Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Leave A Little Light On...

This morning, after dropping Brian off at "Camp Fun," I took Hope for her six month well check at the pediatrician.  She is now 14 pounds, 15 ounces and 25 1/2 inches long.  
She charmed Dr. Kienzle and he was so happy with her exam.
So why did I cry all the way home and for an hour afterward while she was napping?

For so many reasons.

I have experienced something so terrible - every parent's worst nightmare - something I would never, ever wish on any human being anywhere.  The death of my child.  There is really no "getting over" that.  You don't really "move on" from it - you always bring it with you and never really stop mourning.

But there is one thing you can do... regardless of who or what you have lost (because, let's face it, we've all lost something we've loved along the way)...  

You can leave a little light on.

I remember laying with Gavin in his last days.  
I snuggled up next to his still body in his hospital bed and whispered in his ear.  He was "gone" already - brain dead - but I knew he was "there."  I knew he could hear us, see us.  We pictured him bathed in golden light in that room - almost regal, and deservedly so.  He was the light of our lives, after all.
I whispered in his ear that it was okay for him to let go - to follow his angel.  I told him... promised him... that I wouldn't fall apart.  I vowed to continue to honor him by being a good Mommy to Brian and the baby I knew I was carrying in that moment... who is now Hope.  I promised I would not let the shadow of death put out my light.  For him.  For our family.
Whispering in your child's ear that you are okay with them leaving you is not natural - or easy.  But it was necessary.  I felt like Gavin needed to hear it.  But it was really for me.  I needed to believe it.  I needed to remind myself that it was not for me to keep him here.  It would have been selfish to force him to stay - even if I could.  It's important, I think, to remember that our children are not our possessions.  They are lent to us to love and raise and walk with on our individual journeys.  But they are mostly sent to us as teachers.  Gavin's journey abruptly ended on Earth - but it continues on.  And I continue to learn from him in so many ways.

Leaving a little light on in my heart after his death has allowed beautiful things to happen.  I'm able to enjoy our new baby girl.  I'm able to laugh and play with Brian.  I can love Ed even more because of this shared burden we carry.  And that little light shines just enough on my path to keep me from tumbling down into past behaviors in a feeble attempt to numb any of this necessary pain. 

Pain is necessary and should be felt so it can end... or at least dull.  The pain will lessen if you let it come.  The more you try to cover it up - the bigger it will grow.

So today, as I nursed Hope in the same chair that I rocked Gavin to sleep - I cried.  I cried for the boy that I lost.  
For the man who lost his son.
  For the boy that lost a brother.  
For the little girl who lost a chance to know Gavin.

And I cried tears of joy for the gift of light he left behind.

His light... and my light... will always be left on for the ones he left behind.

This video was sent to me by a reader about a month ago.  I think I have watched it no less than 25 times since.  It almost literally tells the story of our family... but each time I watch it, I feel a different message.  Watch it.  Whatever message you feel  - that is the message meant just for you.  Whatever it is you have to "let go" of or "move on" from - it will be okay.  No matter how bad it is.  Don't let anything turn off your light.  And don't try to keep anyone else's from shining.


  1. You are so incredibly brave. Such an inspiration.

  2. Hi Kate! I have been following your story silently, I don't often comment because I'm never quite sure what to say. I think of your Gavin all the time and check back here regularly since your family is always in my thoughts. I came across this post on another blog today and just had to share it. This post about hope made me think of you and your Hope so much. If you already familiar with this blog or have seen the post, sorry for the repeat! I just had to share.


  3. Kate ~ I'm a fellow PA girl (now transplanted) and I have followed your journey for several years. First inspired through your Momastery post and as a former SPED teacher, your advocacy and voice for Gavin inspired and touched me. My husband passed away several months after Gavin and I've been also navigating a path of grief and healing for myself and my 4 & 7 yr old. I wanted to share words that I've been reading that resonate w/ your words above. Pema Chodron writes about difficult times in our lives, and says, "Each day, we're given many opportunities to open up or shut down. The most precious opportunity presents itself when we come to the place where we think we can't handle whatever is happening. It's too much. It's gone too far....There are so many ways that have been dreamt up to entertain us away from the moment, soften its hard edge, deaden it so we don't have to feel the full impact of the pain that arises when we cannot manipulate the situation...Rather than indulge or reject our experience, we can somehow let the energy of the emotion, the quality of what we're feeling, pierce us to the heart. That is easier said than done, but it's a noble way to live. It's definitely the path of compassion -- the path of cultivating human bravery & kindheartedness." You live so bravely and are giving knowledge, compassion and strength to others through your pain. I SO admire that!!

  4. It's ok to cry. Sometimes you need that.

  5. Wow...that video! Profoundly touching. And your post...profoundly touching. Gavin sure knows how to spread the LOVE...even still.

  6. You are an inspiration. I learn so much about being a mommy from you. Patience. To enjoy all the little memories. To give back. To tell it like it is. You are wonderful!

  7. You are such an inspiration- I don't even have children but started following your blog as studying medicine and useful to read blogs from patient/parent perspective. I just think you are so raw and honest about everything, it is refreshing, sad and beautiful all at once. what you wrote about children not being possessions and the bit about pain needing to be felt was just so touching and spot on really.

  8. that video so touching. Your writing is amazing. Gavin has touched so many lives. Thank you for sharing your stories.

  9. This post really hit me hard. I lost my 14 month old son just over 3 months ago and your writing has been of comfort and encouragement to me. In his last moments here on earth, I too had to hold him and tell him it was okay, how proud I was of him and how great he did ...that it was okay for him to go to heaven now. Through the overwhelming pain and sorrow...I hope I can figure out a way to also leave a little light on..


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