Tuesday, September 2, 2008


"When beauty breaks the spell of pain
The bludgeoned heart shall burst in vain
But not when love be pointed king
And truth shall Thee forever reign.

Sweet Jesus, carry me away
From cold of night, and dust of day
In ragged hour or salt-worn eye,
Be my desire, my well sprung lye "

(-Hymn, by Jars of Clay)

The stars have always held me in complete awe and fascination. Allen will tell you that every time I am faced with a clear, starry night you would honestly think I had never seen stars before. And really, that is how I feel. Every time, I wonder how they could be and how could so many people see them and not believe in God. They are probably my favorite part of nature. Last night I went on a "walk," but had to keep stopping to just stand in the middle of our road in wonder. Finally, I gave up and came home, pulled our little trampoline into the middle of our backyard so I could just lie down and stare for a while. I have to tell you, of all the advice we have received on how to deal with the death of a child, this has not been one of them. But, it should. Find a small trampoline, try to lie down on it comfortably, and stare up at the stars for about an hour.

My sadness was still with me. I find that it is like an invisible blanket that is always with me. But beauty truly does "break the spell of pain" and for that small window of time, I was focused on incredible beauty and it made me realize my pain isn't the only thing I will ever feel. And, I imagined Joseph dancing from star to star, fully whole and complete and radiantly happy, and I thought how he would have no patience for me moping and being sad. (He used to get irked if I was still in my pajamas at 8:30.)

Joseph was always a presence to be reckoned with. If he was awake in the morning, one of us was awake. He would insist on it. I miss waking up and seeing his little face inches from my bed, just staring sheepily at me until I woke up. That always made me laugh first thing in the morning. I miss how he always had a plan for the day and definite ideas of what he did or did not want to do.

Our hospice nurse, Amy, called yesterday and we were talking through those last minutes with Joseph. She said that she has noticed that children, in their final hours, have this incredible strength and heroicism, and she believes it may be for their parents. They can hold on to life much longer than any adult until they feel a peace with leaving their parents. Oh, sweet Joseph, I hate to think you held on any longer just for me or Daddy. She did encourage me that Joseph let go sooner than many children she has seen, and she noted that medically he was in no pain or discomfort or distress, and that the words we spoke to him were beautiful. That has been my prayer from the beginning; that if God were going to take Joseph, that he wouldn't feel any pain at all. That, I could not have handled.

But, I started thinking about Joseph being heroic and now that I look back, he was incredibly heroic in those last few weeks. Probably two weeks before he died, he and I went to the museum and he climbed up a long slide, numerous steps and other climbing things until we were at the highest point in the museum (which is above the 3rd floor, I think). He just kept going, so determinedly and joyfully. I think he remembered being able to do it before and so he just did it. But by the time we got to the top, he was ready to go home. So we went and sat and had a snack and he was delighted to get to pick one out of the snack machine. But, I keep thinking, at that point his tumor must have been fairly big, causing some pretty intense pressure, and his limbs were not working as well as they used to, yet he just wanted to accomplish this feat.

We had been asking him for days if he wanted to go to the museum. He loved the museum in Memphis and it was always a fun outing for him. We just wanted him to enjoy himself and be able to have fun like any other kid, but looking back I wonder if he wanted to make us proud and show us how big and strong he was. He did have a lot of fun, and I was so proud, but it did completely wear him out; I would have been just as proud of him if we had sat at home and watched TV or played with play-doh.

Our sweet little boy. I miss him so much. Before he was born I never knew my heart could hold so much love. Now I can't believe it can hold so much pain. The only thing that is enabling me to wake up in the morning and live life at all is the fact that I knew Jesus before I knew Joseph. I trust Him even as I'm mad at Him. I look at it like marriage. There are times I don't like Allen very much and am so mad at him, but we are still married. My feelings don't make us un-married. And I'm grateful that God can take all my feelings and as Allen has said, He doesn't let us go. I'm still His child, no matter how much I rage against Him. I can be honest with Him and he still holds me tight.

As a side note, we have been receiving the sweetest notes, cards and letters in the mail from old friends and even "strangers," letting us know how much Joseph has impacted them. That is just amazing to us, but it really does encourage us to know that God has used his life and struggle to encourage many people. Thank you for letting us know. I have also thought about putting together a little storybook for Holly of funny "Joseph" stories so she will always remember him. If you can remember a story and would write it to me in an email or a letter, I would be so grateful (even if it's a story where he is being more naughty than nice). Thank you for continuing to pray for us....


