Thursday, July 16, 2009

Batman + The Blanket

Grady and Pablo's fave blanket

Another first. Jo Ann and I came home from dinner with Peter and Brie. Julie is in town again from New Orleans; she was with us too. We pulled up in front of the house around 10 p.m. Grady walked outside as I put the car into park. When someone greets you outside, you know something's up.
Grady wanted to ask us something. Grady wanted to sleep with his and Pablo's favorite blanket. It's a gorgeous, colorful, exotic, handmade blanket from Kristal Moffett's store Black Sheep Knittery.

We bought it at the Walther School fund raiser a few years ago. The kids fell in love with it way back when, and we always loved that they loved it. I mean, it's a blanket, not a toy, so it's odd and wonderful that our boys have such a strong attachment to it. They'd bundle up in it watching TV. They'd bring it to bed when they slept together.

There's one other thing about this favorite blanket: we wrapped Pablo's body in it when we carried him out to the Forest Lawn Mortuary van. There was no way we were going to let the van driver cover him in some utilitarian vinyl nonsense and carry him out on a gurney. Not our boy. F that. We did it our way. I need to say something here: Peter guided us into this idea. He walked up to me and said that he could arrange for me to carry Pablo out, when we were ready. No rush. It was exactly what we wanted, in line with everything we believe and are. In that exact moment, I'm not sure we would have thought of this. The world was crashing at that moment. Crashing and putting itself back together. And crashing again. Like a machine that was made to crash and reassemble in rapid succession. Peter's calm and Peter's clarity in that moment is something I will never forget. This might be the place where I would use that cliche 'I aspire to have such clam and clarity.' I do, for sure, but, really, having Peter as a best friend and business partner, I don't really have to aspire to that. When I need it, when I need him, he's there. With his calm and clarity and all kinds of other parts and pieces that I don't have. That's why we are brothers.

Peter established the rules with the Forest Lawn people so there'd be a solid protocol, and no mix-ups with them. Peter made it so we didn't have to think, or interface with anyone outside our friends and family in our house. Peter made it so that our solitary focus was being with Pablo's physical body in the hours after his spirit left and moved on. We talked about this tonight with Peter and Brie—how they both guided us down this path that no one wants to venture down, that none of us had ever been on, that turned us all inside out and showed us what we were made of as we were witnessing the death of a precious + special little boy. I had to take that turn in the story. It just happened as I was typing, so I know it had to come out.

There's one other significant fact about the blanket: it has been in a white paper bag (think Macy's) from Forest Lawn since the day of Pablo's funeral. Also in the bag: the Batman Dark Knight pajamas the Nolan family gave Pablo in the giant Dark Knight gift basket they sent over last summer. Pablo died in those pajamas. This bag has sat on a chair in our bedroom since Pablo's funeral. We weren't avoiding it. We knew it was there. We knew we didn't have to rush into it.

Tonight, Grady walking outside and waiting for us to get out of the car: it was time for the three of us to remove the contents of the Macy's-like Forest Lawn bag. Together.
We stood on Jo Ann's side of our bed. Jo Ann put the bag on the bed. I pulled the blanket out. Held it up to my nose. Took a deep inhale. I wanted to smell any Pablo smell that was left on it. I passed it to Grady, and he did the same. Then Jo Ann. She was holding Pablo's Dark Knight pajamas, doing the same. I grabbed the jammies next. We all wept. We all looked at the blanket, examining it carefully, looking for any sign of Pablo.

I held the short bottoms of the pajamas. I looked at Jo Ann. I said, 'We can never wash these.' She looked at me. She said, in a sorrowful and exasperated way, 'I know!'

I knew she knew, but I had to say it. All these firsts that pop up in our lives....


Anonymous said...

each time you write about a first, i learn something unexpected -- about love, about life, about sorrow, about family, about being. tonight was no exception.

thank you.


Nancy said...

How beautiful and loving your family is. You have been blessed with this as well as wonderful friends. Your story brought tears and I pray for your comfort and peace. It is such a hard road you travel and I will continue to pray for you all. Thank you so much for always sharing your most intimate feelings with us. I will always be grateful to God that he let me spend the last week of my mother's life by her side.

Stephanie said...

Guess Pablo thought it was a good time to unpack that bag. He is ever so close...isn't he.
How wonderful that you have such a friend in Peter, he sounds like a great guy.

I read you are going to France and will meet up with Lance...well, my husbands friends are also going to France and will meet up with Lance. Coincidence? If you bump into anyone from RI out there than this small world is getting even smaller.

Anonymous said...

you guys are amazing.

Samantha said...

often in this blogging world i have come across families who have lost a child, i think i gravatate to them because as a parent of 3 little ones, it is my absolute worst fear. there is nothing i fear more than the thought of loosing one of my children... I never read these blogs with the thought that I am glad it isnt happening to me... i read them to know and acknowledge the pain that other parents are feeling. I hate that there are parents that are feeling this painful sorrow... Your writing really allows readers to literally feel the pain... it is touching... Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts and events... I appriciate it more than you could ever know...

A Supporter said...

Going to be gone now for a while. Blessings to you and your family. When we lost our son, we made a memory box with notes and precious items and tied it and wrapped it beautifully. One day, when it feels right, I want to take it somewhere special and set it loose in the ocean. I think we will know the when the time is right.
Continuing to pray for you and your family. A big hug especially to Grady he is an amazing young man. Good luck with your pitch.

Dawn said...

I can't imagine having to do what you guys are doing but my heart is with you.

TonyG said...


Keep writing about your thoughts, stories and experiences. Pablo lives on and on and on through your words and my thoughts of how special that little boy is.



Anonymous said...

We placed our little ones clothing that he died in, pillowcase and sheet in a ziplock baggie and have left it there for almost ten years. Yes we do open the bag and smell him one more time....

Alberta Art Classes said...

My brother lost his son a few years ago, his pajamas are still in a box at the foot of their bed, unwashed. Blessings.

Tish Hearne said...

Dearest JoAnn, Jeff and Grady,

My heart is with you as I read your posts. So many parallels are breaking my heart as I can literally feel your pain.

I will continue to hold you close in prayer. Your Pablo is one amazing, imaginative playmate for our Thomas. I choose to believe that Pablo and Thomas are two well-known Lego champions together in heaven, experiencing the unique joy that we will witness and share someday when we're all united again.

You're a beautiful family.

God Bless You,
The Hearnes

Anonymous said...

I had to cry so hard reading this. That's really all I can say.

Jules said...

As always, thank you for sharing.

Pablove xoxo

Elizabeth said...

Beautiful story -- thank you for sharing it. And I will pass along all the Pablov information.

A good friend of mine is one of the main commentators/announcers for the Tour. His name is Paul Sherwen, married to Katherine Love who was a college roommate of mine. I know that we don't know each other, but if you happen to meet Paul (and I'm sure he'll be talking about you!) tell him I said hello --

Blessings to you.

Jen said...

Tears again. Thank you for sharing. Sending you my love and hugs - Jen Rhodes