Thursday, 14 May 2015

Losing Gabe's Spirit of Kindness

    I've taken a little while to process this one.  I wanted to share with you how I feel, but I wanted to make sure that I gave myself enough time to make sure I used the right words, and not the words of hurt that I would have used if I'd posted this in February.
    Every year for the last 20 years on February 2 we celebrated Gabriel.  The first ten years were filled with parties and gifts for him.  The last ten have been about remembering him, and what a gift he was.  In 2005 we began the "Gabe Lindsay Spirit of Kindness Award".  I attaching the links, so that those of you have been readers from the beginning don't have to re-read, and those of you who are new can see what I have written about this in the past.

    When you lose a child your biggest terror is that the rest of the world will forget them.  Honestly it is absolutely terrifying.  It still is.  I think about that smart, funny boy and all the things that he could have given to the world, all the things he could have been, and it was all stolen.  The only way his name will ever live on is through us, and by us sharing who he was.  The Spirit of Kindness Award was the way that we thought that we could continue his legacy while respecting who he was.  Originally we had these huge hopes that word of this amazing week long celebration of kindness would catch on Canada wide (foolish optimists that we were), in the end we were happy that the children of our school would benefit.
     The first year we celebrated the Gabe Lindsay Spirit of Kindness Award it was all still very raw.  Gabe had only been gone 39 days.  The principal at the school at the time, I got the impression that she was not sure what to do to handle the death of a student.  In response, the school sanitized him, erased him from the classroom, erased him from the school.  I honestly hold nothing against her (I did), death is a scary thing, especially I see now with the benefit of distance when you are in charge of almost 400 children.  In her defense she allowed us to celebrate the first "Gabe Lindsay Spirit of Kindness Award".  She was also kind enough to allow us to play the slide show from his funeral.  That year the school awarded my best friend's daughter, who also happened to be Gabe's friend the award.  Over the years the award began to look like we had envisioned.  It became a week long celebration.  Class acts of kindness were done and shared at the final celebration that ended on Gabe's birthday.  We even had the Peterborough television station come and do a piece on the award.  It was exactly what we wanted!
     Over the last few years the "Spirit of Kindness Week" began to feel like it was too much of an effort, not to us, but to the school.  I began to feel like we fighting to get the teachers excited.  It felt like we were asking them to do one more tiring thing that they had no time to do.  I suppose we were asking a lot, but honestly I become blinded by my vision.  To me Kindness is something that we should all promote.  It should not be an effort.  It is something that my family lives and breathes, and so I have the childish expectation that everyone should feel the same.  I truly feel that if we treated everyone with kindness that there would be no bullying.  I honestly feel that bullies are really children/ adults who are hurting inside and striking out is the only way they know how to express their pain.  Kill them with kindness is my remedy to everything.
    Since Gabe's death we have had to fight to get everything that we wanted for him.  We fought the cemetery to allow us to decorate his grave.  The caretaker would throw everything we put up there in the garbage, knowing that it was a child's grave, a child' grave that was still freshly dug.  At one trip to visit the cemetery he actually verbally assaulted me, telling me that although he felt bad for our family, we were making a mess, and this all had to STOP.  His idea of a mess was putting flowers and toys at his grave.  We begged to plant a garden on his grave, but we were told that was against the cemetery rules.  We begged to be allowed to sod or put grass seed down on his grave, and were told no.  It was endless.  Eventually after writing a letter in the local newspaper we spoke to the head of the cemetery board and we were allowed to put grass seed on the sandy area that was our baby's grave.  Every time the care taker would cut that new grass he would scalp it.  We began to beg him to allow us to cut that area.  Now many people at the same cemetery have solar lights up there for their loved ones and flags and things that do not take away from the peace of the cemetery, but allow people to feel like they are stilling caring for their loved ones, even after death.