Anonymous said...

Our hearts and prayers continue to be with you. Joseph and his heroisms encourage us daily. You and your heroisms encourage me daily.
I love your idea of putting together a memory book for Holly. The girls and I will definitely send some along. We have so many sweet and precious memories of little Joseph.
All our love,
Vivi and family

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear Gillian, I am praying for you.

Brooke said...

What a beautiful post, Gillian. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Love, Brooke

Sharon Harrison said...

My prayers are still with you. You don't know me but your sweet son and story grabbed my heart. I lost my precious mom to a Glioblastoma 4 1/2 years ago. She was 67 and only lived 20 days after her diagnosis. I still miss her so much but know she is enjoying Heaven....maybe she and Joseph will be buddies in Heaven. :)

Anonymous said...

I am praying for you. Wow--I am so glad you found beauty last night in the stars. I do believe we can see the Lord in His creation--we are studying that in Kindergarten--that the invisible God, through his creation, can be clearly seen. You're right that he is there, just as the stars are there on a cloudy night, though we can't see them for a time. I pray that he will make himself clearly seen to you and Allen and Holly in many ways. Thank you for continuing to share your heart. Mine is breaking for you.

Alison Fontenot

Stephanie said...

You are an amazing momma. Thank you for shining so brightly to us bloggers.

Come quickly Lord Jesus... for your children long for home!!

Sarah-Jane said...

ah gill, your words are so good.
so good. I love you my sister.

Jason said...

Thank you for being heroic parents as well. You and Allen are also heroes to so many of us parents.

Sandel said...

First and foremost you and your family will be in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts throught this painful time. The visual you give when you talk about the stars should be for all to see, how could we doubt there is such a awsome God. I am so thankful that you were able to have a moment of seeing the beauty.

Randi said...

Hi Gillian,
Last night, we were coming home from the New Haven and we almost hit a deer. It just sprung out of nowhere and really made us just stop in our tracks (the van left skidmarks). Chris said, "Yeah, tehy usually come out at twilight." I looked up in the sky and just saw how truly beautiful twilight is. We love the beauty of the sunrise, but the exquisiteness of the sunset is something to behold as well.
Thank you for opening up to us. The boys and I will never stop praying.

Anonymous said...

Sweet Gillian, I am still weeping after reading what you wrote. You have such a gift for putting your emotions into words that give us a picture of your pain and sorrow and ultimate hope. What would we do without that hope? Thank you, Lord Jesus, "Oh love that will not let us go."Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to see just a fraction of the heartache you are experiencing.
Your story about the stars brought back to my mind the last night Joe spent the night with us. It was the night before the right side of his face became paralyzed. He was still awake around 11:30 and it was a clear night, so I decided to take him out to look at the stars. I too, love staring at the night sky and since I get to teach about it to my 3rd graders, I have spent a lot of time studying it. I pointed out the planets that I could see and some of the constellations. Joseph was amazed at some of the names for the objects I was pointing out. He laughed that great laugh of his as he repeated some of the names. We talked about God and about His incredible creation. It was only about 20 minutes that we were outside, but I will cherish that time with him forever. I felt like it had been a God appointed time. When we went inside to try to go to sleep, he wanted to hear a story about "Joe P., Holly, and Mimi: going to the moon and visiting all those funny 'plates' (planets)."
We love you and contine to ask God for His tender mercy to be with all of you.
Love, Mimi and Big Daddy

Anonymous said...

The stars are amazing and I am so glad you were able to enjoy them even in the midst of your pain. Having lost a niece in a tragic car accident, I understand what you mean about being able to envision those that we love in heaven "dancing on the stars". Thanks for reminding me to enjoy that very special beauty that God has given us. I will be praying for you and your entire family as I head outside to enjoy the stars. ( I'll be watching Joseph~)Blessings of peace and comfort-

Jody (atlanta) said...

Gill - THANKS soo much for posting your honest feelings and sharing this journey with us all. My heart breaking and you continue to inspire me with your faith.

I pray for you and Allen and I am always thinking of little Holly. Your words are just so wonderful....thanks for letting us in and sharing.

