Elisha Gabrielle was born 4 years after her big brother's death. She was our gift, our savior from the soul sucking wound his loss had left. She was not a "replacement" for Gabe, there could never be a replacement for that beautiful boy. When I was pregnant with her I was 100% certain she was a boy. His name was Thaddeus. When people asked what we would name our child and we told them we had chosen Thaddeus, they inevitably asked us why we hated out unborn child. They were very quick with what they thought were witty comments, but did not think to ask why we would select such an unusual name for our beloved baby. The name Thaddeus is Greek for "Gift of God". This new baby was our gift from God. This baby was someone to help heal our hearts.
Elisha, or "Elly" as we nicknamed her at birth is now 7. We talk to her about her big brother but we have always tried to be careful not to make him larger than life, to do that would be disrespectful to him. We tell her funny stories about him. She knows that she carries a piece of her big brother with her everywhere she goes, her middle name is Gabrielle. We did not want to make Gabe that family secret, the child too painful to speak of that no one ever spoke, nor did we want to make him larger than life, a person that no one could ever live up to. We want the kids to know him as he was, and as they would have known him had they had the opportunity. I always worried that they might forget their big brother, and then I remembered my Uncle Cecil. Cecil was my grandmother's young brother who died at just 9 (like our Gabe), if I knew about Cecil, then my children and grandchildren would know about Gabriel.
In all of my terror that my little boy might be forgotten, I guess that I never really stopped to think that children could grieve the loss of someone they never knew. It never crossed my mind until this Christmas. This year we instituted a new Christmas philosophy. Christmas would not be about over indulgence (a trait I am very guilty of when it comes to the kids). The kids would get "something they want", "something they need", "something to wear", and "something that will make a memory" (an experience). I was shocked when the kids were excited and on board with this new idea (even after Christmas they were ok with it). Elly said that for her "something to remember", she would like a locket with Gabe's picture in it to help her remember him. This came from out of left field an I had to turn away quickly so that she would not see the tears beginning to pour down my face. Honestly it was like her gift to me.
Christmas day Elly went off quietly. She came back with these little notes for everyone in the family. She asked if she could put them on everyone's plate. Every special occasion we set a place for Gabe at the table. We know that he will not be joining us, but we want him to be included, remembered. As Elly was walking around the table putting her little notes on everyone's plate she asked where Gabe's place setting was. He was to be included in the notes.
"Dear Gabe I wish you were still alive.
I wish I could have one gift and it would be you.
I love you.
I wish everything for you.
You are a smart boy!
Even though we can't see u
or hear you but we still love you.
We still care about you.
p.s. I love you."
Our little blonde miracle. The child who would not be without the death of her brother, almost like the phoenix emerging from the ashes. I thought she was our gift, our gift to help ease our pain, and yet it would seem that she is also a pint sized teacher. She is not just here as a bandaid, but teach about love and that love knows no rules, it knows no bounds. Love lives on.