In the Moment.


Last night, sleep came a little more easily. I woke up multiple times, and I know Michael did too, but the wake-ups were short-lived. We are warming to our bed’s embrace.

Our sweet friend and spiritual counselor Andy met us for breakfast this morning to continue last night’s conversation. We sat together for two hours. We feel so deeply grateful for his guidance now. Things are shaping up sweetly for us to attempt to honor Benjamin in the best way we can. Details for all who wish to join us will follow.

While we were at breakfast, our waitress bantered with Banyan about his choice of fare: a bacon burger with hot chocolate, at 9:30 in the morning. She casually mentioned that she had four boys, so she understood. The conversation until then was manageable; I could stomach the details. But the touch of pride in our waitress’ voice at the mention of her sons was too much. It punched me, out of nowhere, and I struggled to recover.

While we were at breakfast, Banyan voiced a sweet memory. He flashed back to the day we first dropped Benjamin off at preschool. Banyan was so concerned that Benji’s teacher wouldn’t know how to take care of him, because Benji still had a few speech impediments, and Banyan thought she might not understand. As Banyan was reflecting on this story, Andy asked, “Was he your best friend?” And Banyan didn’t hesitate for a second. “Yeah,” he said. Like, duh. 

Much of the day was spent in emails and phone calls. In the afternoon, between calls from the cemetery and the All Children’s Foundation and various folks we’ve asked to speak at Benjamin’s services, Dr. Oshrine called. It was unexpected and beautiful and so welcome. He told me what a pleasure it was to care for Benjamin. We talked, parent to parent, and I felt his grief. We feel so fortunate to have been shepherded through this by such a caring and brilliant man.

I felt a certain familiarity and comfort wearing the event planning hat, and it was a welcome distraction–for a little while. When I felt my head spinning, I knew enough to ask for a break. The three of us went to the beach. Andy described the “Year of Firsts” we would experience; the first time we did x, y and z without Benjamin. Today’s beach trip was the beginning. It was so necessary, with its balmy saltwater, but so painful. Benjamin wasn’t there to throw the football, or to cast out a line, or to run from the waves. But he was there in the reflection on the water, and in the breeze across the sand.

While I sat at the beach in the sunset, I thought of what a shift I’ve asked myself to experience. For more than two years, I’ve trained myself to stay squarely in the moment. But since Benjamin’s death, I have tried so hard to live in any moment other than this one. I try to transport myself to when he was ten months old, or 3, or 7, or last week. Anything but this.

Banyan is such a balm to this pain. He is comforting and present and wonderful. At the beach tonight, he said, “I never thought of it before, but that woman there (pointing to a beach walker) could have lost her son a couple of days ago too. We never know.”

As painful as it is to admit, life is still beautiful. We saw sparkles on the water tonight. We felt so much love today as people from all walks of life tried to help us memorialize Benjamin. If we allow ourselves to be in this moment, we can still experience beauty. It’s just that the moments with Benjamin right now seem so much sweeter. We miss him so much.

38 thoughts on “In the Moment.

  1. I am so glad to see a picture of you three. Benji’s sweet face and then his Beads of Courage were so moving and perfect for your last two posts, but this. This picture has given me a moment to breathe deep and see with my own eyes that you are all *still here*. But moreover, I see a boy who loves his Mama and Daddy so, so much in this picture, Laura. The pride he has beaming out of his eyes is unmistakable. And I see the sadness on your lips, despite your slight smile. I still see a glow, though. That glimmer of a sparkle still lives in your eyes, my dear. Hang on tight to your boys and they will continue to hold tight to you. You are all each other’s safety net, and when it feels like you are in the depths of the deepest well of grief, that net will magically appear to help you climb out.

    So, so much love to you tonight and always. <3

  2. I want to say something, but I don’t know the words to say. Just so much love to you, Michael, and Banyan. I don’t know you, but I love you and I’m grieving with you. You and your Benjamin are on my heart constantly.

  3. Share the memories, the tears, the funny stories and special moments.
    I’ve been saying the Ho’oponopono prayer over and over for you this week. Sending so much love, light and peace to you, Michael and Banyon. ❤

  4. Thank you for this picture and sharing your story. I am so glad you can see the beauty of life. Always remember Benjamin is smiling down on you and will always be with you. Continue to celebrate his remarkable life.