I read the earlier blog comment about Holly asking when Joseph coming back from his visit with Jesus. Abigail has been talking about how she playing with Joseph at PDK park in her dreams since I am trying to explain that will not be seeing him physically at her house since he in heaven with Jesus, but can always visit him in heaven through her dreams. She told me this morning how she dreamt how her and Holly were hiding the 'few cars' we have at our house from him while making him dress up in princess clothes. She said she and Holly are girls and silly for him to be dressing up with him, but how fun it was. I truly see God in our kids and wanted to share that story with you both.

You and Allen have inspired me so much to share my faith with my kids and show them how unconditional God's love is. We truly do think of you all often.

YOU ALL have touched and continue to touch my daughter and my life soo much. Thank God for you.

We miss you and send you many HUGS AND KISSES and PRAYERS! Love, Jody

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. We pray for you each day. Thank you for being a mighty witness of God's inability to let go of us. I pray you are comforted.

courtney said...

I appreciate that sharing so much, Gillian. Hannah and I talk about Jospeh every day. He was and is a mighty presence and she remembers him daily. You and Allen and Holly and the rest of your families are on our hearts and our minds and espcially in our prayers. What a great reminder to all of us that our God is so big that there is no nook or cranny we can fall into where He is not there. Love to you, Gillian.

Nana said...

Gillo you have an amazing gift and it is writing.I am always in awe when I see what you have written.Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts.I have sat in front of the computer for about twenty minutes with tears dripping down my face.Being your Mommy I just want to make it all better.I do feel your pain but I definetely cant grasp how bad it is for you and Allen because I have never lost a child.Joe P. was definetely a "HERO" remember a little while ago you were going back to St.Judes for an MRI. and Joe P. woke up in the middle of the night and he was having a snack with you at the kitchen table and he said "we not going to worry about St. Judes right Mommy?" He wanted to please Mommy and Daddy so much.I was looking through my summer photos tonight and found some really sweet photos of Joe P. and Holly.Joe P. was riding Holly's pink bike and Holly was pushing him.My heart aches thinking of Joseph and sometimes I just burst out laughing thinking of some of the funny things he did,and then two minutes later I'm crying again.We loved him so much and we will carry him in our hearts forever.1st.John says "No one has ever seen God;but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us" Gillian and Allen Gods love is so evident in your lives by how you loved Josesh and Holly and each other and all of us.We love you so much .Old Mommy Bear(Nana)

Uncle Dave said...

just want to let to know that i love you and am praying for you. I consider myself very lucky to be your little brother.


donnyandkim said...

Gillian...thanks. I was just about to close the computer for the night, and I thought I would just check the blog...and there was your post. I am so thankful for your honesty. I am challenged and inspired by your words: "I knew Jesus before I knew Joseph." My son, Hunter, turns four on the 14th...and I think Hunter would have thought Joseph was a trip! Seriously...YOU are a hero to me right now. I love my kids better, enjoy them more and wrestle with but know God more as I have distantly observed your journey. I hurt knowing that your heart has to hold so much pain. Know that we continue to pray for you, Allen and Holly.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on your blog tonight, through a series of links and I am glad that God led me here so that I can add my prayers to those of your family and friends. I will pray that God continues to heal your pain. I am so sorry.

Anonymous said...

Gillian, thank you so much for continuing to share your journey. I can only begin to imagine the rollercoaster and depth of emotions you are experiencing. I do have a story to share and will send it your way. Know the inspiration that you and Joseph continue to send to us all.
Laurie (Atlanta)

suzanne morris said...

Dearest Gillian,

Thinking of you, Allen and Holly constantly. Praying that God will hold you as you grieve and mourn and miss Joseph. Praying He will protect you from falling into despair or losing hope. I don't mean losing hope for Joseph because I know you are resting in the sure knowledge of his place in heaven. I mean without losing hope for how you will get through the next day, the next night, the next holiday. Praying God's love will be tangible to you over and over just like with the stars.
We love you guys.

Margaret said...

Gillian- Thank you for this post and sharing both your pain and the first glimpses of healing- like a twinkling star. Every time I see a beautiful starry night I will think of you and Joseph and your beautiful imagery of him dancing around.
I think Joseph did all those things because his spirit was so willing even when his body wasn't-yes, to make you proud- but also because he didn't know how to live any other way but to the fullest. He lived life on his terms and when he couldn't live to the fullest then he was done! He knew he was so loved and that you would be so proud of him no matter what.

