Right about this time last year, Ed and I were headed to bed after a very long and overwhelming day. On this day last year, we greeted over 400 people at Gavin's funeral.
Actually, we greeted close to 800 people - 400 the night before at the "viewing" and over 400 the day of the funeral. It was a surreal experience - and much of that day and the days (ok, months) following are still a blur. One thing that is not a blur? The unbelievable outpouring - of so many things. But mostly of love. We felt like our little family was surrounded by love.
What a year.
Before Gavin died, I faithfully wrote my journal entries to chronicle every bit of his life... and ours. Most of my readers were long timers... they had been with me since Gavin was a baby. I never wrote to "gain followers"- I wrote because I needed to. I always said that this blog was like my children's "baby books" - a way for me to remember every detail in words and pictures. As you can imagine, I'm so grateful that I have Gavin's entire life chronicled. Especially for Brian and Hope to read one day. I shared everything along the way - what we tried with Gavin and what worked and what didn't... what we fed him... therapies we did with him... all of it. I always hoped that sharing these things would help other people who may not have had access to the resources that we did. Along the way, people hopped on board and became faithful readers. It all happened very organically.
When Gavin died, the avalanche of attention was overwhelming. Suddenly it was impossible to answer everyone's emails and questions and acknowledge requests. I would get thousands of emails - sometimes in a day. Packages arrived on our doorstep constantly. It was all so nice, it really was - but it felt terribly awkward to be thrust into a spotlight. People wanted so much to give us things - I suppose to make me (or maybe them?) feel better about Gavin dying. In a fog of grief and pregnancy early on, I said "Sure, you can send Brian a gift." or "Sure, you can send us a blanket." or "Sure, here's our address for a card." - but then I woke up and stopped all of it. We didn't need a thing. From that moment I directed all gifts to be donated to local hospital Child Life departments. People's generosity and thoughtfulness astounded me. It still does!!
I knew shortly after Gavin died that I wanted to help those that helped him. That's when "Gavin's Trust Project" came into my head. Again, I was blown away by how all of you embraced that. In a very short time, $25,000 was raised. New Special Needs classrooms were opened and furnished. Children were given equipment and assistive technology that they needed. It was unreal. I couldn't believe it was happening - any of it. It had nothing to do with me.
I started getting letters and emails in the months that followed. People started sharing their darkest secrets... their biggest struggles... their desperation. It became apparent that my journal about my little family and special needs son was doing many different things for many different people. Touching them... changing them... inspiring them in ways that I never could have predicted. It had nothing to do with me.
One night I remember laying in bed with Ed in the dark and saying, "I have no idea what is going on - but it has nothing to do with me. It's like I'm being used for something bigger than all of us."
I remain completely humbled to be on this journey. I am still the same person. I still write the same way (with lots of run on sentences, over use of the dot.dot.dot., and WAY overuse of exclamation points!!! I still write about mostly the same stuff - my family, my thoughts and feelings, and our experiences. I am just as amazed as you might be that so many people come here every day. It has nothing to do with me.
But, as always, the good comes with the bad. When you have more eyes on you... many will be critical. I have had some pretty crazy stuff said (and often made up) about me. That I ask for free things and even money from readers (outside of money for any charities or fundraisers) - which couldn't be further from the truth. Actually, not only have I never asked anyone (or needed to ask anyone) for a dime - I regularly turn down offers to monetize this blog... or blog to get free products or services in return. That I "overshare." Well, duh - most bloggers who write about themselves and their families are guilty of oversharing. And guess what - as a once really awful alcoholic, I am so glad that I'm not keeping that a secret from the world. After what we've been through, I'm kind of an easy mark for wanting a drink. Let's be honest. (I don't want a drink, for the record, but I have every reason to want a drink!) Because I put it out there - and because people recognize me all over town - it's doubtful you'll see me trying to slip into a liquor store! A nice benefit of oversharing, if you ask me! It's been said that I asked for a free stay in a shore house on my Facebook page. Actually, we were IN a shore house - I asked for my FAMILY if anyone was renting their house that same week for THEM. But when my sister told me they found a place on their own, I took it down. My favorite remark was that we must have gone to Disney on credit cards since we're always asking for money. I'm still laughing about that one...
But mostly, this year has been overwhelmingly positive. I have met wonderful people, been inspired by your incredible stories, felt privileged that you would all share so much with ME, and that so many of you have cared about our little family... and fallen in love with Gavin.
Losing my little boy was the worst thing to ever happen to me - and it will always be the worst thing to ever happen to me. Continuing to share about him - or work on projects like furnishing the emergency room with toys or trying to build the all abilities playground - are my ways of keeping his memory alive, yes. But mostly it is my way of giving thanks and trying to inspire hope in others. We had a lot of support during Gavin's life - from teachers, therapists and medical professionals. I want to give back to them to ensure they have what they need to continue to help other kids like Gavin. And we were lucky enough to have the financial resources to get things for Gavin that he needed. I'm grateful for the chance to help other families get the things that they need for their child but may not be able to afford. And I love being able to share what I learned along the way - hoping that other families can benefit from our experiences.
Dear you, on this day last year we said goodbye to Gavin. And one year later, on the same altar in the same church - we baptized Hope.
So yes - I do profit from this blog. In a very big way. I get to sit back and watch something amazing happen every day. It's not me - I promise you. I know this is much bigger than me and my run on sentences and my over use of dot.dot.dot and exclamation points!!!!!! This journal has turned into the chronicle of hope.
Think what you want about me, I can take it. But please - if you never remember anything else - remember this: there is always hope. Even in your darkest hour when it seems your life will never get better. Even if you lose your child. There is always hope. None of us are promised anything in life. Each of us are on our own journey to learn our own lessons. Gavin had his own, amazing journey - and then he had to go. Part of my journey is to learn how to live without him and show Brian and Hope that you can still find joy after you experience a devastating loss of any kind.
Thank you for sticking by me this year.