On Children.

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Last night, I could not write. I was exhausted to the core. I thought about how hungry I was when I was pregnant with Benjamin, and the subsequent awareness that it had been nothing compared to the hunger that comes with those first days of nursing. This realization was similar. I wasn’t expecting to feel more tired now, after. Also, I have been advised by more than one wise woman to schedule the space I need to sit with Benjamin’s memory and keep him close. Writing in the morning may become that space. I may transition away from this format, but I will sit in the stillness and write. The words help so much.

Planning Benjamin’s memorial is a strange experience. I am busy, and the segment of my brain that functions well in busy mode is relieved. But I am also uncharacteristically forgetful. Things swirl around me outside of my grasp. My favorite part of each day is sorting through hundreds and hundreds of photographs, trying to choose the ones we’ll use at the service. I could stare at his face for hours. It’s all I want to do.

My grief comes at unexpected times. Yesterday I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in many months. He loved Benjamin. Our conversation covered many things, Benjamin’s death included, and I kept my composition. But when he told me that his wife, expecting their first child, had felt those first sweet fluttery kicks–I had to leave. In the safety of my car, I held my womb, I felt its emptiness, and let the tears come. The pain is a comfort. Benji feels closest then.

Benjamin feels close when his friends are close, too. Yesterday, as I was waiting in my car to pick Banyan up from school, I was given a very special gift. Vance, one of Benji’s most favorite friends, popped his sweet face up outside my window. I jumped out of my car and scooped him up in my arms. Being near Benji’s friends, when I have been able, has been a source of great joy. It makes me happy when they come play basketball in my driveway or throw the football with Banyan in the street. Soon, I want to visit Benji’s classroom and see all of those sweet faces. I want to know that they’re okay. I want to hug them tight.

The kindness of the people in our lives, and of those we’ve never met, absolutely astounds me. The Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research has received donations from well over a hundred people, with more contributing each day. Our house is full of fresh, sweet flowers and so many cards with such kind words and memories of Benjamin written inside. Our friends and families have been so present, so thoughtful. Banyan’s middle school family is bending over backwards to make sure the service next weekend is smooth and hassle-free. We have received offers of all kinds, from vacations to printing services to meals to massages. I don’t know how to handle it all, except to say thank you. It is beautiful to see the gratitude we felt for Benjamin’s presence in our lives reflected in huge ripples throughout the community. I will be paying it forward in his honor for the rest of my days, proudly.

18 thoughts on “On Children.

  1. Burst into tears when I refreshed the page and saw this photo. Mostly just sad, there just aren\’t words for it, I think it was Heidi\’s comment from a few days ago that resonated… about how you first have to discover all you\’ve lost. The tears were a little bit gratitude, too: I am, as ever, humbled by the privilege of reading your words and witnessing whatever part of your journey you choose to share. Thank you.

  2. Oh Laura- I just sat down to read your post and the tears cannot stop flowing. Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers daily. As a mama I feel the pain in my heart and womb for you. Know he is with you always. I firmly believe that. Thank you for sharing with us. I aspire to be a better person because of you. Hugs and so much love

  3. So blessed to know you, understand how grief comes and plows right through you, grateful that you are surrounded by family who are surrounding you with love

  4. You touch us so deeply. Everything you say makes sense. I know I am only one of hundreds of people who wait to hear from you. I know we’ll be here if you decide to continue in this format or wait until you’re ready again to share your magnificent words of wisdom down the line in another format. There is so much nobility, beauty and bare bones truth in your words. We know there is suffering in this life. You show us a way to face it, bend with it. The process is a noble one.

  5. I am so sorry for the loss of your boy. As I caught up on reading your story I knew the inevitable was near. I laid in my bed and cried. Hundred of miles away I felt right there with you as you said your goodbyes and laid your sweet baby in his final resting place. My prayers and thoughts are with you as you experience your firsts.

  6. Sweet dearest Benji. We remember him daily. He’s in all the amazing nature surrounding us. We love you Gilkey family. We carry you with us daily. Love Love.

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