This week marks the one year anniversary of the death of my brother-in-law, Conor Lyons. He died on July 13, 2010 at just 47 years old. He was diagnosed with lung cancer last February and left us for heaven just five months later. He suffered tremendously. And in watching his pain and his struggle, we suffered too. In fact, while his suffering is now over, ours continues.
He was a major presence in our lives. For years, he lived right around the corner and walked our dog every morning. EVERY morning. He started this routine when our daughter Ciara was born in October 2006 and continued until he could walk no more last spring. In addition to walking our dog, he was always around to take a tot to preschool or help feed the triplets. Conor's hands never held a baby of his own, but often held one of ours when help was needed most -- for that 11PM or 6AM bottle, when we were exhausted and in desperate need of extra hands. We never asked; he just appeared like an angel, which is the way so many people remember him.
Conor was gentle, loving and kind. He was a gifted musician and a patient, talented teacher. He promised to teach our oldest son Liam, now six, to play the guitar. A few months ago, Liam just started bawling out of the blue. "What's the matter?" we asked. "Uncle Conor promised to teach me the guitar and now he can't," he sobbed. Such sadness. Such loss. And so deeply understood by this little guy -- a child struggling to understand death and its permanence, much in the same way we struggle ourselves.
When Conor died, I decided I would find a book to explain it to the kids. To fix it. To make us all feel better. I really thought that such a book existed -- a soothing tale to explain it all and take away our hurt and pain and sadness. I searched high and low and settled on "The Dead Bird", by Margaret Wise Brown, figuring that the woman who gave us "Goodnight Moon" as our go-to manual for sweet dreams could certainly do the same for life and death... right?