May 012013

Telling my stories and having you read them used to be my biggest Momastery honor. That’s still my joy- but my biggest honor is now reading other women’s stories and sharing them with you. You know my favorite quote –  The most revolutionary thing you can do it introduce women to each other. I’m an introducer. And a listener.  

It’s Holy, Holy work – listening.

Real listening changes us through and through. It is my life’s work – listening. I hold women’s stories inside of me like white light that warms me from the inside out and spills through the cracks in me to warm others and light the world up.

Reading is listening.

Today it is my brutiful honor to introduce you to Kate Leong.  Gavin’s mother. Gavin’s mother- The Ultimate Warrior.

Listen to Kate. Don’t hide from her story. At Momastery we are First Responders. We run toward the pain- because we know that hearts broken open change the world. A broken heart is not something to run from – it’s something to strive for and then wear like a medal of honor.

Monkees – Meet Kate.


I was so honored when Glennon asked me to do a guest post on her blog.  And, admittedly, scared out of my mind.  I thought I’d take the easy way out and send her one of my favorite blog posts; but Glennon specifically asked me to write something new – tailored to the Momastery audience.  So I am showing up today – for myself and for anyone else who has been hiding their truth.  I hope that my story inspires someone, somewhere, to come out with their story and shake off the unnecessary shame.  My name is Kate and this is my “MamaStory”…

Growing up as the youngest of five, I often got lost in the crowd.

Born with a quiet voice and a sensitive heart, I could barely get a word in at the dinner table and often got my feelings hurt.  In elementary school and even high school, I stayed a quiet observer.  I didn’t fit in any group, really, and most times was okay with that.  I hated watching others get bullied and would often feel compelled to reach out to them.  I think I was born a natural caretaker… but that came with a heavy price.  I learned to take care of everyone but me.

After suffering sexual abuse as an adolescent at the hands of a teacher, I went down a  road of self destruction.  This quiet, tender hearted girl with a big, loving family kept every dark secret inside and tried to slowly self destruct.  My journey included an eating disorder all through high school that nearly killed me… a suicide attempt that nearly broke my parents hearts into a million little pieces… multiple hospitalizations in facilities with the kind of doctors who try to talk you well and medicate you silent… relationships that were wrong on every level – but that conveniently put me in the role of caretaker so I could feel normal while I helped him with his problems… a rape while I was on an overnight as a flight attendant… and alcoholism, which was how I chose to cope afterwards.  I drank for close to five years – and nothing could have made me stop.  Not even my big, loving, accepting family.  But one day I was given a choice – marriage or vodka.  Lucky for me, I had a choice.  Lucky for my family, I chose wisely.  I knew that I always wanted to be married and have children.  And I wanted to do it right.

One would think, in a perfect world, that the story would go on to have a happy ending after this much turmoil and heartache.

Well, that would depend on your outlook, I suppose.

We tried and tried for a baby and found ourselves at the mercy of an infertility specialist.  Soon, with a little help, we were pregnant with twins!  Before we could find out if they were boys or girls, we lost them one by one.  Imagine our surprise a few months later when we naturally conceived – twins AGAIN!!  I held my breath at every ultrasound… until I exhaled into a deep wail when one heart stopped.  I thought for sure the other baby was not far behind – that he wouldn’t survive without his sibling.  I underestimated this baby.  He not only survived a very difficult pregnancy… but he survived a very traumatic birth.  This child is our son, Gavin.  Born with severely low tone, feeding issues and “dysmorphic features” – we did not get a lot of encouraging predictions for his future.  Six days before his first birthday we were told he has Cerebral Palsy.  One of his doctors told me that he didn’t expect that Gavin would ever be able to sit up on his own – his tone was so, devastatingly low and his head was so big and heavy.  This same doctor loves to tell that story every time he sees Gavin – especially now, at 5 1/2 years old, when he confidently walks into the exam room.  I named my blog “Chasing Rainbows” as a testament to how Gavin has defied the odds that were stacked against him.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t chase rainbows.  And if they do, remember my sweet little boy.  Along with the Cerebral Palsy, Gavin has an undiagnosed genetic syndrome and will likely need our care his entire life.

