I have been overwhelmed by e mails and letters about Rory Staunton, my 12-year-old nephew who tragically passed from a toxic bacterial infection in New York on April 1st.
Many of the letters are from families who underwent such heartrending events themselves.
They are all heartfelt and profound and fill me full of admiration for the honesty and rawness they proclaim and how they offer advice on how to cope.
They describe their own struggle to cope, some describe their haunted sense that if they had done something differently it would not have ended up in the death of their child.
They are wrong to blame themselves of course, but as one person wrote, "the future was stolen from us, all our hopes and dreams."
Several close friends relayed family tragedies to me that I never knew about.
One described the death of a sister, another, a niece killed on her 16th birthday, another whose son's child died and the distraught mother later committed suicide.
I feel like I have been introduced to something hiding in plain sight, the tragic losses at the hearts of so many families who bear the burden so silently and heroically in many cases.
Since Rory died I have been enveloped in a new reality that will change me for ever.
Watching him pass away was the worst weekend and event of my life.
What was looking like a totally humdrum New York weekend was shattered by a knock on my door at 5.a.m and an urgent call to rush to the hospital.
I had known earlier in the week that Rory was running a temperature and frankly, had not thought much about it. These things happen to kids all the time.
I literally took a step back and felt my legs go weak when Greg, the boyfriend of my niece, informed me how sick he suddenly was.
I had to close the door on him to pull myself together, I had to stop my heart racing frantically.
My wife Debbie was equally unbelieving. This wasn't really happening was it? Our Rory at death's door?
From then on unreality took over. The visit to the hospital and the intensive care unit, the increasingly grim prognosis as the virus did its deadly work, the desperate efforts to save him.
I know now it is a scene that was repeated for so many over the years, among those who wrote to me. It is one I will never wish even on my greatest enemy.
I thank those readers for starting a conversation and for making me understand what had never been so clear before.
When death came like a thief in the night and takes a child nothing will ever be the same again.
A tribute to Rory created by his classmates:
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