A goodbye to Gabriel
My dear, sweet Gabriel,
You’re asleep in the next room and I miss you already. I’d hold you and sway for hours if I could. The weight of you in my arms, the little sighs from pursed lips, the nuzzling of your big, curly-haired head under my chin—it’s enough to break my heart.
I’d like to keep this day etched in my mind forever, to hold you just as you are in my heart, to memorize you with all your sweet giggles and babbles and quirks I’ve come to know so well in the last seven months. I’d like to memorize the happy cries of “Ball! Ball! Ball!” at the sight of anything round, your “Woof, woof!” as we pass dogs on our walks, your exuberant waving at the sight of every single trolley, your enthusiastic pointing as school buses drive by, the way you pull my wrist to your ear to listen to the tick tock of my watch, your undying love for chalk and crayons and bubbles and, most especially, keys.
Thanks for helping me to see the world with wonder. I couldn’t possibly count the number of times you’ve peppered me with What’s that? and an eager point from your chubby hand. Your gasps and wows have opened my eyes to the beauty I so easily miss: a sparrow pecking in the dirt, a squirrel hopping along a fence, spots of sun shining through the holes on the jungle gym. You see the world with fresh eyes in your mere 18 months on this earth, and you have opened mine wide and taught me to notice ever more keenly.
Thanks for being so easy to entertain. All it takes is a note or two of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” or a chugga chugga…for you to crack a wide grin. I’ve chased you and roared at you, blown raspberries on your belly, made silly sounds and faces, poked my head around corners, thrown you into the air, trapped you in my arms and let you go only to trap you again, and you’ve laughed and laughed. We’ve spent hours at the park and the library, we’ve gone to music class and sat in coffee shops and drawn with chalk, we’ve read book after book and bounced ball after ball taken walk after walk. Your delight in the world around you increases my own.
Thanks for helping me make new friends. It was pushing you in the swing and sitting at storytime and chasing you around the playground that I met dear women, fellow nannies and moms who have welcomed me into their days, swapping advice and sharing snacks and providing playmates. We’ve rejoiced together in our charges’ first steps and first words, marveled at your rapid growth, tried to put words to those heart-bursting feelings of love that we have for you. Your heart and arms open to the world have invited me to follow suit.
Thanks for filling my heart with a greater love than I have ever known. Your absolute dependency and intuitive trust have reminded me of my own nature as a child before the Father. Thanks to you, I’ve prayed as a child in the arms of God, asking Him to hold me and comfort me and provide for me as I’ve done for you. And many times as I’ve held you, soothed you, fed you, I’ve thought, This could be Jesus. Jesus Himself was a baby, God incarnate, squirming and needy and ever so small. I’ve wanted nothing but to tend to you, love you, keep you safe, make you happy. That God would come in such a humble, non-threatening, intensely lovable form fills me with awe. You have shown me the face of God.
After today, I won’t ring your doorbell at 8 a.m. anymore. You won’t greet me at the door, we won’t wave goodbye to Mama, I won’t feed you breakfast and get you dressed and play with you. I’m going away because Jesus has asked me to, the Jesus who loves us both so very much. And it makes me sad to leave you, to say goodbye, to know that I won’t see you grow, but my heart is fuller than ever. You are my favorite little one and I will never forget you. I will pray for you always, and write you letters, and love you from afar. As the days go by, I know you’ll forget me, but I pray that deep down, in your little baby heart, you will feel that there is someone out there who loves you more than you will ever know.
All my love,