People definitely raised their eyebrows when we were pregnant with our second child.  Gavin was only six months – had just come home after a three month hospital stay for RSV and Botulism – and he was on a feeding tube and oxygen.  After a shaky start (doctors suggested I abort my pregnancy – that the child I was carrying would never make it), Brian was born on a beautiful December day.  Having our boys so close together was the best thing we ever did.  Brian is Gavin’s best therapist… and some days his best friend.  It has been such a joy watching them develop side by side. Unfortunately, I was stricken with Rheumatoid Arthritis shortly after his birth which has been rather difficult.

You would think we’d quit while we were ahead, but we still wanted a third baby for so many reasons.  We worried about Brian.  What if Gavin never talks?  Would Brian be lonely?  What if something happened to us?  That’s a heavy burden for one sibling to carry.  All of these fears and worries led us straight back to the infertility specialist.  It did not go well.  The end total to date – nine miscarriages and the traumatic stillbirth of our beautiful and perfect daughter, Darcy Claire.  She was born after five and a half days in the hospital attempting to deliver her body and arrived just hours before the calendar announced it to be “Mother’s Day” in 2010.

I have absolutely gone down the road of – “Seriously, God?”  And I’ve also gone down the road of – “There must be something wrong with me…something I did to deserve this.”  Why would so many difficult things keep happening to one person?  It doesn’t make sense!!

Or does it…

I often say on my blog that when Gavin came along, he saved my life.  I want to explain to you why.  The obvious reason is because I was sober a little over a year when I got pregnant.  It definitely kept me on track!  And, after years and years of self absorption and self destruction, isn’t it ironic that I was handed a baby that required ALL of me?  Gavin saved me from myself.

But it was something that was said to me along the way – while I was knee deep in feeding tubes and therapies and serious medical issues with Gavin – that changed my entire outlook.  I had years and years (and years) of therapists – both good and bad (and really bad) that couldn’t bring me to this revelation.

What if you chose your life’s blueprint before you were born?  What if your soul sat with God before you arrived here on Earth and decided what your life should look like… what hardships you should endure… what lessons were the most important for you to learn… how your journey could help others on their journeys?  What if your life’s journey was actually mapped out – by you and God – for a higher purpose?

Just thinking about that changed the course of my life forever and gave me a new perspective when looking in the rear view mirror.  It took me from a place of “why do horrible things keep happening to me?!?!?”  (with a couple WTFs thrown in there) to a place of power.  If I chose to endure hard things in my lifetime – then I chose that for a higher purpose.  I can use all of my experiences for good – and stop using them to shame and punish myself.  I realized that all of these years I had been doing it wrong.  I thought I was taking care of everyone… but since I wasn’t taking care of me in the right way, I really wan’t helping anyone at all!

Glennon often describes herself as a “shameless truth teller.”  That is exactly what we all need to be.  When we let our secrets out – whatever they are – we shake off the shame that’s attached to it.  They say you are only as sick as the secrets you keep.  I was choosing to be sick for so many years.

So, I’m no longer embarrassed about my history.  I’m no longer shameful about the ways I chose to cope with the hand I was dealt.  In sharing my burdens, I hope to ease the burdens of others who might be keeping similar secrets.  But mostly, I see the higher purpose in all of this – to learn.  I have learned without a doubt that I can do hard things.  I have learned that in sharing ALL of myself, I can truly help others.  I have learned that openness leads to healing. I have learned that, for me, writing is my best therapy. (And lucky for me – that therapy is free!) People ask me all the time how I remain so positive amidst so much misfortune.  My answer is – it’s a choice.  I choose to believe that my life is unfolding exactly as it’s supposed to.  And I choose to be an avid student of all the lessons it is placing in my path.  My blog is my “MamaStory” and it’s an honor for me to be vulnerable and open when I know that it can touch someone who needs it.

But the most important part of my “MamaStory” is my sons.  My blog is my legacy to them.  I want them to know that their Mommy was a human being with flaws and tragedies and triumphs and hopefully a little bit of insight.  I want them to know that they can choose how they see their own lives.  That adversity can make them either bitter… or better.  That they won’t have to look far to “find their destiny” because their destiny lies right there in their life’s journey… just like I found my destiny in mine.

And just like you’ll find your destiny in yours.


I wrote this guest post for Glennon and sent it to her on April 3rd – a little nervous as it revealed so much about my personal life experiences.  Eleven days later on April 14th, my 43rd birthday, my husband and I said goodbye to our precious son, Gavin.  He suddenly and inexplicably suffered three cardiac arrests after a seizure on April 10th and we were lucky enough to spend four days with him before he died.  During those days we slept with him, sang to him, loved on him and bathed him.  


An incredible Child Life specialist helped his younger brother, Brian, come in to say goodbye in a sweet way and begin to process that his brother would die.  Gavin was a helper and a healer – to us and to others – so it made perfect sense to us to donate his organs after his death.  Now, his story has made him a helper and a healer all over the world to so many who have been moved and inspired by his journey.  This little boy who never uttered a word is changing people.  Imagine that.

I thought about this post several times during those days – and drew on my own words for strength.  I delivered a eulogy to Gavin using some of the very words I wrote in this post.  “You truly can find hope and inspiration and important life lessons in your own lives… even when the path seems impossible to walk, like this one for us.  Gavin taught me that.  I’m just the messenger.”


This little boy of mine saved my life.  And his story could profoundly change yours.


He’s changed mine. Kate. He’s changed mine.  Love, G

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  167 Responses to “Momastory Series – Meet Kate and Gavin”

  1. I can’t help but think those girls in Cleveland MAY someday have hope despite the awful reality of what they’ve been through … when I read a life story like Kate & Gavin, this reaffirms that HOPE might just be out there for them too … submitting prayers that comes quickly

  2. You are so amazing!!. Thank you for sharing your heart wrenching & inspiring story.

  3. G – Thank you for your introductions. You continue to amaze and inspire me. Blessings!

  4. Wow, Kate… you weren’t kidding when you said this was going to be something different! I am an avid follower, and you never cease to amaze me. Blessings to you and your family.

  5. Some souls can only be with us for a short time, though I believe they surround us forever, with their love and their support. I send you guys love, and I am in awe of you and your family. May God keep you safe and happy and comfort you durin these hard times.

  6. Kate – your story both broke my heart and gave it hope in the same moment. Thank you for sharing Gavin (and you, Brian, and Ed) with us and I hope you feel love!

  7. […] that child, and I would make that choice to love, God. I cried reading about Kelle and Nella and Kate and Gavin, and it looks so hard God, but it looks like love, brutal and beautiful, every-day-for-a-lifetime […]

  8. My heart is broken with you. Thank you for seeing beauty in struggle and grace through pain. Truth on, my brave sister.

  9. I read this the first day it was posted. And I bawled at work. I read it again…and bawled at home. I have tried to come back here several times…and as Glennon says SHOW up for you. There is no comment that I can leave that would justify this post…it is beautiful, or brutiful. The love you have for Gavin. Just how amazing and precious his little life was. I wish I could say more, DO more…to express back to you how moving and touching your post was. I just have no words. Thank you for sharing your story and for sharing Gavin with us. Thank you.

  10. God, my heart is so broken for Kate and her family. As I lay her crying my eyes out, I am having a hard time seeing the beauty in this situation, for this mama who lost her baby. Her perspective is profound and I admire her.

  11. What? My heart was already in a million pieces before I read the ending. And then … what????

    It makes me want to fight. It makes me want to run yelling at the enemy (Satan) with my sword held high (the Word). I don’t know why I have that reaction, but I do. Maybe I don’t want to just sit and feel the pain.

