A Goodbye That's Come Too Soon
Honoring the Memory of Gabriel LaBossiere
I got the call Monday morning, May 3rd, from Gabriel LaBossiere's brother EJ. He shared with me the shocking news that Gabe, at just 26, had passed away, unexpectedly. On May 1st, a light went out and an unfinished song went silent in Richmond, VA.
Last week, many of Gabe's friends and coworkers gathered at local vigils to share their stories about and mourn the loss of this young, vibrant soul, whose work at St. Joseph’s Villa Dooley School helped improve the lives and outlook of so many students and families under his care.
I was lucky to be among the friends who met to pay tribute to Gabe on Saturday in an open ball field behind his childhood home. The family's first house. The one I once hoped would (and, indeed, did) move Gabe and EJ beyond the reach of the dangers that lurked in the apartment complex where they lived when we first met.
As we waited for the vigil candles to be passed and the cool wind blustered, pushing cloud clusters over the trees and occasionally past the sun, I remembered throwing the football, laughing, and shooting the breeze around this same field with these two brothers almost 20 years earlier. Though a shy kid, Gabe bubbled with creative energy and humor, which fueled a smile that never quit. His otherwise quiet exterior masked a surprising competitiveness that flared whenever he felt he had to prove he could keep up with his older brother. It seemed Gabe had enough fire to run forever.
That Gabe was building his career around mentoring and helping others overcome difficult situations was maybe the most gratifying outcome of my relationship with him. It is an unbelievable tragedy that he won't be able to continue his work. I mourn for his many students/mentees/client families, friends, and family members who must move on without his love, compassion, humor, creativity, and insight to guide or console them.
Because Gabriel's guest post on the Daddying blog last summer was so powerful and well-received, I had hoped for many more to come. In his honor, we're republishing it this week, in its entirety (including my original introductory note and a link to the song he wrote especially for the piece), to honor his memory and daddying spirit. Our world so desperately needs more voices like his.
We love and miss you, Gabe.
Reposted from August 6, 2020
Be the Role Model You Wanted As A Kid
Guest Post by Gabriel LaBossiere
EDITOR'S NOTE: In early 2002, I was newly single after a canceled engagement, had just quit a soul-crushing PR agency job to become an independent consultant, and was looking for a way to add more meaning to my life. As a former substitute teacher and Little League coach, to me, that meant working with kids in some way. A search for volunteer opportunities led me to New Hope Housing, a Northern Virginia-based, homeless and transitional housing nonprofit. I applied with the intention of being a youth mentor, but their immediate need was for tutors to help adult residents with various life skills. Basically, it would be my foot in the door.
After a few months, one of the coordinators said she had a "big brother" request from a shy, 7-year-old boy named Gabriel. The three of us met, and Gabe interviewed me for the job – over ice cream, I think. Thus began my first comprehensive experience with daddying. At first, I felt like I was there to help fill his time and maybe offer him some fun, creative opportunities he might not otherwise have gotten. The more I got to know him and his living situation, I understood he and his family needed more than I could probably ever give. But just being there for him (and, eventually, his brother) listening to what he had on his mind, and giving him an outlet for his pent-up energy and feelings seemed to be enough. At least, I hoped it was.
Gabe and I haven't seen each other since his high school graduation in 2013, but we've kept in touch. So, when Allan and I launched the Daddying blog and sought to include a diversity of voices, I knew I'd eventually ask Gabe to contribute his family's story. Now, two decades after we met, I'm humbled to read what my former mentee has written below and to see the strong, caring, brilliant young men Gabe and his brother have become.
– Scott Beller, Daddying Editor
I believe we can all learn something from every single person we meet. And if we happen to interact with those people regularly, thereafter, there’s no choice but for the connection to exert a profound and lasting influence in guiding us along our life’s path.
I am fortunate to have met many such guides during my formative years. Those people, I since realized, all seemed to have a few characteristics in common that I cherished then and even more now that I’m older: understanding, patience, compassion, perceptiveness, and reliability. To me, these intangibles were and are as essential as food, clothing, shelter, and security, and are traits I think every kid values in the adults surrounding them.