Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In Nine Months...

Today marks nine months since the day Gavin died.
That day - and every day of his life before it - are ingrained in my heart.  At any moment, I can pull up a beautiful memory.  The first time I held him.  
The nights I spent rocking him.  The many, many "firsts" as he grew.  The times at the beach... on the boardwalk rides... his first movie... his first time in a pool... I can remember them all.

I can remember so much... but I am fuzzy on the last time I saw him.  I remember walking down the hall behind his bed as he was wheeled towards the O.R. for the organ harvest.  I can remember hearing the first of many claps as I slowly realized that hospital staff had lined the halls to honor him on his way.  I can remember feeling the tears on my cheeks and my shoulders as they shook.  I can remember consciously lifting the camera to snap photos as we walked - determined to capture the moment.  I had documented his whole life... almost every single day.  I needed to document his last and final act of love.
But I can't remember what my last words to him were before he was wheeled through those double doors... never to be seen by my eyes ever again.  Isn't that something?  I could hang onto that - read into it - feel guilt about it.  But I don't.  Because I really feel like I will never have "last words" to Gavin.  I continue to talk to him every day... and will until my last breath.

Nine months.  Impossible.

Know what else is impossible?  That our son died at all.  That his little brother has had to navigate life without him.  That his Mommy got pregnant - a miraculous (not immaculate, but definitely miraculous if you know my fertility history!) conception.  And that he's not (physically) here to watch his little sister and brother get to know each other.  

It is beyond incredible that in nine months we have grieved... we have grown a baby... and we have grown as a family.  Hope's arrival has been very healing for me.  On days that I want to fall apart - curse the Heavens - I find myself looking her way.  How can it be that this little child - who can be very high maintenance, let's face it, what with all the pooping and peeing and crying and sleepless nights - how can it be that in a glance she can zap my grief?  In those moments, I feel Gavin's presence.

I knew that the nine month anniversary was approaching, but what I couldn't know was that my friend, Caitlin Domanico (see the bottom of this post for more info!), would send me photos that she took of Hope and me just in time for today.  These photos mean so much to me.  It shows how remarkable life can be - that in nine months you can lose a child... gain a child... and fall in love.  I hope one day Hope will look back at these photos and know one thing... 

That even though she grew under my broken heart...
... she was welcomed with a heart that was ready to love her forever.
Butterflies from Gavin's funeral services...
My favorite photo (and Ed's, too!) of our intense, soulful little girl.
Does this photo make you feel deep emotion?  Well then, you can imagine what it's like to be me when I lock eyes with her. 
The symbolism of these butterflies over my shoulder is not lost on me.
This photo takes my breath away - and it represents so much to me.  The grief - the beauty - life and death - gratitude - a deep connection with my children... I adore this simple photograph for all that it says.
 This is my view quite often when Hope falls asleep on my chest.  I wouldn't trade those moments for anything.
Holding onto Hope... and I always will.

Not to be outdone, Brian had his school pictures taken!  Ed was in charge of choosing the "photo package" while I was in the hospital.  The good news is, we were approved for the second mortgage on our home to pay for the package he chose.  In his defense, it was impossible to choose a favorite pose out of these three - and now we have photos to pass around to 300 of our closest friends.  (Want a pic?)

I'm so proud of Brian.  In nine months time he has grown up so much.  A little faster than I would have liked under the circumstances.  Death will do that to you.  But he has handled himself so well.  The two of us were joined at the hip over the last nine months and, honestly, I couldn't have gotten through this without him.  I am one lucky Mommy.

Thank you to Caitlin Domanico, of Photography by Caitlin Domanico, LLC,  for the beautiful photos of Hope (and me)!  I met Caitlin when I took a women's photography workshop - one of many she offers in the Philadelphia area.  She is a wonderful (and award winning) photographer.  You can find her on her website HERE - or her Facebook page HERE.



15 comments:

  1. It really is amazing to me how Hope can look so much like her brother Gavin, in one photo and then in the very next one, so much like Brian and then, one where she looks just like her own little self. :)

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  2. 9 months. How is that possible?! You have the most beautiful family. Gavin, Brian and Hope are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us. I love reading every single word. My heart aches for you, and my heart is happy for you at the same time. You inspire me! Much love to you, from a Philly girl that now lives in Utah. ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

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  3. Hope - what do you know? Who is talking to you? You are intense and soulful in your pictures. I believe newborns come with knowledge of their family, their God and their blessings. She knows Gavin, intimately. She loves you all, will be her own person and will never not know of her intense and soulful brother - in addition to be able to live, love and grow, with Brian the Great! xoxox jenny page

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  4. I am new to your blog, but all caught up, and I must tell you that I wish that I had one-eighth of your strength. It is amazing to me that you can simply get out of bed each morning, yet you welcome new days and new experiences rather than dreading them. I have had my own child-related battles that cannot even compare to yours, and I fell into a cycle of despair and self-pity. I wish I'd known about your blog then, for you are an absolute inspiration and revelation to me. Your statement that you are one lucky mommy, after everything you've been through, is one of the most powerful and inspirational sentences I have ever been fortunate enough to read. You have made a huge difference in my outlook on life, and for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul.

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  5. Kate these pictures are so beautiful. I came to your story the day Hope was born and my friend SHARED your post. Just reading that caption, I spent the next couple of weeks reading from the beginnng every CaringBridge, then blog, the FB. Gavin was an amazing child and now an amazing angel. Your story has touched my heart. God always has a plan and Hope and Bryan are there to get you thru everyday. No matter how high maintenance (that is just what you need).

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  6. amazing pictures. She is a beauty and her eyes are definitely windows to her soul. enjoy every minute.

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  7. So honored to have walked with you these 9 months as you share beautifully and openly about living through the impossible. LOVE and HUGS.

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  8. Hope. She KNOWS something...you can see it in her face. What a blessing to be sent at the most perfect time to help you in your healing process. I am so happy for your family to be given this Hope and happiness once again, after so much grief. The photos of you with Hope and Gavin's butterflies are truly heartwarming...and handsome Brian's school photos are AWESOME! Bittersweet post with missing Gavin. Thank-you for sharing.

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  9. Amazing. Just love all the pictures of Brian and Hope. The ping pong of your emotions have to be very difficult to navigate. But, and I am aware that this may a ridiculous thing to say to you, but I mean it so gently, you are entitled to all of those emotions. Gavin is entitled to your love and grief of his loss. And Brian and Hope are entitled to your love and joy in their presence. I really hope that didn't come out wrong. The written word isn't always my friend. I guess, I would just hope that you don't feel defensive about any of your emotions. Wishing you the very best.

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  10. The pictures of your and Hope are beautiful. I love Brian's pictures too, he is such a handsome little man. I can't blame Ed for buying all 300 pictures, I wold do the same too ;)

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  11. I really thought I was going to get through this day without crying. Tears of sadness and love... The pictures of you and Hope are amazing. Brian is as cute as can be.

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  12. beautiful pictures of a beautiful mother and beautiful children. Sending you prayers and hugs on this day.

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  13. LOL about Ed choosing the huge photo package! :) Enjoyed reading today. Lovely and graceful as always.

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  14. I love ALL the pics, but the first is my FAV! Ever wonder if your miraculous pregnancy with Hope was a God getting everything and everyone into place to prepare you, as much as one can be prepared for a loss, for Gavin running through those Pearly Gates? Kids have a way of healing the seemingly un-healable (not a word, I know ;-) ) Anyways, you will always have hope and you will always have Hope. God Bless.

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