My little friend and fellow tube feeder passed away a few days ago. His name was Gabe (short for Gabriel). Gabe had a very difficult life. Born several months premature, his brain didn’t develop normally. Burdened with cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, epilepsy and a host of other major health problems, Gabe also suffered from the inability to eat or swallow food. Hence, he was a tube feeder like me. He was only with us for shortly beyond half a decade. Yet, in those 2003 days, he taught us all so much. His angel mother, noble father and loving brothers and sisters taught us even more.
At Gabe’s funeral on Friday, Nanette, his mother, told the story of how Gabe’s older brother, Samuel, said he would miss Gabe’s smile. Nanette, trying to offer Sam comfort said, “You’ll still see his smile in our pictures, in our videos and in your heart.” Sam replied, “No, mom, what I mean is that I will miss making Gabe smile.”
What did this beautiful family learn in the 5.48 years of sleepless nights; through all of the vomiting, retching, and convulsing; after five solid years of changing diapers; with all of the carrying, lifting, and transferring … in and out of bed … in and out of the chair … in and out of the bath … on and off the exam tables … in and out of their arms; after more trips to the emergency room, the doctors’ offices, and the hospitals … more than you or I could ever comprehend; with no rest, no reprieve, no grand vacations? They learned the wisdom of the ages. It’s in giving that we receive. It’s in building others that we’re built. It’s in lifting that we’re lifted. It’s in giving away our love that it’s received … and retained. This wonderful family didn’t just teach this from the pulpit at the funeral on Friday. They have been teaching those of us who know them for years now.
Despite all of their challenges, you would struggle to find a happier family. Rarely did I ever see one of Gabe’s brothers or sisters without a smile. They are living examples of the thesis that our happiness depends not upon what circumstance does to us but upon what we do with our circumstances.
Gabe’s family, which includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., has corroborated the thesis of the Dalai Lama, who said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” And of Confucius, who taught, “He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.” And of Kahlil Gibran: “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” And, of course, the central message of Jesus from Nazareth is confirmed, as well: He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39.)
Gabe and family, thank you for reminding us that a life of suffering is not about what you can learn but what you can teach. And thank you for teaching us all that all happiness is a choice—the choice to personify Love regardless of circumstance.