    We wanted to change our street name to "Gabe Lindsay Lane", there are only 2 houses on our street.  On our first meeting we were told flat out no, it would set a precedent and they did not want that to happen.  We set about to obtain written permission from our one neighbour.  We investigated the reason why our road had named "Roscoe Road" turns out, no one knew.  We took pictures of the poor condition of our street.  This time we went to the second meeting with ammunition.  We offered further to pay the costs involved in changing the street name.  Now our road is called "Gabe Lindsay Ave".  Once again we had to fight tooth and nail for our Gabe.
     After a while you become warn down and tired of having to fight for everything.  It would appear that we are not the people who are afforded breaks.  Sometimes you just have to preserve yourself and admit defeat, wave the white flag of surrender.  That is what we did this year for Gabe's award.
     The writing on the wall for the death of Gabe's award came early in the school season.  The Board of Eduction does not want to have memorials anymore.  Apparently at a local Belleville school a child's parents built a butterfly garden in their daughter's memory.  This butterfly garden is world acknowledged for it's role in helping to save the monarch butterflies.  This is a place that the other children can come and see beauty, and learn about butterflies.  Apparently one of this little girl's friends has been traumatized by this garden, and refuses to even walk near it.  Because of one sensitive child, everyone else must be penalized, and the other children robbed of beauty and the parents robbed of the ability to continue their child's name.  It seems so unfair.
    This year Christopher and I asked if we could sit down with the principle and vice-principle of our school and discuss this year's award.  We also asked if they could open the invitation to the teachers at the school, because we really wanted their input.  We wanted to know if we were asking too much.  We met after school in January.  Only one teacher came, and this was her first year teaching full time at our school.  She was unfamiliar with the award.  Honestly I bit the inside of my mouth, trying not to cry.  It was heart breaking that this award meant so little to our school.  Ideas were suggested that perhaps the school felt it was unkind to celebrate this award of ten years, because it would be unkind to the memory of little Emily Trudeau, who tragically passed away this September.  "Shouldn't we be kind without being prompted to" was another response of the teachers.  In the end the result of the meeting was as we suspected, it was just too much work.  Our poor principle.  I so felt for her, she was in a terrible place, she wanted to help us, but to also respect the wishes of her staff. She suggested that maybe we could have this one last award, and then re-evaluate later.  Her face was full of anguish.  We thanked everyone, but knew when to stop beating our dead horse.  Our award was gone.   Our chance to create change and to have at least our small community remember our beautiful boy was gone.  The funny thing is that in my opinion we have some the kindest, most caring teachers at our school.  I know that some buy milk tickets and give the to children in need in their class, I know of one teacher who supplies his students with supplies that he has used his own personal money to pay for.  We have amazing teachers, and yet they did not want to support this award any longer.
    Christopher and I came home from that meeting and were very silent.  We both knew what was coming, and yet still we were shocked.  I quietly went into my room, shut the door and sobbed.  It felt like a death.  After the kids all were tucked into bed we sat together and held each other.  Thank God we have each other.  I sobbed again.  I was full of grief because I had lost the ability to allow our Gabe's name to live on.  So many people think that after ten years, our grief should be gone.  There are those that say that they think of us, and I know they do, but they have the gift to briefly thinking of our loss and then go on with their lives.  The only comparison for losing a child I can think of is that of an amputation.  When you have a limb amputated you are in agony for the first while.  You need to learn how to live without that limb, learn how to do things that used to be easy.  Over time the pain of the amputation goes away, but you still have fantom pains, and you still have that missing limb.  That is how I would describe the death of our child.  Over the years the pain has subsided.  There are times when the pain of missing him is almost unbearable, but it is no longer that agonizing pain that it was at first.  We have had to learn how to live without Gabe, and that was not an easy road.  We have created a new life without him physically here, but like that amputation we are very aware that he is not here.


  1. This is a beautiful way to celebrate the memory of Gabe. I'm sad to read that the school no longer is willing to continue to participate in the kindness award. I can feel your sadness in this post. Hugs. Beckie

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