The word “surprise” characterizes key parts of a new memorial site at Most Holy Trinity Parish, most especially the 4-year-old it honors.
SOLT Father Brady Williams blessed the Griffin E. Gaspard Memorial site Dec. 22. Some 70 family members and friends from the parish and school gathered for the blessing.
It was one more way to celebrate the life of the youngest Gaspard who was days away from starting preschool when he died.
“Griffin was our gift from God, both unplanned and unexpected yet he gave our family balance,” his dad, Rob, said, drawing from a prepared reflection during the blessing.
“When God called him, we were completely shocked,” Rob said.
Yet he recalled that day in August last year when he and his wife Missy were with Griffin in the hospital after their barely 4-year-old son fell into the pool. They took turns holding him and felt an overwhelming presence and calm come over them. It stretched head to toe.
“Some may call this numbness, but our faith tells us it was more than that,” Rob told the crowd.
They quietly circled around the largely shaded memorial garden. It’s sandwiched between the parish office and perpetual adoration chapel.
Rob recalled a reader at his son’s funeral talking about finding a new normal. He said it felt a new normal to have three children. The Gaspards had embraced life with Griffin and were used to having four.
Now back to three on earth Rob expressed confidence that the memorial site wasn’t solely a “Griffin place.”
“It’s not just ours. This space will not just be for our family, but will be an integral part of Most Holy Trinity,” Rob said.
He said it’s an additional place for Catholics to sit and reflect on the promise of God’s family.
“It is that embrace that will make the difference,” he said, drawing upon a key word from Griffin’s memorial plaque.
The split wooden plaque staked within a small circular prayer garden reads “Embrace life with God like our most awesome Griffin Eliot Gaspard.” His dad explained to The Catholic Sun that the split wood is designed to somewhat capture water with each rainfall to ultimately form a teardrop down the front of the plaque.
An Army of architects designed and built the memorial. That included Griffin’s godfather who helped make the bench.
One end of it reads “from Griffin with love.” The name bears the likeness of the preschooler’s handwriting. The design team lifted it from a Father’s Day card. A likeness of his footprint is stamped on the bench’s backrest.
“This site will be a symbol of life: of life that Griffin had while he was here… and a reminder of our true home to where God is calling us,” Fr. Williams, pastor, said during the dedication.
He highlighted other symbolism surrounding the site, some planned, others not. Fr. Williams noted the garden’s fig tree and its proximity to the St. Augustine Youth Center. It’s under a fig tree where the scholarly saint had his conversion, he said.
“I think surprise is a thing that will continue to happen when people come to sit and contemplate Griffin’s life and to contemplate the Lord,” Fr. Williams said.