Beloved Rory Staunton

Periscope: Rory Staunton, a beautiful boy, leaves this earth. The hardest column I will ever have to write

My 12-year-old nephew Rory Staunton’s brief life was celebrated in St.Mary’s in Queens, New York yesterday and over 1,200 showed up forcing an outdoor viewing link to be set up.

Rory died in a New York hospital on Sunday last after a toxic bacteria entered his body through an elbow cut received at a basketball game when he fell.

The huge crowd was an extraordinary acknowledgement of the impact of Rory. I saw grown men and women weep.

Many had to turn away from Rory’s parents, my sister Orlaith and brother in law Ciaran, distraught at their sorrow.

Friends I have not seen in decades showed, all bearing witness to the immutable fact that when a child dies a community rallies to the stricken family.

And stricken we are.

Getting up yesterday morning was a painful act, I would have given lots of money to be 1,000 miles away, preferably on an island.

My beloved Rory was dead and a day of sorrow with no peace or joy beckoned.

Yet by the end of it, it was uplifting to feel the love of an Irish community so obviously ready to stand by a family in grief. The rituals of the church, too, on such occasions, have a wonderfully calming effect, providing continuity and sense of perspective.

St.Mary’s was built in 1860, generations of Irish came and prayed, married, and were buried out of that same church. Rory Staunton was just the latest.

My brother in law Ciaran Staunton took the bravest step, eulogizing his own son. He stood before the packed congregation and described the kid he called his “pal,” never his son, who went everywhere with him and was an “unindicted co conspirator” in a number of escapades, most notably when the famously balding Ciaran got Rory to demand of a confused local barber where was the wig his father had ordered weeks before.

But he also talked about the Sunnyside community Rory grew up and prospered in. It really is a slice of new New York where Irish/Jewish and all religious types mix readily.

Rory attended bar mitzvahs, and his Jewish friends helped trim the Christmas tree. The place is an anti-Semites nightmare.
Ciaran described how Rory had prospered at the local non-denominational school, had received an education that showed him windows on the world, and most recently,Ciaran had found a letter to the North Korean government in which Rory had demanded that they explain their hideous policies.

How Ciaran pulled it off I don’t know. He has been so overcome with grief that I feared that he wouldn’t even make it to the church door.

I spoke about the love Ciaran and Orlaith had for each other which sustained them even during their dark night of the soul.

I spoke about my sister and Rory and the little love notes he left her around the house and the chats they had about college and his next big move in life.

I spoke about Kathleen, already missing her big brother and her hero and how brave she has been.

Now it is on to Ireland and the long journey home for Rory who will be buried with his beloved grandmother in Drogheda on Easter Monday.

For Ciaran and Orlaith it will be the last leg of a nightmare week that will be seared in their hearts forever.

I hope Ireland and family there will work its magic, as if often does, and ease their pain.

A tribute to Rory created by his classmates: