|Kathleen Staunton, Rory Staunton and Alana O’Dowd at the end of January,|
2012, at the United Irish Counties dinner in Queens.(Credit:Margaret Purcell)
One year ago, on April 1, 2012, death, like a thief in the night, stole my beloved nephew Rory Staunton. He was 12-years-old and like the season he died in, was full of promise. The thrill of life was everywhere about him.
Death is always an unwelcome guest, but when it claims the young and the brilliant it seems especially unfair. There is no sense to it, only a numbing reality every day that a boy once and always loved by those who knew him has gone forever.
Rory was not made for death. He was on his way to manhood, already 5’10”, broad shouldered, strapping, outgrowing my sister, his mother Orlaith, soon catching up on his father Ciaran, who was already complaining about shirts disappearing and shoes borrowed.
My favorite picture of Rory was taken a couple of months before he passed at the United Irish Counties dinner in New York. He stands with his arms around the shoulders of his sister Kathleen and my daughter Alana, towering over them.
It is a protective pose, one Rory easily adopted as a child wise beyond his years. In his gleaming eyes and happy smile you see the future reflected.
Then he was gone. He was felled by a cut, an infection and a hospital and doctors that misread the warning signs on seven different occasions.
Their neglect was so great it featured in articles on the front page of The New York Times. Out of the horrific tragedy his parents fashioned a strategy – that no other child should die of such neglect.
Through their incredible courage and hard work Rory’s Law will shortly be signed into being in New York and soon, we hope, around the country and the world. The law will protect children in emergency rooms and spread the word about sepsis, the eminently curable disease, if identified in time, that killed Rory.
Rory has already saved lives. Letters to his parents recount how several parents insisted on returning their children to emergency rooms when they read about Rory and suspected their child had the same condition.
Here is one example: “Rory's story saved my child's life!! I prayed to God as well as Rory on Saturday and thanked him, for without him, I wouldn't have been aware that a child could die from a cut on the arm! I am so sorry for your loss! Thank you for putting Rory's story out there.”
There are many such stories, and there will be many more, we hope, in the months and years ahead as the Rory Staunton Foundation (www.rorystaunton.com) goes from strength to strength.
But none of it will bring Rory back. The grief of losing a child is incomprehensible.
What are children but our little ambassadors to the future? They are beloved envoys who will tell of our lives when we are gone, and keep our memories alive for generations to come.
They will comfort us as we age, know every sorrow of our changing faces, accept us for what we are, fight with us, love with us, grow with us and educate us.
Rory was all that and more, described by one of his teachers as the most profound young man he had ever taught.
We all had looked forward so much to seeing a child called Rory Staunton grow up. He had that kind of extraordinary potential.
Now, we who are left behind must struggle to tell Rory’s story, his race run far too soon, but a strange thing has happened. Others have taken up the burden, and Rory’s story has spread far and wide and has saved lives.
Think of him this Easter, a time of blessed renewal when flowers bloom and dreams begin and the future looks bright once more after winter’s dark days.
Rory is part of that now, forever young in our hearts, forever beloved. Sweet afterlife, you beautiful boy.