Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Gavin Strong" has changed us all!

Yesterday marked a week since Gavin Morris received his miracle.  He was escorted to Heaven and now lives cancer-free, walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, but that smile is still lighting up the world.

[All photos were taken from Gavin's Mom's personal Facebook page]

For those of you who may be reading this and not from my amazing county - Jackson County, West Virginia - this adorable little boy is, Gavin Morris, a superhero in more hearts than X-men, Batman, Spiderman, or Power Rangers could ever touch!  

Two years ago [at the age of 2], Gavin was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma, which is a malignant tumor that develops from nerve tissue.  Shortly after being diagnosed, the "Gavin Strong" slogan was adopted because he was just that, strong.  Gavin loved superheros and it seemed only fitting to be constantly reminded of how strong he was in this battle with cancer.

Before we knew it, not only was our small community in West Virginia spreading the message, but it was reaching nationwide recognition and below are just a few photos that show how wide-sweeping his story was.

During his fight, Gavin's dad tattooed his arms to always be reminded of "Gavin Strong."

[Photo property of Sweet Peas Photography- link here]
From the time that Gavin's family knew of his diagnosis, his parents showed the face of bravery as [I am told] they too made a huge life change by quitting their jobs and selling their home in Ripley, WV so they could be with Gavin full-time in Philadelphia at the hospital where he was receiving aggressive treatments.  Throughout his entire battle, Gavin's mother, Tosha Morris, has kept everyone up-to-date on Gavin's progress, surgery, recovery, chemo treatments, etc.

Gavin's support was always strong - especially within our community - but after Tosha posted the below information, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram blew up with hashtags of #gavinstrong, profile pictures changing immediately, and prayer chains were enacted like they never had been before.


Gavin Update:

On Thursday 2/27/14, the day after getting the great news about his medication able to be altered... Gavin awoke to go to CHOP for his chemo treatment, only to discover he suffered a major stroke sometime in the early morning.

After a CT scan, we learned that Gavin had developed a brain tumor and he had active bleeding in his brain. After an educated discussion with his doctor, we decided the best option for Gavin was to help him be as comfortable as possible, as soon as possible.

He's comfortable. He's loved. He's peaceful. He's calm. He's in my arms. He IS GAVIN STRONG.

Please appreciate mine and our families lack of updates or responses while we focus on what's most important. Gavin.
Please pray for all of us to accept God's timing and to be as strong as Gavin through all of this.

Days later, she posted this update.

Tosha Morris
Gavin update:

Quick update to let you know Gavin is very comfortable and continues his incredible fight!

WE will never give up!

Gavin Strong!


And then, the overwhelming fear was realized. 
My baby Gavin became CANCER FREE this morning at 7:03 a.m. I knew he could do it all along. He NEVER gave up... He didn't know how to- it was not in him. I want everyone to know that he DID receive his miracle, long ago.

I want Gavin remembered for his handsome smile, contagious laugh, and his witty personality. His love for video games, his iPad and movies. His passion for cooking, his positive outlook on life, his wisdom beyond his years. His compassionate soul, his willingness to forgive, his thankfulness of EVERY God given day, and the simplicity and realism he brought to so many lives.

Please join us in celebration by paying something forward in his honor. I will announce arrangement details later... They will be happening in Philadelphia.


Call me crazy, but I can't help but read that and smile [and cry.]
Throughout his entire battle, Tosha, her husband and their families never posted anything negative, anything that would stir doubt, anything that would sway someone to quit believing in a miracle.  Their reality became their driving force....soak in every moment, always. 

Truthfully, I have never met Gavin, but I would know him from a mile away because his smiling face has gone viral in a way I've never seen before.  But to know him, I don't and I won't pretend to.  Being from a small town and a few years behind his mother, Tosha, in school makes me know of  her, but aside from a real relationship with Gavin or his family members, he has taught me so many lessons.

Believe in miracles.
Never lose sight.
Live life to the fullest every day.
Speak positivity, always.
 Make your legacy count for something.

After word was out, again, social media was a buzz sending Gavin and his family well wishes, touting phrasing like, "He got his miracle, finally!  He won his battle, he didn't lose.  He's my hero!  Never the same!" and the positive remarks go on and on.  Read that again; the positive. 

Many times when we're faced with unfortunate circumstances and our life is thrown in a direction we never imagined, it's easy to say, "Why me, God?"  "This nurse doesn't know what she's doing."  "If these doctor's would listen, I know he can't handle another round of chemo today."  "I never want to see my baby puke again."  "I don't remember what my son looked like with hair."  "His smile is fading."  "We're losing the battle."

No.  There was never once that those negative statements were made about Gavin, his treatments, his team of physicians and nurses, his family, etc.  Truly, I believe he was able to live another two full years with his diagnosis because he was surrounded with positive praise. 

As any parent would, I am sure Tosha and her husband had plans for Gavin's first day of Kindergarten, his first sports practice, his first middle school dance, or sitting at the kitchen table and planning for college.  I'm sure the words "heart wrenching" don't even cover the feeling of knowing you're now not moving back to Ripley, with your little boy who lights up a room with his smile.  I'm sure heart break doesn't even touch the realization of their dreams and plans, not being what they had hoped for and envisioned.  As tears stream down my face even just thinking these thoughts out loud, I can't even begin to imagine the hurt and heartache, but that's one of the huge things I'll hold onto for the rest of my life.....they didn't make those plans, dreams, and thoughts their focus.  Gavin, and living life to the absolute fullest, was their sole focus above anything else. 

So many times we make our failures, or faults, our focus and even in their loss, Tosha writes this:

At this time of complete numbness in our time of grief, I have found joy and pride in the stories of people paying it forward and doing random acts of kindness. Please don't feel conceited by sharing these stories. It makes me so so proud to know how Gavin continues to change the world. Thank you all for representing Gavin in such an honorable, selfless way. Gavin Strong!

Today we lay to rest a hero
One I have never met
But his legacy will live onward
For this I can bet
His smile greeted many
His laughter heard around
Short may his life have been
But happiness was abound
His bravery had no rival
His courage was on top
He faced and terrible evil
And still refused to stop
Live each day and live it well
He took in all in stride
I will live my life the exact same way
And make it a great ride
His lessons shook my soul
Like standing near a gong
And for this I will promise
To always be GAVIN STRONG!
As Drew Caldwell wrote, we'll always be Gavin Strong.  Even after he has gone onto heaven, Gavin is still changing the lives of others as he and his family ask us to "Pay it Forward."  Paying it forward could be as simple as leaving four quarters at the car wash for the next person to enjoy, as easy as donating to the Gavin Strong Fund for Neuroblastoma Research, or as large as giving of your time to become a foster parent, a Big Brother or Big Sister, or serving in your community on a continual basis.
[click here for some great ideas] 

No matter if you're from the small town of Ripley, West Virginia, or from another country or state and have been inspired by Gavin's story, the truth is, we can all do more!  I know I am not the only individual inspired by Gavin's story.  As Tosha's Facebook and the Be Gavin Strong page blew up, we all realize what a legacy he's left for us.  A legacy of honor, courage, and humbleness.  A legacy that they wish to continue to relive through others stories - send yours here.  Even when Gavin and his family were at their wits end, they were still always looking out for how they could positively impact another. 

Let that soak in and make it your priority to forever be "Gavin Strong."

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