Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dear Gavin . . .

I didn't even know you, buddy.  And there are so many young children who have fought this disease.  A number that is unbearable.  So why is it you, Gavin, who has pierced my now broken heart?  Is it because I'm a mom of three boys?  A mom of three baseball players? A mom of two who have been mine for fourteen and twelve years - bookends to your thirteen?  Is it just that I am a woman who considered her faith strong and yet found that each time she saw your face on the computer screen, her eyes blurred and spilled tears, all the while looking up and questioning God?

We waited for the miracle and we prayed so very fervently for it.  I saw you in my mind and felt you in my heart, a prayer for you and your family on my lips countless times a day.  And as soon as the prayer for the miracle floated up to Him, in the very next breath I asked Him to help us if the miracle we wanted didn't come.  I begged Him to never let go of your parents, of your sister and brother, of your friends and of those, like me, who never had the privilege to meet you.  I asked Him to please not let the anger and sorrow take over and break our faith today.  I asked Him to let us wake up on this morning with that faith upright, strong, steady and firm.  I asked Him to help us believe that even on this day when it is absolutely unfathomable to our human minds, that there just might be a miracle here somewhere in the midst of dust so thick with pain that we are blind to see it.

Because I know that I have been told that God will make beautiful things out of the dust.  And I gotta say, if I was your mother and someone told me today that there was reason, purpose, beauty to come out of this? Honestly, I just might scratch someone's eyes out.  This?  This sorrow, this tragedy, this confusion? This is too dark. Still I make myself go to my Bible and read the words in black and white right in front of me:  faith is the assurance of things hoped for and a conviction in things unseen.  And since I prayed for eyes to see, I better keep searching for a long, long time for what beauty might come out of these ashes.

And the thing is Gavin, that even though I am blinded today, there are a few things that I know for sure about this summer.  My summers are always full of baseball, and this one was, too, but it was oh, so very different.

It was a summer, that because of you, I spent countless moments talking to God while I sat in the bleachers, not only about hits, strikes, and diving catches, but about courage, compassion and awareness.

It was a summer, that because of you, as I watched my sons grip baseball bats or slide into bases, I gave thanks, not only for their successes, but for their fingers and their hair and their little noses and their every breathing moment.

It is the summer that because of you, I left unironed clothes in a wrinkled mess in the laundry basket and sat down with my 8 year old to watch that show with that annoying, talking dog whose voice gives me an eye twitch.

It is the summer that because of you, I lay in bed with them and read aloud even though they all know how to read on their own.

It is the summer that because of you, I ran farther and farther, each mile bargaining with God . . . if I do one extra mile, maybe the miracle could come?   Even though I knew much better, I still played the game and I ran a bit farther because of you.

It is the summer that because of you, little boys so singularly focused on base hits and strike outs and wins, found that though they were little they could do big things with big love that eclipsed just a number on a scoreboard.

It is the summer that I had the honor to speak to your dad and to marvel that he could even put one foot in front of the other, much less demonstrate an astounding strength that I will never forget. I was able to see that his eyes shown with purpose  - a purpose beyond his own pain.

It is the summer that because of you, whenever I see the color orange, whether it be my child's flaming orange hair, the burning flicker of a candle, the bursting glow of the sunset or even the neon orange of a traffic cone, I will forever see your face and send up a prayer for your family.

It is the summer that because of you, I have decided to work very hard to keep my faith tethered to me even in spite of the inexplicable, crushing loss of a boy so very much like my own three. 

This morning, on this day, the test of a faith begins and I'm not sure I am equipped for it, but I know in the very deepest part of me that He is equipped.  I know that my faith will remain, not because of my strength and my will to hold on, but because our God is too strong, too powerful and too faithful to let me go.  And right about now, on this morning, I'm pretty sure you know that very well, huh, kiddo? 

So Gavin, though I never met you, I will never ever forget you.  I will never, ever stop praying for your family and friends and for all the children who will follow you into battle against cancer. 

Because of you, I will not allow my life to remain unchanged.  I will try to remember that this summer, a small boy's life brought extraordinary lessons and also brought little changes in the life of this ordinary woman.  Little changes that might just add up to beautiful things in a life unfinished.  And I know that I won't be perfect.  I will become impatient and will not be grateful enough and I will let mundane annoyances get to me.  But because of you, I am hopeful, that on the days when I feel like everything is ash and dust, I will look hard for beauty.  When I feel like I am ash and dust, I will try hard to be beauty.  I will try very, very hard to be beautiful . . . to be beautiful, like you.

Rest in peace, Gavin.  You will be forever loved.


Anonymous said...

Jennifer, this really touched me. Thank you so much. I've known Gavin and his family for several years; I taught him in 3rd and 5th grades. I'm also a displaced Texan (Baylor Bear, but I went to UT my freshman year....Hook 'em!)living in Northern VA. Again, thank you for your comforting thoughts. I KNOW Gavin is fully healed and in the presence of Jesus this morning!
Julie Johnston

Anonymous said...

Your words are sure to bring some comfort to Chris, Sandy, Ian and Abby. Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I too, never met Gavin, but feel connected to him in the same ways you do. He made me slow down and savor the moments with my kids and my quiet times with God. I am comforted in knowing that he is in heaven and no longer in pain.

Unknown said...

Absolutely beautiful words...having contact with many lost to this disease including my own brother, whose life and death have brought me to this path..I believe what you say...but being human and feeling the pain is very hard..I know that Gavin is with my brother and many angels today and that your words, like Gavin, will change lives for the better. Thank you Jennifer!

Anonymous said...

Your words always come at a time and in a way that I need. God Bless you and yours. Thank you for so eloquently addressing the feelings in my heart.

Okisunflower said...

Beautiful and poignant. I've known too many families that have lost little angels and every one of them would love to know how much their short little precious lives have touched and changed others!

Anonymous said...

What thoughtful words. Gavin touched the lives of so many people and I hope his story makes people stop and really appreciate their families and the importance of helping others.

Anonymous said...

Amen. You found words for which there are just no words. Thanks from NJ.

Anonymous said...

When I heard about Gavin yesterday, I kept checking your blog because I knew that you would write something that would try to help us all make sense of a senseless loss. You did not disappoint- thank you! I too didn't know Gavin, but I am heartbroken for his family. God bless Gavin and his family.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I was brought to tears for i never met Gavin myself and yet have been so moved by him and the community that rose up to support him. I hope that all who knew focus on the fact that God calls the best ones home. Gavin is no longer in pain and can be in eternal peace. I hope his family and friends take some comfort there. God bless you and all who were touched by Gavin and his story.

Anonymous said...

Gavin was our next door neighbor when he was a preschooler. Thank you for your beautiful words...and wonderful wisdom.

God Bless you and the Rupp family.

R.I.P. #15

Jenn said...

My prayers are with you, Julie. I was a 4th grade teacher before I had my boys, so I know how special your students, especially Gavin, must be to you, as mine were to me. (and Hook'em to you, too and how 'bout that Baylor Bear RGIII? He's somethin' else, huh?)
God's grace and peace to you this morning and in the difficult days to come.

Jenn said...

My prayers to you, Lisa and my sympathy for the loss of your brother. Thanks for commenting.

Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

This is beautiful. We really do want our kids to change hearts and minds. xo