Nathan James Avila Andaya was a beautiful little boy. With a huge smile, a high pitched little laugh, and eyes that shone with happiness. Everyone who has seen his pictures can agree that these things are true. But above all of this, Nathan was loved.
As I watched the Andaya family say goodbye to Nathan today, I was deeply touched by their sense of faith and family. I do not know them well; in fact I only met them in person today. But I have no doubt that Jaimee and TJ were wonderful parents and that everyday they shared with Nathan was a day filled with love. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming, and evident from the number of people that stood crammed into the chapel to attend the service to celebrate Nathan’s life. I have no doubt that his grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles, and every other person who considered themselves extended family, loved this little boy and were delighted each time they were lucky enough to interact with him. Nathan was loved.
We were allowed to see into his life not only by the images on the screen, but by the words of those that loved him most. I sat with my husband and we listened to family members as they told us why Nathan was so special. Grandpa would get so caught up in playing and enjoying him that he would just decide to call in sick to work and extend playtime. Jaimee’s sister admitted that a visit from TJ & Jaimee without Nathan was met with the question “then why are you even here?!” And Great Grandpa put his own spin on AVM by switching up the acronym to AMV for an Angels Momentary Visit. We watched in awe as TJ played the violin and Jaimee sang “Paradox of Faith.” Nathan was loved.
Today was beautiful. Today was filled with family, friends, love, compassion, faith, balloons, doves, butterflies, sunny skies, and everything good. But the reason to join today, to mourn the loss of this little boy…was unbelievably sad. Throughout it all, Jaimee and TJ were gracious, thankful, and heartfelt in honoring their son. They showed strength of character and of faith that most of us can’t pretend to have. And I can only believe that Nathan was instrumental in making them the courageous people that they are today. These young parents are a testament to what a wonderful little boy Nathan was and will continue to honor his memory and remind people of the “giver” that he was.
I can’t begin to understand the grief and sadness that TJ & Jaimee felt this week and today. Witnessing this beautiful young mother kneel next to the gravesite and weep for her baby boy was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen. I wished more than anything that there was something that could bring her peace and happiness at that moment. But I know she will have it again. She has faith in God that they will see Nathan again.
Today he was laid to rest with his family and friends close by to wish him well as he joined the angels in Heaven. His battle with this AVM is over, and Nathan is no longer suffering with the pain, the treatments, or the uncertainty. Jaimee and TJ are strong in their faith and belief that their little boy is now healed and sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Every member of our AVM family has been touched by the story of baby Nathan. The Andaya family and their struggle has been an inspiration to many of us. As we continue to face our daily AVM journeys, please remember the courageous fighter that Nathan was. May his example provide you strength and encouragement when needed, and may your successes and happy endings be shared in his honor.