Above is a picture of the sign that the zoo unveiled today announcing Jamie's name. Although we knew that we had a lot of support and we'd received a lot of positive feed back throughout this entire process, until we found out for sure we never quite believed that it would happen. Thank all of you for your support and for all of your entries! The Zoo received over 5,000 entries for the contest and 71% of the entries it received were for Jamie or some variation of James. I cannot express in words what this means to us. We never expected this kind of response. The Zoo told us they received entries from all over the country, and it is extremely gratifying to know that all of you were thinking of James. I can only imagine how thrilled James would be to learn that he had a giraffe named for him, even if I'm sure he'd be disappointed that it wasn't the kind of giraffe you could chew.
The Zoo invited us to the ceremony today where they announced the name and were very accommodating. We'd been to the zoo before, but in the morning it is largely empty and takes feels different, more open. The animals are more active, and the giraffes are everywhere. The Giants of the Savanna exhibit is interesting because, as I learned today, it is the first and only place in the United States where Elephants, Ostrich, Giraffes, Zebras, and Impalas roam freely together. It's really unique, something we had no idea about when we first brought James. We were able to feed one of the Giraffes, though Jamie stayed just out of our reach- she's a little short for the feeding exhibit yet. I'd wanted to go to the zoo before to see Jamie but I couldn't bring myself to, too many memories. The Jeep where we took the picture of James that used to sit atop this blog, the Penguin exhibit where he expressed such wonder at the animals flitting past him, and of course the giraffes. He loved their long black tongues, probably because they were so unexpected, he seemed especially impressed at how quick they were. Going back today was better, helped along as we were by the staff of the zoo. The event reminded me yet again that the joy in James' life matters more than the grief of his loss. The staff of the zoo was incredibly gracious to us, even letting me into the employee parking lot when I couldn't figure out how to work the gate, and we're glad we had the opportunity to meet them, from the CEO to Jamie's handlers who informed us that Jamie, like James, is far from shy. Jamie likes to run right at you, and she's not afraid to jump between the different ledges of the zoo- even if giraffes and jumping don't really mix. We felt very welcome.
We were also very pleased to find out that the person who won the trip- selected at random from all of you who sent in the name Jamie- chose to donate the trip to the Make a Wish Foundation. Thank you, whoever you are. Even though James was too young, and sick for too brief a time to take advantage of this foundation we hope that another family faced with losing their child will have the opportunity to make some beautiful memories in San Diego. Our last few days as a family with James, our last few hours, are memories we will treasure forever. It is fitting that another family get the opportunity to do the same. While we're at it, thanks to American Airlines for donating the trip. This totally makes up for the time you lost my luggage.
Grief, by its very nature, is a largely solitary experience. It occurs out of sight and mostly out of mind, stolen moments and tears in the privacy of your home, behind closed doors or tinted windows on the freeway. The direction that loss tugs is always inwards, towards memories slowly growing stale and experiences that cannot be recreated. The tendency is to dwell on these moments, and to remove external influences for fear that the new will drive out the old, and rob you of your memories. The narrative becomes repetitive, stuck in the minutia of what once was and reflecting upon what is not. Turning outwards often becomes a source of pain, a grim reminder of loss. The world beyond is lacking, and the absence of what you most want, of what you yearn for, becomes keen. It is absorbing, consumptive of your thoughts and time. It's a feeling that is hard to translate into words, because often it produces few words, just raw emotions that refuse to be properly articulated. Since James died, events like this, the response to his fund, and a hundred other things remind us that we are not alone, that looking outside does not need to be a source of dread. Knowing that James lives on not only in our hearts but in so many others is a reminder that our grief, and our son, are not without purpose. That is not to say that grief cannot still be lonely- it is- but that's not the whole story. It doesn't have to be. There is something more, a legacy that James left that exists beyond us. Thank you for that, and for Jamie. As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers