The name “Gabriel” means Messenger, the Angel of the Lord. We did not foresee the significance of this name when we gave it to our baby boy on September 25, 2011. We loved the role of the Angel Gabriel and the sound of the name when we spoke it, and we anticipated a lifetime of using this name for our son.
“Be Not Afraid” are the words of God announcing his presence to Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Joseph, Paul and John. They are also the words of the Angel Gabriel as he greeted Mary with the powerfully beautiful yet by no means easy plan God offered to her about the Son she would bring into the world.
Our Gabriel came into this world in a way similar to how much of his life would follow. Christine, with Gabriel in her womb, and I were filled with anticipation, love, and stress, frantically driving to the Children’s Hospital. He was ready to enter this world, even if his mom needed a little more time. It was all Christine could do to keep him from being born in our car on the way. So we barreled down the road, ignoring speed limit signs. Christine and Gabe were able hold off until we made it to the hospital, and he was born on a gurney somewhere between the elevator and the delivery suite. It was an amazing, wonderful process, loaded with love, stress, fear, hope, beauty, and Life.
Gabriel’s life would present so many more trips to the hospital, from the time we found the lump pushing up under his left collarbone when he was six years old, through four years of chemotherapy, thirteen surgeries, and a bone marrow transplant. He battled two cancers: Neuroblastoma and Leukemia. Those trips offered punctuation to the beautiful, innocent, yet very difficult life of this child. He experienced so much time alone with family and friends, undistracted by tedious daily life, and he knew so many caring people who dedicated their efforts to him. It was by no means easy as Gabe felt the effects of his disease and treatment, but he learned that no matter what he had to face, there was always love to balance against the suffering. And he faced his journey with fear set aside.
There was more frantic trip to the hospital for Christine and me. We received a call to get back to the hospital ASAP. I had dragged her away because she was about to collapse. She had spent an entire night in vigil standing at the head of Gabriel’s bed, combing her fingers through his hair, watching him struggle to breathe, praying with every breath and heartbeat that the numbers on the ICU monitor would rise, sickened by number of times the alarms had to be silenced because the numbers were not high enough. We arrived back at the hospital in time to see that he was still fighting. His heartbeat restarted after a shock by the code team. Even though we could see that his lungs were full of blood and he would never breathe again, our sweet boy let us know that he did not want to leave us. But he had been called Home; it was October 2, 2011—10 years and 7 days filled with his beautiful life that began with that first frantic ride to the hospital.
And so we live on with a hole in our hearts that can only be filled with love, never the same but still blessed. That hole in our hearts will consume any love that it is given, but if the love flows not just in but out as well, it expands, and so do we.
We spread the Message of the Angel Gabriel, “Be Not Afraid,” and we add the words “You Are Not Alone.” The “Angel Gabriel Message” proliferates the powerful work of Jay’s HOPE in the Augusta area. In cooperation with Children’s Medical Center of Georgia, and Georgia Regents University Health, we provide comfort and coping materials, financial support, and encouragement to children and families facing childhood cancer.
Thank you for taking a moment to hear about my beautiful child. I am honored to be able to commemorate his life in service to others.
David Wilkie, father of Gabriel James Wilkie