remembering gabriel

Grapefruit was what I craved during my pregnancy with Gabriel. I couldn’t get enough of it. I haven’t had so intense a hankering for grapefruit since May 2, 1999, the day our little one slipped away from us, just ten weeks after we learned of his existence.

We don’t make a big deal of it; there are no balloons, no birthday parties. But no May 2 has passed since without a keen awareness of the significance of this day — a day I like to think of as Gabriel’s birthday in heaven. I see our eighth family member as a guiding light, someone who is doing everything possible to help keep our eyes open to what awaits us someday. His life, brief as it was, changed my view of what comes next. It made me yearn for that time and place in a way that I would not have imagined before Gabriel. Because when that time comes, I will hold my little one for the first time. There is no sweeter thought than for a mother to be reunited with her child after what feels like a long separation.

It was so heart-wrenching when we learned he’d died. But time has healed that void; time and the three babies that followed his death; babies who would not have existed had he not died. They are here because he isn’t, and though I still yearn to hold him, I feel grateful for the time we did have with him. In that brief time, he taught us a lot about life and its preciousness. He encouraged us to hope that more was possible if we could just hang on.

And so I dedicate this post to Gabriel Salonen, the baby who would have been our third child, had he not made that swift exit to heaven. His name is memorialized on a certificate sent to us by the beautiful people at the Shrine of the Holy Innocents in New York . His name is also kept at the shrine itself, along with the other babies who left this world too early, and he is prayed for by those who keep watch on the shrine. What a healing moment it was for me to make contact with those who take such care to remember these little ones.  If you have lost a child, or know someone who has, I would encourage you to share this website with them. Here is the certificate we have hanging on our bedroom wall, next to photos of our other children as infants:

Yesterday, the kids arrived home from school to find a little May Day surprise. When I saw those little baskets filled with candy sitting on our steps, it warmed my heart. What thoughtful neighbors we have. For a few  moments, before my mind began to sort out who might have been the bearer of such a thoughtful gift, and as a breeze blew down one of the baskets, I thought of Gabriel. The goodness of him, though not as tangible as those May baskets, is every bit as sweet. It seemed in that fleeting, breezy moment, he was here, dropping by with a gift of another sort — the gift of remembering.