  5. Dear wonderful Gilkey family,

    We are so stunned by the beauty of your writing. You’ve beautifully shared your painful journey with us and have claimed both the bitter and the sweet. Our prayers are with you as you continue to cultivate courage each (present) moment to the next.

  6. We’ve not met, but I’m aching for you. As a birth worker(and friend to a mutual friend) and a mother, my sincerest love is being sent your way from North Florida. So much love sweet friend, who I’ve not yet met.

  7. Again, thank you Laura for including us on this painful journey. You are such an inspiration and example for all. We love you and your family!

  8. There are no words that can ease your pain just know we feel your pain but also the beauty of your love strength and courage of your family and most of all Benjiman. It has been such a gift for us that don’t even know you. Benjiman was a big light in this world and lights like that never go out….

  9. Reading this I could sense a feeling that surprised me – a happiness. It seems like love is filling up places in all you that were full of pain and worry. There will always be that loss, but you’re letting joyous memories back in and this is good. Wishing you peace as always.

  10. I saw your first post only three days ago. Your beautifully honest and poignant words had such a powerful impact on me. I am a retired teacher from Clearwater. I believe your courage in sharing your family’s journey will educate countless readers. We are reminded of the fragile, crazy, wonderfulness of life. Your sweet boy is being honored by your words! Thank you. Blessings for your family! ❤

  11. I hope it’s okay to say that I’m so grateful for this picture… you are so beautiful, and while the pain is clear and your expression is battle-worn and so fully grieved, you are so beautiful, Laura, inside and out. The pain you’re experiencing in missing your Benjamin is unimaginable, and we as mothers want to wail at the universe that you are having to go through this. You will adjust to loving and delighting in Benji in a different way, of course, but… it’s so, so hard. I’m so sorry about the moment with the waitress. Those little moments. and innocent remarks can blindside. You’ve probably already hear folks who’ve had children pass on answer questions like, “How many children do you have?” say “I have two, one living” because it’s the truth. You have two wonderful, brave, beautiful, perfectly authentic sons. That is unchanging.

    Loving you so much, Mama… we are hearing your voice, bearing witness to your grief and pride, honoring your journey. You are so loved. You are all so loved. Huge hugs. <3

  12. Laura, your words have lifted me up for over two years now. I cannot tell you the hundreds of times I have reflected on you, Michael, Banyan or Benji in these last few years. I’m forever grateful for your writings and the perspective, reflection and gratitude they’ve brought to my life. Once Benji was asked what its like to have cancer and he said “ah there’s good days and there are bad days” he had such a positive spirit all the time, just like his momma. I know he was incredibly happy to see you at the beach today and I have no doubt in my mind he was there throwing his football smiling that beautiful grin of his.

    Lastly, whenever you feel ready, mobilize me on Dr Oshrine funding efforts. Just say the word. I’ll honor Benji in these efforts all the days of my life ❤️

  13. Thinking of all of you, and in awe of your grace throughout your journey, and although Benji’s journey has ended, yours is beginning again. My thoughts and prayers have been with you, and continue as you go through your “firsts”. Thank you for sharing your story, along with Benji’s, and for continuing to do so. All my love to you, Mike and Banyan.

  14. I know your pain and what you are feeling. I also lost my Msha on January 11. Yes all the new first are painful and healing. Doing the stuff that your boys enjoy will be bittersweet new memories touch by old ones. I also, think more and more about her at different ages trying to holdon to the sound of her voice, her laughter. I’m so sorry, thank you for your kindness at the hospital and for our rainbow star. The wave of pain will come from place you don’t expect but so will the smiles. My prayers are with you and your family.

  15. Laura, you and I have never formally met, but my daughter,Isabella, was in Benji’s class this year at school. She and her brother, Joey, have spoken very highly of Benji. Isabella has said how nice he was, and Joey shared a time when Benji offered to let him in front of him in line in the cafeteria. I have been following your journal here, and we have been praying for you and your family every day. I want you to know what an amazing and inspirational mother you are. You will each continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

  16. Seeing the picture of just the three of you made me wince at first. It’s still hard to believe that this happened. But then I saw the love in that picture between the three of you, and it made me smile. Looking forward to hearing about the details to honor Benji with the community of people who want to celebrate him and support all of you. Sending you all love and hugs.

  17. Love this picture Laura. Banyan is such a handsome boy. You can see how much he loves you and Michael and how much cared and still of course cares for Benji. Love you and always thinking of you.

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