It's been almost eight years since we had our Gabriel. Since we lost our Gabriel. Over the past several years, one child in this family has continued to talk about him the most. Joel, now nine years old and the only sibling to have the chance to actually meet his brother, doesn't often speak his name these days. He is, however, very protective of his "Gabey Bear" that he sleeps with every night, and goes to find when he's sad or hurt. I'm still not sure Ruby, who just turned four, completely understands that she has a brother who is no longer with us. The only photos she's ever seen of him are obviously baby pictures from the day he was born, but she does usually ask if every random picture she sees of a baby, is our Gabriel.
But our Zoe, almost six, talks about him all the time. She points out that there is a seat in the back row of our family car, between she and Joel. "That's where Gabe sits." And when she asked about the key I have hanging from the rear view mirror, and I explained it was just something pretty that reminded us of Gabe, she explained that when it swings back and forth (as we drive) it's because Gabe is up there moving it. And you should have seen how happy she was one evening when we pulled the highchair over to our big dining room table, for youngest sister Gracie, and that it still left one empty chair. "That seat's for Gabe!"
It's both surprising and heart warming when she brings him up all on her own. Because we no longer take trips to the cemetery, until it's time to celebrate his life. And I no longer take the time to sit with his photo album, we just have one photo of him hanging in our living room. And he doesn't often come up in conversation. It's been a long time now since the day we lost our son.
And for the record, Gracie is now in a booster seat which is on one of the dining room chairs. So there is no extra, additional, empty seat at our table of six. I don't point this out to Zoe. I don't make her talk about him.
Because the reality is we only need a table for six. To everyone who sees us, we are a family of six. Two parents, four kids. But THEY remember him. In all situations. Just yesterday I was counting up the children who attended Ruby's birthday party over the weekend. My sister in law's four kids, and our four kids. And Zoe corrected me, "No, there were nine kids! We have five kids!" If only everyone remembered him like she does. If only everyone included him in the count.
He was not an idea of a baby. He was my baby. I carried him until my 36th week. And after we got that horrible fatal diagnosis, I laid in bed every morning until I felt him move, and only then would I have enough strength to put my feet on the ground and get through one more day. He had a face. He has a name.
Just like every year on the day he was born, we will be at Rose Hill Cemetery to honor his sweet little life. You're welcome to join us at 6pm on August 21st as we step on, what we call, "Holy Ground" to remember our sweet baby boy.