Pieces of Gabe

The Pieces of Gabe have helped Tiffany Perry deal with the loss of her son.

Pieces of Gabe
January 12
12:12 2023

Losing a child is the toughest thing any parent will ever have to endure. Nothing could ever erase the pain, but Tiffany Perry has found a way to not only keep the memory of her son Gabriel Kalu alive, it has also helped her ease the pain of his passing.

Kalu died on Dec. 13, 2021. When he passed, his girlfriend wanted to do a balloon release.  When Perry started planning for the balloon release, she decided to put something on the end of the balloon that would tell people what it was for if they found one. She put seed paper on the end with a photo stamp of Kalu with a message.

“I realized I needed something to weigh the balloons down, so I had some craft pads in my closet and put the photo stamp on the front and thought it was kind of nice,” Perry said. “I started making those for the kids for the balloon release and made an Instagram page so once the balloon release was over, they could document where they left their piece or where they brought it.

“Over the months I was planning that and making those, I started to become personally attached to the pieces. As you’re stamping your child’s face over and over again, it was literally like pieces of him. I found it hard in the early days of grief to go places that reminded me of him, which is almost everywhere. I decided to take a piece with me when I went places like that to sort of make it easier on me. I would leave a piece of Gabe with the Pop Tarts, I would leave a piece of Gabe with the Frosted Flakes, with the cheese sticks. I would leave him on the pump at Sheetz that he normally went to when he needed gas.”

Perry said she wanted to put him on the Valentine’s tree in the alleyway beside Boxcar when she saw the photo online. She said the tree had lights and wooden hearts that hung from it and was compelled to hang one of the photo stamps of Kalu on it because he was such a loving child.  

“I took a picture and posted it to the page I had created and some of the kids that were already following the page and also some of my Facebook friends or people that knew me saw it and responded with, ‘well I want a piece to do this or that with,’ or ‘I would like to take him somewhere,’ or ‘I would like to leave him here,’” Perry said about how Pieces of Gabe got started.

Perry said she was a little apprehensive about giving others a piece of Gabe because it had become very personal for her. She reluctantly agreed to let some people take Gabe places and soon afterward she was being contacted by strangers and people who stumbled upon the page and started asking for pieces of Gabe.

“It took on a life of its own and it got to a point where it was definitely no longer about me, it was him,” she said sobbing. “There are people that would reach out to me and tell me their stories about grief. It’s about Gabe, but it’s also bigger than that, too, because there are so many people that have no way to talk about what they are going through.

“In our society, we expect people to get over things. We want to talk about happy things. We want to post about the good times. We don’t want to talk about this. It’s scary, death is scary, and the death of your child is really scary.”

There are still several question marks surrounding Kalu’s death. He was shot leaving a robbery of a vape shop with two other individuals. He made it out of the door and into his car with the two other individuals. Kalu succumbed to the gunshot wound in the car and the other assailants fled.

This was a total surprise for Kalu to be involved in such activity due to the person he was and had never been involved in any similar activity previously.  While at Grimsley, Kalu was an honor student that was a letterman on the varsity cross country team. He also held down a part-time job and had acceptance letters and scholarship offers to several universities. For him to be involved in a robbery was not only a shock to his mother, but also for school staff, students and others who knew him intimately.

“It’s hard for the parents of the kids at his school because nobody thought Gabe would ever do anything like that. They would never think that Gabe would be the one in that news story,” said Perry about her son. “To me, just that fact, it opened up some minds.

“There’s a certain class of people at that school, as far as the parents are concerned. I think that maybe prior to this happening to someone they knew, they would have seen that same news story and said, ‘Well, he got what he deserved; it was a thug and he probably did this every weekend.’  To know him as the person he was and then to see that this could happen to him, I think opened a lot of minds to where maybe when they see a story like that next week, they’re not going to have that same mentality.  

“They’re going to understand that what you see on the surface, as far as someone being shot or someone being killed in a situation  that is unfortunate and that they shouldn’t have been in, doesn’t always mean that this is the life they lived. It doesn’t always mean that they did something to deserve it. Even as messed up as the reasoning may have been, I really believe he was trying to help somebody in the process of doing that.”

For Perry, the Pieces of Gabe helped get that part of the story out about Kalu. At first, Perry did not have the mental strength to deal with or address the negative and racist comments made about her son, but the Pieces of Gabe allowed the truth about Kalu to get out. To date, Perry has sent out more than 2,500 pieces of Gabe. She wants people to know that Kalu wasn’t “just that news story” and wasn’t “his worst mistake.”

Perry did not anticipate the Pieces of Gabe to take off the way it has thus far. She said it was just for her and a few of his closest friends, but quickly felt it was the most spiritual thing she has ever been through.

“It became about Gabe more than it became about me and his close friends. It also became about anyone who held that piece,” she continued.

In less than a year, a Piece of Gabe has made it to all 50 states. There have been Pieces of Gabe that have made it to several international destinations as well. Perry says she joined a Facebook grief page that provides an avenue for her to speak about her son and the situation.

“With the pieces, I would have people at work or people in my inbox speaking of Gabe as if he were still here and that helped a lot,” she said. “I think vulnerability recognizes vulnerability and it gives people an okay to talk about their grief or their hardships. And there was something about Gabe that touched people from so many different backgrounds. Even now, people still feel very personal about his loss and the pieces.”

Perry shared stories about people who carry a Piece of Gabe everywhere they go. She says that has gone a long way to help her with her grief. One of the toughest things she has to deal with now is seeing some of Kalu’s peers growing up and moving on with their lives and also knowing he will never be able to experience that.

Perry wanted to emphasize how her son was always doing for others and had a great heart. He didn’t do things for recognition, awards or honors, but instead felt that’s what you were supposed to do as a human being.  

For more photos or information, please visit or Pieces of Gabe on Facebook.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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