Anonymous said...


My heart goes out to you as a fellow mom. I'm not going to say I have any idea how you must be feeling, because I don't. But I do know that your faith is amazing, and I can only hope to be to my kids what you are to yours. Your struggle has really made me stop and take stock of my blessings--and how many of them I take for granted daily. God is good, even when we can't see that he is. He has given you the ability to see His majesty amidst all your pain, and that, in itself, is a miracle. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.


Chloe said...

Allen's song is heartbreaking and so moving and your words are so provocative, and honest, that after listening and reading I am inevitably left full of admiration, sorrow for your struggle and love for you all.

Joe knew that life was a gift, which is short for all of us, but sadly shorter for some. He really lived each day like it was his last, with the charm and absolute amazement that innocence allows.

I remember the morning I met Joe P. He was playing with Gill in your "playroom" - (irish word, do not know american equivalent!). I could hear him chatting away to Gill - I'm pretty sure about a new tool set he had received - full of energy and fun.

However, he got a bit shy to see this new, sleepy headed, adult in his house without warning, and he didn't know what to make of me. I realised the way to his heart was probably the present my younger sister Lucy, had sent over with me. When he realised I had a "Prize" for him, he got very excited and we ran up to my bedroom to get it. Well, I never saw such excitement at a t-shirt - it did have Lightening McQueen om it though. I was surprised to hear he didn't have one or many already, but Gill told me they were hard to find. The funniest thing was, when he wanted to put it on. Him and Gill were chatting on the couch about putting it on. "Mommy, I want to wear it." "Ok, Joseph, let's put it on" "Because, this one (grabbing hold of the tshirt on him alread) is dirty". Gillian burst out laughing. "No Joe, it's ok, we just want to put on the new one" "Yeah, Mom, I just wanna wear the new one"

It was such a cute, funny moment.

Love you Gill, Allen, Holly.

By John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors---
No---yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever---or else swoon in death.

Anonymous said...

Gillian & Allen,
Just like Pauline I sat in front of the computer for ages with tears dripping down my face. You certainly have an amazing gift being able to put your thoughts and emotions into words. Thanks Gillian .love you all
Ann Ben & the boys

Anonymous said...

I can't believe he climbed to the top like that just 2 weeks before he died! We've climbed in that thing, too, and it takes some agility and determination. I get tired just thinking about it.

Your writings about Joseph and your life are amazing and mesmerizing, Gil. Thank you for keeping this public record. We continue praying for you, Allen, Holly, the Peabodys and the Taaffes all the time. It's no small thing that you encourage so many of your readers with words like these.

scott cunningham

Lynn T said...

Gill, Allen and Holly,
Thinking of you and praying for you all the time. Gill,these words are so beautifully written. You amaze me continually. I love you so much, Lynn

Brea said...

Gillian, thank you so much for sharing where you are and for letting your life be a living and beautiful sacrifice to God in the midst of unbelievable pain. His love is so evident to me in the life of your family. We continue cry and ache for your loss, and to ask God to hold you close.

Megan said...

I can't help but think that your affinity to gaze at the stars is God tugging you outside to look up while He has Joseph look down at you--from the stars, one of his newest angels trying to comfort his earthly mom.

This seems as though it would be a natural pull of mother to child, yes?

You are constantly in my mind, thoughts, and prayers.
Much love,
Cousin Megan

Anonymous said...

continuing to think of you and pray for you and your family...

redeemedintohope said...

im so glad to hear from you. ive been wondering how you all are doing. thank you so much for writing this here for us. you made me just wriggle for it to be night so i can go out and look at some stars tonight. thank you for your honesty. continue writing please. all my love and prayers sweet girl

Amy said...

My daughter is now driving and I have been missing our times in the car together in the mornings on the way to school. You reminded me of a time when she was about Joseph's age. We set the alarm for 3:00 a.m. and got up, snuggled in a blanket on the deck, and watched a meteor shower. It was a magical memory and I thank you so much for making me think of it today. Thanks for continuing to share your journey and your memories. Joseph is dancing among those stars, whole and healed. Praying, praying, praying...

Christy said...

I'm so glad you're in a spot with lots of stars.

(I think I'll surprise my mom and dad with a trampoline this Christmas. I'm sure they won't have any questions.)

Laura said...

