Gavin got sick. I secured some exciting media interviews that required some scrambling on my part. And, most importantly, Lou and I got wrapped up in planning the final details for Ty's long overdue memorial service in Long Beach. So tonight, I feel like I have a book to write because I want to share so much :) I will share the beautiful details of Ty's celebration of life, and save the updates on foundation activities for later this week.
Of course, we couldn't imagine arranging to hold Ty's celebration anywhere else, so we waited until the time was right. Finally, this weekend, we were able to gather with friends and family and give Ty the tribute he is so worthy of. Thank you, so much, to all of you who were there. I regret that I didn't have more time to catch up with everyone, but we hope you know how grateful we are.
The last time I was in that church, Ty had just been diagnosed. I was obviously devastated, frightened and barely even able to comprehend what was happening to us. It was a beautiful, sunny day, I took the boys out in the double stroller, they fell asleep and I made my way to the church as if guided by instinct (or maybe God was calling me there). It was dark and damp inside and I cried my heart out begging for Ty to get through this. Having no idea what this journey was going to be like. Not knowing that I wouldn't even be living in Long Beach for much longer, and certainly never imagining that I would be holding Ty's memorial there just over two years later.
Walking back into that church yesterday. Seeing Father Donald. Hearing him talk about how Ty and Gavin were baptized there and pointing to the very place where he poured water over their baby soft hair. It was one of the hardest places to be, yet it also felt so very appropriate.
It was near impossible to find the right words from the standard scripture packet that every family is handed when planning a funeral. Nothing seems right when talking about a beautiful, five-year old boy who suffered so innocently, and died. Because of this, we broke from tradition several times during mass and added some very beautiful readings on behalf of Ty. Lou was so brave. He gave a beautiful eulogy. His words moved everyone in that room. My sister read "The Brave Little Soul," by John Alessi. Ty's Uncle Rich read a reading from the Gospel and Aunt Debi read "I Still Would Have Chosen You," by Terri Bannish. Julia Larkin, a very special friend of ours who is more mature at the age of 15 than some are at the age of 50, performed the Taylor Swift song, "Ronan" and we had a slideshow of Ty's life in pictures. She has a beautiful voice and she is just so talented. Finally, Ty's cousins all gathered together at the alter to read the General Intercessions before the close of the mass. It was all so beautiful.
Afterward, we asked everyone to gather down at the oceanfront for a ceremonious distribution of Ty's ashes before the reception1. In advance, a great friend worked with the City of Long Beach to make sure they would plow a clearing through the dunes to provide our group with easy access. I was so grateful for this, and asked if she wouldn't mind going down to the beach before the church, and writing Ty's name in the sand so that it would be there when we all arrived. Not only did she do that.... she went ahead a recruited an entire crew of our Long Beach friends to prepare the beachfront. With incredible detail, they arranged for a beautiful display of everything TY. The kids painted sand dollars for Ty. She framed photos. I couldn't control the tears when I saw this. The words "thank you" will never suffice.
There were ladybug kites in the dunes. Trails of sand dollars. Ty's name written in huge letters by the seashore. Gold balloons flying high. It was so incredible and so perfect. I know it was a lot of hard work and I was just blown away. After taking in the beauty of this tribute, Lou and I asked everyone to move down to the seashore for another reading and to witness our distribution of Ty's ashes. We asked everyone to place a flower by his name, as Julia sang a song she wrote just for Ty. As soon as she posts the song to YouTube I will share with you all, it was just so amazing. We poured Ty's ashes over his name and into the ocean, and we felt at peace knowing that all of it would be swept away later that day. It was truly beautiful.
At the reception I laughed, I cried and I hugged hundreds of loved ones. We had a candy table in honor of Ty that was mind blowing. It was two-tiered and twelve feet long! We had pictures of him everywhere. We asked everyone to write a message to Ty that Lou and I will put in the bottle and send off to sea when we return to Long Beach in June (after making copies of them to keep in his project treasure box). It was, truly, a celebration. And that is how it should be. Ty's life was too beautiful, how could we not smile. He brought so many wonderful people together. Even his doctors and nurses were there and I was just so happy to see them. To see everyone. There were friends I have made through this journey that I finally got to hug in person (Mary P.!)! It was all so special.
At night, when all was quiet, I had the giant canvas picture of Ty in our hotel room and I just let it all out. I cried for what felt like hours. Until my head throbbed, my eyes swelled shut and my lips felt like balloons. When we woke up this morning, Lou and I simply couldn't bring ourselves to go home. We took Gavin down to the beach, we walked around town, and we decided to stay one more night to just decompress from what was such an overwhelming experience. I can't stop looking out the window, watching the waves roll in. Knowing Ty is there, in those magical waters, under that humbling sunset, makes me cry, smile in awe of him, and just miss him oh so much.
In his eulogy Lou said, "today we envy Ty" and that couldn't be more true. Be free, baby boy. Be happy. Know how loved you are.