    But since God has asked it of you (to face the pain), I will fight alongside you in this: I will pray that goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and that you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

  12. […] read a brutiful* blog post this week, a guest blog post, written by Kate Leong at Momastery. Kate shares her story and her son, Gavin’s […]

  13. Oh my, I am crying so much. Your story, Kate, is so powerful. You are so full of love and so focused on the right things–I am so thankful you shared. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the challenges of parenting and yet you so beautifully remind me that our children change us–for the better. Thank you for this, and know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  14. Your blog has grabbed me, I love reading about your family, your feelings, and your love. Although my son was 25 when he died, (he had Hodgkins Lymphoma), I faced comments about my strength, and that I was “too happy”. My story is that I also choose to be strong, happy, and live life. Jody loved life, and all the challenges that were sent his way. To be anything but happy would almost be a disservice to his memories. The moment after Jody passed, his brother looked at me and said, “Jody just saved 8 peoples lives. He is a hero.” I was not ready to say goodbye, but I realized then, that as much as Jody had to look forward to, (his son was just shy of 2 years), his life’s purpose must have been fulfilled. God needed Jody for another job that has to have been huge, to take him away from this job. I am a better person because I got to know Jody. I love knowing that parents of young children can feel that same sense. I love being allowed to hear the story, and in some way be a part of your life too. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Reading about your journey with your precious Gavin has changed mine as well. I know my Emily and I chose to go through what we are dealing with long before we got to earth, too. Hugs! Sarah

  16. Kate. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I shouldn’t have read it at work, I’m in tears now! I am not a mother yet, but if and when I am, I hope I can be just a shred of the incredible woman, role model, caretaker and mommy you sincerely appear to be. Gavin is a reminder to us all, live with peace, purpose and poise. What a beautiful little boy. Love, hugs, prayers and more love. <3

    Holding space for you,

  17. Your life led to you being what Gavin needed. And he in turn was who you needed. My life has mirrored yours in so many ways and diverged in other ways but I find hope and light in your life, words and Gavin’s message. I wish you continued sobriety, love, family and health. You most certainly are deservant and worthy of all of those things. Many blessings.

  18. Sweet, brave Kate. Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t think of the right words to say but please know how you and your sweet Gavin has touched me. Peace to you and your family. Xoxo

  19. This is heartbreakingly real. Life is life, I hurt for the loss of sweet Gavin, and your babies, and your daughter. I’m sorry you’ve been through such loss- and I believe you are teaching the rest of us what life is about, how to move through our journeys. Heaven will be beautiful with your dear sweet children by your side- until then- God Bless.

  20. Oh Kate,

    I hope you feel the love and hearts you have through all of us surrounding you and uplifting you in prayer. We will show up for you. Cry for you and pray for you and your family. Thank you for sharing with us. May God bless you all. Your sweet little Gavin is a game changer, for sure! XO

  21. I read Kate and Gavin’s story on Chasing Rainbows and cried like a baby. The love that this family has is amazing and their true warrior spirit is awe inspiring. I know that they don’t know me, but Kate and her family have been on my mind an in my prayers since the tragedy of Gavin’s death.

  22. Beautiful family and story! You’re faith is so refreshing and encouraging! Thank you xox

  23. Kate, I’ve been wanting to write to you since you were brought into my life. I am the godmother to the mother of the 3-year-old boy in Dallas. You have touched my heart, not only for what you’ve done for my beautiful goddaughter, but all the countless women around the world that you have touched with your courage to put it all out there. I could not believe your story. In fact, someone I read this to didn’t believe it at all – said no one could possibly have had all this happen to her. I had to share this – although I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before. God bless you and your family. What an inspiration you are! You will always have a special place in my heart. I say to you what I always say to my goddaughter – you are amazing and I love you lots. Sue

  24. Wow. Huge hugs to you Kate… You are truly an inspiration… Tears streaming and speachless…. So much love to you and your entire family.

  25. Blessed are you my precious Mama, who’s heart accepted what the Lord gave her with grace, you are blessed, Gavin was such a gift

  26. Bless you


  27. I knew part of your story, Kate, through my recent following of your blog, “Chasing Rainbows”, but I did not know the ‘back’ story – the rapes, the drinking, the eating disorder, etc. In my mind, you join with the courageous women of scripture who used their voice for the glory of God. Thank you for your courage. Just … thank you.

