be standing at the end scattering some of Gavin's ashes into the ocean he loved so much.  Steps away from the beach where we made such wonderful memories.  
But... we were in for a big disappointment.  When we were leaving the beach, Ed and I walked up to the pier to check the hours - and we found out that it was a private fishing club.  It was only open to members.
I might have just walked away if it were about us wanting a simple walk on the pier.  But this was so important to us.  It had to be this spot.  It was far enough out over the ocean... but more importantly, it was right where Gavin made his beach memories.  A place that we'll return to... and feel like he's with us.  So, I turned to my readers.  I posted on my Facebook Page, asking if any readers in New Jersey were members of the fishing club - or knew a member - and could get us onto the pier that evening.

Within an hour, we were escorted by a wonderful and compassionate member named Mike down the long pier.  I'm so grateful to my readers - and especially to Betsy, the reader who made this happen.  I learned later that she made the calls to friends to get us onto that pier from her young daughter's hospital room!  Unbelievably generous for her to use the time to help us.

As Ed and I walked down the long pier, I found myself trembling.  The enormity of what we were about to do was really sinking in.  
When we got to the end, Ed and I looked over the edge and the view was just unbelievable.  We both knew this was the right thing to do.  Gavin was so happy in this ocean - at this beach - in this town.  Leaving part of him here was extremely symbolic... and a way for us to honor one of his greatest loves. I reached into my purse to pull out the white box.  I hadn't looked at it since the funeral director handed it to me.  It was still taped shut.  I nervously opened it up and looked inside.  Ironically, it looked a lot like the beach - like sand with broken pieces of shells.  In reality, this was our child's body - and the broken shells were actually pieces of bone.  The bones that held him up as he learned to walk last Christmas.

I placed my fingers into the ashes first.  It is nearly impossible to explain how that felt as his mother.  To think that the body of your little boy - the one that you carried inside of you - that you held on your chest - that you rocked to sleep - is now merely between your fingers... there are no words to adequately describe that.  It was a profound - and very reverent - experience.  And, as you can imagine, extremely emotional.  We didn't leave much.  I released two handfuls and Ed released two.  And we both watched as our son's beautiful body became one with the ocean.
As we turned to leave, the sun began to peek through the clouds.  And I felt baby Hope move in my belly for the first time.
We had thought that we would release all of the ashes in that box into the ocean, but we changed our mind at the last minute.  While we have 90% of Gavin's remains in a custom urn in our home, it was important to us to honor his love of water.  And we did.  But we decided to also bring the other half home and place it in the memorial garden being created in our back yard.

You know what we think?  We think Gavin's spirit is everywhere.  He doesn't need his body anymore where he is.  His remains are for the living, his parents especially, who try to find comfort in symbolic gestures - like honoring his love of the ocean or having a custom urn created in his color - blue.  

Granny stayed with Brian at the house while Ed and I scattered the ashes.  And we were grateful for the time alone during and afterward as we composed ourselves.  We walked the boardwalk hand in hand went into many shops looking for just the perfect photograph or painting of the pier.  We'd love to have something hanging in our home to remind us of that moment forever.  We didn't find what we were looking for... but I did find this photo online.  It is such a beautiful place.

Today the journey continued.  The four of us (and Hope!) headed to Gillian's Wonderland Pier before they opened to the public so we could see the fire truck they dedicated to Gavin for the first time.  Another incredible moment that happened because of a reader.  Christine, who lives in New Jersey, started reading my blog the day that Gavin went to the emergency room.  Weeks later, she decided to write to Gillian's after seeing the photo of Gavin riding their fire truck ride for the first time independently.  I had written that it was one of the biggest moments of my life - watching him on that ride by himself.  It was something that many people didn't think would be possible because of his low tone.
She wrote to the Gillian family (who own Wonderland Pier)... told them Gavin's story and asked them if they would consider naming a truck after him.  (None of their trucks have names)  Days later she was shocked when she got a call saying they would be honored.  The owner, Jay Gillian (who happens to be the mayor of Ocean City!) was so moved that he called an artist the day he read Christine's letter - told him to repaint the truck and name it Gavin.  And he told him "It has to be the number 8 truck."

It was fun to see Brian on his big brother's truck...
...and have a photo taken in our matching "Super G" shirts that might just be our Christmas Card! (Pretend your surprised if it does end up in your mailbox this December, ok?)
Meeting reader, Christine, and her adorable daughter, Skylar, was a huge highlight!!  She was even nicer in person and I was so happy to be able to thank her and give her a real hug.
And we got to meet Mimi, who coordinated our meeting at Wonderland and represented the Gillian family today.  She even presented us with a generous amount of VIP ride tickets for the summer from her stepfather, Jay Gillian.
From our family to Christine... and the Gillians... and reader Betsy... and Mike from the fishing club...
Thank you.  Thank you for helping us honor our son.  Thank you for going out of your way to perform these acts of kindness towards us.  Thank you for your generosity - of spirit, of time, and of resources.  We are humbled every day by the wonderful people who have entered our lives since Gavin died.
I won't be blogging tomorrow.  But be sure to check back Saturday for a big surprise... from an undisclosed location!!  


  1. Well there are just so many wonderful things about this post. The pier is beautiful, and so is the fact that a little piece of Gavin will always be able to enjoy the ocean. But the firetruck - that is my favorite. How incredibly sweet of that family to do that for you. God bless them.

  2. Kate, I have been reading your blog since about a month before Gavin went into the hospital. Gavin's story has touched me in a remarkable way. This post in particular is so profound, and has renewed my faith in humanity. The community that has been built around your family is truly touching and incredible. I just wanted to add one more voice to your sea of support. Gavin has indeed touched the lives of so many, and his legacy will continue in that path. What a remarkable story you have to share! I am so glad the world gets to share it with you and has gotten the opportunity to be better because of it. I so look forward to the day Hope arrives and wish you countless blessings in the process! She is so blessed to be born into such an amazing family! Love and support from Arizona! -Candice

  3. I think one of the things that draws me to your story and consistently compels me as a reader is the ways in which you illustrate the true meaning of love and community. I LOVE that the imaginary friends you make on the internet are able to give you serious real world help and support. Also -- Hope -- Kid, you've got incredible timing.

  4. The kindness that people are showing you and your family restores my faith in humanity. How wonderful! If your family comes to DC, my family would be happy to show you around!


  5. And someday you can take Hope there and let her ride Gavin's truck. :)

  6. I love people. This post reaffirmed that.
    What a beautiful post about giving Gavin one last trip to the ocean. I think this post will help so many people for many, many years to come.

  7. THis is such a touching story. You all are so strong and seem to be doing everything just right. God Bless.

  8. Thank you for letting me (as a reader) come on this journey with your family--I am so moved by Gavin's beauty, the life that has carried on through Brian and Hope and for the kindness shown in so many radical, yet simple ways!


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