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.