Today’s guest author is Ashley. Ashley serves as a Graham’s Foundation Preemie Parent Mentor by providing support for those who have lost a premature infant. Ashley can be reached via email or through her parent mentor webpage.
Four children are splashing in the pool, so happy to just be enjoying hot sunshine and cold water. The air is filled with laughter. I watch my 16 month old daughter swim back and forth between her dad and cousins. I smile and cheer her on.
We sit around a picnic table eating the sweet treats we just acquired from the ice cream truck, still dripping wet from swimming. All is quiet. I look at each of the beautiful faces that surround me. In my lap sits my daughter, Nora. Her face is covered in cherry ice cream. To my left sits my niece, Olivia, and nephew, Alex, both are chowing down their melting Spongebob popsicles. My nephew, Lincoln, is impatiently waiting for his next lick of ice cream. I wipe faces, wash hands and hop back into the pool with them.
It is a seemingly average summer day filled with cousins enjoying each others company and sugary treats from their dotting grandparents. However, I am quietly overcome with grief. My child is missing and I’m not sure if anyone else notices.
My son, Gavin, has been missing for nearly four years. FOUR YEARS. For four years, he has been missing from every holiday, birthday party and wedding. I struggle with the fact that it has been that long since I last saw my tiny, 16 weeks premature, child with light brown velvety hair and dark brown eyes. That it has been that long since I last held him as he took his last breath. That it has been that long since I sat in the front row at his funeral. A lot has changed in the past four years but a lot has also remained the same.
My husband and I welcomed a beautiful little girl into our lives 16 month ago via emergency c-section (seriously, my kids really know how to make a grand entrance). We named her Nora and she is made of pure magic. She loves to sing and dance and will stop at nothing to make you laugh. She fills our life with so much adventure, love and hilarity. She is also very keenly aware of other people’s feelings. On numerous occasions, she has been spotted rubbing someone’s back when they are upset. While we were at the pool eating ice cream with her cousins, she leaned into me, grabbed my hand and looked up at me with a smile. She knew I needed it. She knew that while I pretended to smile for everyone else, that inside, I was hurting.
Recently, Nora learned how to say brother. I never pushed it on her but when she would point to Gavin’s picture and ask “who’s that?” I gently told her it’s your brother. Now, without prompting, she will run up to a picture, point and proudly say, “brother!” It takes my breath away every single time but not because she says it but because she is so proud to say it. It is so amazing.
And although my life is filled with so much joy and laughter now, my longing for my beautiful boy has not changed. Whether we are being lazy on the couch snuggled under a blanket, chasing bubbles in the yard or cooling off in the pool with cousins, the small moments make me miss him most. I have not stopped wondering what his relationship would be like with sister, if he would love animals like his dad or what flavor ice cream he would have choose from the ice cream truck. I have not stopped missing him. I will say it over and over again. I miss Gavin. I miss Gavin all the time and I know that will never change no matter how much time passes.
My Beautiful Gavin,
Happy 4th Birthday Lion! I love you so much and am so, so proud to be your mom. These past four years have been immeasurably beautiful and difficult, but you have helped shaped me into a more patient, brave and better mom. Thank you for guiding me to help others. You inspire me daily. Keep watching over your sister. I loved you all of my yesterdays, will love you all of my tomorrows and always.