Huge 250-mile trek for grieving dad who lost his ‘ray of sunshine’
A man who lost his ten-month-old son just before Christmas is determined to raise money for charity and share his feelings of grief to help others suffering with similar heartbreak.
Young Thiago Frederick Leite Gibbs came into the world on February 4 and left it on November 28, leaving his parents Chris and Angelica Gibbs and 11-year-old sister Elisa completely devastated.
Chris said, “In that time he brought joy, love, pleasure and astounded friends, family and medics alike with his incredibly positive attitude to life. We often speak about children being a ray of sunshine. Well my boy really was – and then some.”
Sadly, Thiago was born with complications with his heart and though both University Hospital Stoke and Birmingham Children’s Hospital did everything they could for him in his short life, he died peacefully in the arms of his mum and dad.
Chris said, “He died having achieved more in his ten months than many others do in a far longer lifetime.
“That little fella, despite all the rough hands he was dealt, fought bravely and defiantly.
“I want to be more like him.
“This might sound weird, but he was my hero.”
Chris grew up in Eastbourne, attending Willingdon School, and playing cricket at a club in Pevensey. He has since moved away from the area but plans to start an epic 250-mile walk from the Victoria Pub in Latimer Road, Eastbourne, to the hospital in Stoke-on-Trent where Thiago was born.
The trek will start on June 6 and take Chris a month.
Chris said, “While Thiago was in my life - and spiritually he will always be there - he taught me a valuable lesson, one that I am finally going to heed. That was to focus on the positive, be glass half full rather than glass half empty and do something about the things in life that you can control if it will make life better.”
Chris hopes his journey, in both grief and training for the walk, will help others to come to terms with similar heartbreak and he is inviting like-minded people to join him on the challenge.
He told the Herald, “It’s 282 miles, probably more like 300 plus taking into account all the wrong turns I’ll probably make.
“I’m still in the process of finalising the route with a friend – the indefatigable Jamie Hickey, who has been such an incredible rock to me in my grieving process is helping me with that – but roughly it will take in some of the Sussex Downs from the south coast to London, the Birmingham to London canal path before meeting friends from Birmingham Children’s Hospital for the final northbound section.”
Thiago will never be far from Chris’ mind and he feels the memory of his son’s incredible bravery will help him push through and complete the gruelling trek.
He said, “I’ll be doing this both to remember the son I’ll never get to see grow up and marry and also to raise as much as I physically can for two wonderful hospital charities, which cared for him with such extraordinary levels of compassion.”
Chris has been writing a daily blog since Thiago died and he has found it therapeutic as he goes through the difficult process of grieving for his child. He describes himself as an ‘open person’ who finds it easy to talk about his feelings.
He said, “I understand that not everyone finds that easy. It is something that comes quite naturally to me and I hope, maybe, my blog may help other grieving parents, who may be experiencing the same feelings as me.”
Chris hopes some positive can come from his family’s heartbreaking situation.
In one of his first blog posts of 2020, he wrote, “If there’s one thing that the death of your child does: it’s focus the mind.
“I’m married to a wonderful lady called Angelica and have a beautiful daughter called Elisa, who has just turned 11.
“But I’m also fat and worse than being fat, I’m feeling fat and frankly I’ve been doing very little to alleviate the weight gain for quite a while.
“But you know what, I’m going to give myself a break because my beautiful boy Thiago died at the end of November and we only buried him a week before Christmas.
“He was a week shy of being ten months old when he checked out and ever since, I’ve been an absolute mess.
“Every day is racked with emotional pain. I start the day crying, I end it crying and in between - well you can probably work it out.
“So I thought to myself, what can I constructively do to try and make something good of a thoroughly awful situation?
“I know, I’ll do a 250-mile walk in my son’s memory and raise a truckload of cash for the two hospitals that gave him so much wonderful care in the short time he had with us.”
However, Chris is not usually keen on fitness and has been honest in his blog about the training schedule ahead.
He wrote, “I’m no athlete, I hate running and more than that I hate the cheeriness of healthy people. The only real exercise I like is to be found with a tennis racquet but that’s been getting too infrequent of late and I’ve been kidding myself that it’s okay. Well it’s not and I want to change.”