This has been my life.
This has been Ed's life.
This has described our marriage.
And this shall be our future.
Today was the last day of April. On our refrigerator, the photo calendar I lovingly make for Father's day every year is filled with "this time last year" photos each month. As I turn the calendar to May tomorrow morning, there will no longer be "this time last year" photos of Gavin. Sure, we will always include photos of Gavin in our calendar - that's a given. But from this moment on, they will be considered "old photos." The reality of that is heartbreaking to me.
But today, Hope turned five months.
And there was much to celebrate... milestones to document... photos to take. The joy we feel having this little girl in the house is insurmountable. The joy we feel watching Brian revel in his job as big brother is beyond measure.
As I was growing up - and well into my twenties, everything happened TO me. Someone was bad... something was wrong... and I was the victim. There was nothing to be learned except I was wronged and people suck and you have to learn to "accept" what happened "TO" you.
Something shifted the night Gavin died. It was like a parallel universe opened up and handed me the answers I had personally been seeking for so long.
We are all individuals on our own personal journeys on this Earth. I said in my eulogy to Gavin that "we all come from this magical, unknown place full of wisdom and knowing. We arrive here with everything we need to know and a clear purpose set out for our lives. I like to believe that ALL of our souls sat with God before we arrived here on Earth and together with Him created our life's blueprint. We chose what lessons we needed to learn, what message we wanted to deliver and what our mission should be. Because I believe that, I have a different way of looking at my children. I am able to see them as my greatest teachers."
I have felt this way for some time - but then Gavin died and it meant more to me than ever. What if we chose the plan for our life? What if we chose the pain... the sorrow... the joy and the happiness? What if all of it was part of our own, personal journey? Your child dying is one of the worst possible things you can go through - that is the truth. But Gavin's death was part of his journey. It happened to him. Our journey as those he left behind is learning how to move on without him... bringing all we learned from him with us.
It's hard to believe that in one year's time we lost a child and gained a child. Everything surrounding Hope's very existence is, to us, a miracle. Ed and I both feel like she's been in our lives forever - yet we also can't believe it's been five months since she was born.
One important lesson I learned from Gavin is to let my children show me who they are - and what they can do. I no longer check charts or worry about timelines. Hope will do what she'll do when she's ready, as far as I'm concerned. I write down each little thing she does just so I have it recorded for her one day.
One thing I never want her to forget is her incredible bond with her Daddy. She is truly "Daddy's little girl." She will smile for me all day long - and I'll even get an occasional giggle. But the second Daddy walks in the door, I am toast. He gets belly laughs and snuggles and huge grins. It's so beautiful to watch their relationship develop right in front of my eyes.
And Brian. He is so in love with his sister. I often find him quietly talking to her or playing with her toys to entertain her... stroking her head or singing to her. I think they will always have a special bond.
And me? I feel so lucky to have another child. I know I will learn so much from this little girl who came to us bearing the gift of hope during the darkest time in our life. Clearly she is here for a purpose - like we all are. I will be a willing student as she grows.
I think the greatest legacy we can leave for Brian and Hope is showing them that we can grieve hopefully. That sorrow doesn't have to bury us. That we can survive with grace.
This opened up a whole new way of thinking for me. In some strange way, Gavin's death helped me to heal my past. I was able to remove my attachment to people who "wronged" me and see that they were on their own journey. Yes, I walked with them on their path for a while - but then I got off and got back on my own. My path stayed crooked and broken and overgrown with weeds and twisted vines. But that was because I had brought a piece of them onto my path - and they didn't belong there.
Our life journeys are our own to take.
Perhaps you had a rough childhood with dysfunctional parents. Maybe you had an abusive ex-spouse and you still feel the scars. You might have a difficult time with a child and everything seems to be spinning out of control. I promise you - if you take a step back and see that they are on their own journey, learning their own lessons - and that this is not your "stuff" - it will free you. Everyone is on their own mission... on their own path... and will do everything in their own time according to their own, personal plan. What you choose to do - and how you choose to react to their journey - will be life defining.
Gavin's death - given my history of wanting to give up or drink things away or swallow all of my emotion - should have wrecked me.
Instead, I have chosen to celebrate the gift of his life. This child came here with wisdom and knowing - with a clear mission. And he nailed it. We can all learn a lesson from him.
"In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse."
--Anthon St. Maarten, Divine Living: The Essential Guide To Your True Destiny
These are the lessons I've learned from my year of grieving hopefully.