Tears...that's all I can say. Thank you for your openness and honesty with those of us who are praying for you and your family...who don't even know you or had the privilege of knowing sweet Joseph. You are being lifted up from a sister in the Lord in Iowa.

katie said...

your words speak of so much hope. how wonderful to keep reminding ourselves of His "love that will not let me go". your honesty and vulnerability spread so much light and hope in the darkest days. you are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. tonight i took a walk outside and tried to see joseph dancing in the stars too. what a wonderful picture of hope. thanks for continuing to write and to share. it blesses me SO deeply.

Sam said...

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I love and miss you, Al and Holly. I echo Davey's sentiments on what an honor it is to be your little bro.

-Uncle sam

Anonymous said...

We're hurting with you and constantly praying. Thanks for sharing.
The Slotkins'

The Trone's: James, Misty, and Bella Grace said...

Gillian- that is so beautiful. Joseph's life has caused me to love my little girl more but also helped me to open up my hands and know that she is not mine. Thank you for sharing him with us all. He will never be forgotten. Love, Misty

tracey said...

we think about you guys every day and I love just coming to your blog to see something new (and see Joseph's cute simile). I'm working on a little package for you guys...fun stories and lots of great photos we've collected during our friendship. I can't wait to send to you and I love your idea of a book for Holly! thank you for sharing with us.

Abbie said...

We are continuing to pray for you. It is so touching to me that staring at the stars provides you with a tiny moment of beauty to break through the spell of pain.

How is Holly doing? How can we best pray for her?

With love,

amberhess said...

I think about you so much lately and am brought to tears as I read your blog. We are praying for your precious precious family. I love you and am thankful for your honesty and energy to keep us informed on how you are doing.
You, Allen and Holly are in our hearts!

Anonymous said...

Dear Gillian and Allen,

I see a glimpse of healing in you Gill. You make me proud to know you even as you struggle with a heavy heart each day. I am so glad you allowed yourself to see the beauty in the stars and that you are not so mad that you can wonder about sweet Joseph playing in heaven. Maybe you will feel him when the wind blows, like I did my Mom. God loves us through each other and through moments like these, doesn't he? Thanks for reminding me.
Hang on tight.
Love, Cristal

Audrey said...

that second to last paragraph is one of the sweetest things i've read in my entire life

Q's NEWS said...

Just wanted you to know you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I wish that I had amazing words to comfort you but when I get ready to comment I just stare at the blank box. I don't know what to say so just know you guys are being prayed for!

Love from WV,

Jessica Eves said...

"Be Gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul."

--Max Ehrmann

Jody (atlanta) said...

We all said special prayer tonight for you all. Always thinking of you all....many prayers.

Abigail met a new friend at school today named Cole (which she told me ryhmes with Joe...not exactly correct, but she trying). I think this 'Cole' name made her think of 'her' buddy Joseph more and she asked about him. She sang me a song that she learned at school about love and friendship and how being nice comes back with others knocking on your door to your heart with love. I said...just like Jesus...and then she said and Joseph up with Jesus watching over me mom.

Your two families and Gill/Allen have taught me so much about sharing faith with my daughters. I hate that you having to go through this journey, but thank you for sharing it with us.

Hope you have some peace over the weekend. Please know we always praying and loving you.


Stephanie said...

This is beautiful, Gillian. I am crying just reading it and imagining what your family is going through. Thank you for all that you have shared over the last several months.

Anonymous said...

Always, continually praying.

Sarah Norsworthy said...

Thank you so much for continuing to share your thoughts,feelings and prayers on this blog...You are an amazing woman! Joseph was blessed to have called you his mom. I have no doubt that his heroism came from the heroism that you and Allen displayed. I am continuing to pray for you, Allen and Holly... love you so much!


heidi r weimer said...

Your most beautifully written post yet.

Thank you for sharing with everyone, even in your most personal grief.

Praying always,

Holly said...

HI Gillian,
Why is it that whenever I read your blog, I walk away somehow spiritually encouraged? It's quite ironic that through this horrible tragedy in your life, YOU are the one ministering to others. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your deep love for Jesus through this heart-wrenching experience. Thank YOU for blessing so many others in the midst of your own personal pain. I pray that God puts people in your life every day to bless you right back!

Anonymous said...

Thinking about yall and praying for you: that the Lord would bring peace and comfort and hope on sleepless nights.