The last few days we have been in Ocean City, New Jersey. I feel so lucky that my sisters came down with their families this weekend to spend time with us. We parked ourselves on the beach right near "Gavin's Pier." Watching Brian play with the pier in the background - knowing that this is one of his brother's final resting places - was both painful... and perfect.
My nephew, David, spent HOURS building sand castles and playing games with Brian. He set the bar high for when he leaves to go back to New Hampshire!! (I am just too pale for hours of beach play!) David told me later, "I was just construction - Brian was the engineer."
As much as I was so, so happy to be with my family... I actually felt sick to my stomach thinking of Gavin by that pier and being on the beach without him. Many times I had to choke back tears. You just never know what to expect with grief. Ironically... it comes in waves. But watching my nieces and nephews play made it a little easier. I really do have such a great family.
Saturday night we all headed to the boardwalk.
My beautiful Mother is here with us...
...and she is such a proud and doting Granny.
Brian was SO excited - he LOVES the boardwalk as much as his big brother did.
And he REALLY loved hanging out with his boy cousins who completely showered him with attention!!
Our first stop was to see Gavin's fire truck and, as expected, it was a very emotional experience. I actually had to walk away afterward. We should all be standing behind the fence cheering as we watch Gavin and Brian riding together.... not piling in for a memorial shot. It was painful, yet perfect, to have everyone assemble for this photo.
Last year, Brian had me go with him into this obstacle course - and it was not easy! Climbing ropes, sliding down small chute slides... there was no way my pregnant self was braving it this year. So, YAY for cousins!! They were thrilled to go with him...
...and Brian was thrilled to lead the way like a big shot!
I even went on a few rides. The swings with my Goddaughter, Shannon, was the highlight of the night for me!!
It was a fun - and a very late! - night. We didn't get Brian in bed until after 11pm which is unheard of!! But he hung in there all night and had so much fun.
We went back last night for some more fun - and I noticed that Brian is getting braver and braver. The two of us went on this crazy tugboat ride together and the entire time he giggled and exclaimed, "This is the best ride ever!" We had to do it two times in a row! I think Gavin must have left Brian some of his adventurous spirit.
Today, we say goodbye to my sisters and brothers in law and their families. I am so grateful that they spent this weekend with us - it meant so much to me. We will be here with my Mom for a few more days... having fun, making memories and remembering Gavin.
Life is messy... and perfect... and beautiful... and painful. One day the ocean can be calm and peaceful - the next it can be rough and choppy. The tides can be high... or low... you just have to hold on and ride the waves. And never forget that even when the storms hit - you're strong enough to come out on the other side. Maybe a little tattered... maybe slightly broken... but still standing.
Life is painfully perfect.