  28. Tears are streaming down my face as I read your story. I have many friends and acquaintences who have struggled to get pregnant and have lost babies in the process, and I am always amazed by their strength and perseverance in the hardest of times. I really loved the perspective you have about sitting down with God before you are born and mapping out your life and your hardships. I had a friend who sat down with me and said these very same words. I’m starting to believe that may be true, and even if it isn’t, it gives me a whole different perspective on how to deal with the challenges and hardships that come my way. Thank you for sharing your story. You have been in my thoughts and prayers ever since Glennon told us about Gavin’s passing. You did so many hard things, and yet you are putting yourself out there. You aren’t hiding under the covers like I probably would cursing at the world and at God while I sit in my tub of bitterness. Thank you. You are a warrior in my eyes!

  29. Oh my. This was amazing to read. You are amazing to have lived it and to come here and share it. Prayers and tears are all I have right now, but holding space for you and yours.

  30. oh dear kate,

    the universe has an ever unfolding love story it’s telling…. this part of it has left an indelible mark on my soul forever.

    you and your precious gavin have changed my life. i am praying for all of your hurt to continue to be overcome by joy, love and peace.

    much love to you warrior.

  31. Dear, beautiful, magnificent Mama Kate, thank you so much for telling your story. Your bravery and strength are evident in the way you’ve chosen to live your life, and most incredibly in the way you’ve embraced your life as a parent. Please know I am praying for you and your family and, even though we’ve never met, I believe we are connected in one of the most special ways possible. As you gave your Gavin over to God on April 14, I was blessed to give birth to my own first child, also named Gavin, on that same day. My prayer for my son is that he can be a helper and healer as your son was, and that he learns the lessons you wrote about in this post – that his mother is flawed, that we all are, but that so much of life’s beauty is found in the midst of those flaws and how we’ve chosen to embrace them and accept them as our own truths. My heart breaks open for you and your sweet family. You are so so loved.

  32. Sweet Mama Kate. Oh how I love you so.
    From one Mama saved by a perfectly imperfect baby boy, to another.

  33. I was so drawn into your story last night. Your ability to endure all you have endured and still show up to be brave and choose love is amazing. My prayers for you and your beautiful family. Your perspective will stay with me. I hope it brings you some comfort to know that your vulnerability and sharing is touching so many people. Thank you.

  34. My whole world was on “pause” as I read every word of that amazing post, Kate. I follow Chasing Rainbows and this post was absolutely, heartbreakingly courageous! Your truth resonates with so many others. Thank you for sharing. You’ll never know how many you saved!

  35. Sweet Jesus that was a doozie. Thanks…

  36. Kate,
    Keep writing and sharing your story. You and Gavin are definitely changing the world for the better. You are The Warrior! I am holding space for you and your family. Love Love Love to You!
    XoXo Susie

  37. Thank you for sharing your life. Much love.

  38. I just recently started reading your blog and after reading this one, I believe more than ever that Gavin was an angel well before he passed away. He was sent here with a purpose and once that purpose was fulfilled, God brought him back home. Now all of us who have been touched by him need to find our purpose. You are a brave soul, Kate. And not for enduring all you’ve been through, but for sharing it with all of us. As they say, God never gives us more than we can handle, but I think it takes an amazing person to share the journey so others can learn from it. Thanks for the gift of Gavin, and you.

  39. Thank you so much, Kate. Your story touched my heart in a very profound way. You are strong beyond words. Your story also touches me because we are also raising a child with a rare genetic immune disorder, which has brought its challenges. Your words have inspired me greatly and deeply.

  40. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Sharing our lives with one another is never easy, but we learn so much when we do. We learn more about ourselves and each other. And when we learn we grow and increase the love and understanding in our world. Gavin is a blessing to us all. He allowed you to find your strength and he allows us to believe that we are capable of more. Prayers of peace and love to all of you!

  41. I read this post and then I burst into tears. I don’t even have words. May God hold you all tight in His loving arms.

