Not The Horse — September 20, 2021

Not The Horse

On an early September morning in 2010, as the sun was just beginning to rise, I woke to the voice and laughter of my 4 year old son Gavin. He was still in his room having a full conversation with someone whose voice I could not hear. We had a very protective dog who was sleeping at the foot of my bed so I wasn’t concerned with a stranger being in the house, but I was very curious who it was that was making him talk in full sentences and laugh full belly laughs when the rest of us were still asleep. I quietly walked down the hall to his room and cracked open his door hoping to get a glimpse of what was going on inside. Gavin was sitting straight and talking towards the empty foot of his bed with a huge smile on his face. As soon as he saw me he let out an annoyed sigh and pat his bed telling me to sit. When I asked who he was talking to I was expecting him to tell me it was an imaginary friend or a strange dream. I was not expecting my young child to tell me he was talking to his Uncle who passed away in 2001, before he was born.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Gavin, who is the oldest of my three children, I spoke to him about my brother, his Uncle, who was an Angel watching over us and him. He didn’t know details of his death. He was 4 at the time and was too young to understand, but he did know that Uncle Jonathan was/is a hero and that he was lucky to have a special Angel watching over him. Other then kid appropriate stories, there was no way that Gavin could have known the things he told me that morning while we sat on his bed.

“Mom, Uncle Jonathan was just here with me. He was sitting on my bed talking to me and making me laugh. Mom, he has a really big cut on his head but it didn’t hurt anymore.”

I tried not to allow the tears to fall from eyes as Gavin told me not to be sad. That Jonathan was OK and didn’t hurt anymore. I let him speak freely about his encounter with his Uncle. I didn’t want my emotions or words to change how he was feeling about his experience with someone who he never met in human form but was clearly a very big part of everything he did.

He told me that Jonathan, a New York City Firefighter who was killed on September 11, 2001, was wearing his dress uniform but didn’t have on his white gloves. They were in his pocket. He told me that he had a big cut on his head that he got when the building fell on top of him. It was very important to Gavin that he tell Jonathan didn’t hurt when he died. That Jonathan wasn’t scared and didn’t feel any pain. He was at peace.

Gavin spoke about meeting Jonathan in heaven, before he was born, and the two of them waiting for the right time to send him to me. They watched over me together waiting for the right time to make me a Mom and Jonathan reassured him that he would be safe on this earth with me.

As my amazement in this conversation grew, my little boy told me how his Uncle stops by the house to check on me a lot. I am the youngest of four children and when alive, Jonathan was always my protector, death was not going to stop that. My 4 year old son told me that Jonathan needed me to know that he can’t stop the bad from happening but he will always protect us and help us get through those times in any way he can.

When Gavin finished talking, I told him I heard him laughing at something that must have been very funny and asked what it was. What he said next was the validation I needed to know that what Gavin had experienced was true. He chuckled and asked me why Jonathan calls me a horse. I was a moody child and complained to Jonathan, a lot, about what ever was annoying me that day. Whether it was not feeling well or being looked at the wrong way by the cat, I would find reason to complain to him. In the middle of the complaining, Jonathan would tell me that if I was a horse they would have killed me and made me into glue. With that, Gavin laughed and said that Jonathan wanted me to know that he was sorry he ended up being the Horse.

Gavin is now 15 years old and growing up he has always reminded me of Jonathan. The things he says, the way he acts and his overall demeanor is spot on with how Jonathan was as a teen. He still remembers talking to his Uncle that morning in his room and has had other encounters and conversations with both him and his grandfather who passed away a few days shy of his first birthday. They aren’t as frequent as they once were but he knows no matter what happens in his life, he will always have his Uncle Jonathan close by.

I Introduce, Mr. Bear — May 22, 2021

I Introduce, Mr. Bear

This is Mr. Bear

A week or two after September 11, 2001, the day the towers fell, a very small portion of the World Trade Center site was opened to families of those who were still missing. Although the mission at the site had not officially been changed from a rescue – recovery mission to a recovery only mission, most of us were aware that any chance of survivors being found was gone. By allowing families to go to this small section of the site, we were able and say a prayer for our loved ones and feel closer to them and what became the final resting place for more than half of the almost 3,000 innocent victims murdered on that horrible day.

The families would meet at a dock/terminal and were brought to the site by a ferry. Each ferry held maybe 75 – 100 families members, crew members, social workers and volunteers. Members of the Red Cross met the families at the terminals and escorted them to the ferries. When my family and I got on the ferry, the Red Cross Volunteers handed each of us orange teddy bear. I don’t know if they did this for every ferry that went out, but they did it for ours. We learned that the teddy bears were donated and that they wanted us to write our loved ones name on a bow around the bears neck and tell the bear a memory or story about who we lost. We were then asked to leave the bears at the site so they could be taken to a pediatric hospital or shelter. The bears, which now held our loved ones names, memories and stories, would be giving to children in the hospital and shelter.

After writing my brothers name on my bears bow and whispering childhood memories to it as I held it close, the thought of leaving it behind was the furthest thing from my mind. As I stepped off the ferry I continued to hold the bear tight to my Chest. I cried to the bear. I silently prayed to the bear. I focused on the comfort of the bear to keep me grounded. When getting ready to go back to the ferry, I could not leave the bear. It was my security and I needed it to keep me from losing any strength and courage I had left. So as most people left their bears at the designated site, a few of us did not. We took our Bears home.

For the last almost 20 years now this now fading Orange bear has been with me almost every single night. This bear is the keeper of all my secrets and the guardian of my dreams. It has been with me through every up and every down I have had in my adult life. It was with me my last year living in my childhood home. It made it through two apartments and now the house I share with my husband and three children. It has come with me on weekend trips, vacations and even on my honey moon. It spent countless nights in tents and campers during our family camping trips. It has been on weekend visits to see friends and family, hotels for ice hockey tournaments, and quick overnights just because.

It was with me when I was sick in a hospital bed for almost a week due to food poisoning. Spent the night with me on a surgical floor after having spinal surgery on my neck. It offered comfort when I lost loved ones and never complained when I would sob on its arm. It was with me on the maternity floor for all 3 childbirths, one of which was a 4 week bed rest stay.

My orange bear, who I call Mr. Bear, is old now and has lost a lot of his firmness over the years. He doesn’t look as good as he once did but over time we have all aged in one way or another. My children know the story of Mr. Bear and have all spent nights snuggled up next to me with him in their arms. I like to think of those nights as my brother being with them. I’ve had to sew a few holes and he lost his orange bow, but over the years Mr. Bear has been there for every tear, yell, laugh, hug, snuggle and the occasional throw of frustration across a room. I know that one day Mr. Bear will be too old to withstand even the gentle hugs and he will need to sit on the nightstand instead of on mine or one of the kids beds. Until that day, I will continue to bring him to any overnight, sports tournament, camping trip and vacation. He will continue to be the security and support for me and my children who sometimes need him as much or even more than I do.

What started as an Orange Bear given to me on a ferry ride to the World Trade Center site back in late September of 2001, has become my Mr. Bear. 20 years of tears, snuggles, laughs, hugs, throws, and love from me and my children. The Orange Bear that was meant to comfort a child in the hospital became a bear that has comforted me and my family in all parts of our lives.

I think we all need and deserve a Mr. Bear.