  42. […] friend wants to find a man and can’t, world sex trade, child labor, etc… etc… and this. It breaks my heart. All of […]

  43. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is touching and healing beyond words. God Bless

  44. Just love, I’m filled with love and am really at a loss for any other words.

  45. The gift of perspective. Thank you. I weep with you and your family. When my mother and father-in-law lost their 11th child, they had 14, he was a healthy, grown man, I had no words. What my sweet mother-in-law assured me is that there are no words. Like your son, their son donated his organs and they find comfort in that. What a legacy. I wish I could bring you coffee and hug you. Love and happiness to you.

  46. Wow! Just Wow. I am in awe of your strength and the beauty of your soul. Your sons are lucky!

  47. Crying and rejoicing along with you! Thank you for sharing your Gavin with us, what a tremendous gift! Your strength and grace inspires me. I am praying for God’s hand, His love and comfort to be felt on you and your family in a huge way!

  48. So few words I can express right now- but thank you. Thank you Gavin, thank you.

  49. You are beautiful, so is your baby boy. All my love.

  50. Truly moving. Words can’t express how much I appreciate your words.

  51. That is an amazing story of your life and your amazing sons, but your outlook is just so…. good! in the truest sense as a person, a mum, a truthteller. I have faced challenges of divorce with 2 small babies and they saved me from a descent into alcohol and drugs I’m certain of but your attitude to the challenges you faced is inspiring. I love Glennon’s blog and the people she introduces us to, like yourself touch me as a mum in so many ways. Your son lives on in the impact he has on me reading this blog and caring for my children that bit more today, and encouraging my children to care for each other more too. Thank you!

  52. Kate, I fell in love with you and you family reading your blog and just fell all over again with your post. Such deep, moving words. Thank you for baring your truth and sharing yet again.

  53. Kate, I want to tell you that you are truly an inspiration to others. Most of all…Gavin is in my thoughts every day. He is helping to make me a better person, and mother. Much love to such a wonderful family. You are an angel! Also, just wanted to tell you, I am finding every time I see a butterfly I think of sweet Gavin, and think of Brian when I see an angry bird! 😉 God bless…big hugs…

  54. Tears of Love for all heartbrokenopen mamas.

  55. I read your piece this afternoon and was incredibly moved. I cannot imagine the grief you must be feeling, I just lost my dad a week ago and I cannot even comprehend how it would feel to have lost two children. Your honesty is so brave, thank you. I write honestly about my parenting stories and current grief in the blog world and feel so vulnerable exposing myself on the internet through my essays, especially sharing my raw grief with acquaintances via publishing posts on facebook. I am enormously impressed that you are able to shout your story and share your grief with the world. It helps so much to know that none of us are alone in this big world. Sending nothing but good thoughts to you and your family. Thank you.

  56. Kate, this is the most powerful, gutsy post I have ever read. Not just of yours, but in blogland, period. And you are one of the most powerful, gutsy souls I have ever known. That you had the strength to overcome so much before you had Gavin, that you had THE most amazing can-do spirit as his mom, that you kept your grace on throughout these past torturous weeks, continuing to inspire people all over the world to acts of good even as we grieved with you—well, my friend, you are even more incredible than I ever imagined. Your MamaStory will spread yet more inspiration. And I will be claiming these words of yours as my new motto in life: “If I chose to endure hard things in my lifetime, then I chose that for a higher purpose.” xo

  57. Thank you. Glennon and Kate, thank you.

  58. What an amazing story of strength, love and hope. I am so grateful that I got to “meet” you and your family today and listen to your story. You are a beautiful warrior :)

  59. Kate,
    Your story is heartbreaking and your life is beautiful beyond words. Every child born into this world should be blessed with a mom and dad like you and your husband. God bless you and all your precious children. I am going to pray real hard that life begins to shower you with nothing but blessings now- for a long, long time.
    xox Beth

  60. So profound, so wrenching, so truthful. Thank you, Kate. May you continue to have strength and hope and inspiration.

  61. This is one if the most beautiful things I’ve read. Your story, Gavin’s story, and your family’s story have moved me to the core. You all are being held here with so much love.

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