Very suddenly, and very peacefully, Little Quinn passed away this morning.
It is sunny and warm in Buffalo today -- but not for us.
UPDATE: Welcome to readers from Dr. Myers and from whomever else may be linking this. Of all the ways I would have picked to get lots of blog traffic, this is one that I would never have chosen. But I am truly grateful for all the support out there in Blogistan, which mirrors the support we are receiving in real life. Many lives were touched by Little Quinn in the course of his struggles, and it strikes me now, at the end, that had he been born perfectly healthy and lived the normal life of an infant and then-toddler, many wonderful people would never have entered our lives at all.
By way of details: I rise for work at 6:30 a.m., and generally leave the apartment between 7:10 and 7:15 a.m., for my shift that begins at 7:30. While I was puttering around and getting ready, I could hear Little Quinn's breathing (he's always been a loud breather, due to his many secretion and respiratory issues). However, when The Wife arose upon the chiming of The Daughter's alarm clock at 7:30, she checked Little Quinn and found that he was not breathing. She called me at work fifteen minutes later; I arrived home again shortly after that -- passing the ambulance on the road -- and waited with the phone for that final call from the ER, which came at around 8:10.
The day has offered many smaller consolations: the warm embraces and shared tears with friends new and old; the thanks given to the therapists who taught him so much, and the thanks they gave us for having allowed them to work with him; the comments by the ER docs and nurses that they could see just from the way Little Quinn looked that he was well cared-for.
As for me, this is the least angry I have felt in all the days since Little Quinn was born. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I hope it's something good.
For those new to this blog, I have links to previous posts about Little Quinn and his struggles in the sidebar under "Notable Dispatches" (this section of the sidebar only exists on the blog's main page -- click the masthead image, or the link below). Further posting this week will be sporadic at best, for obvious reasons -- but I have no intention of abandoning or closing this blog. Writing in this space has enriched my life in too many ways for me to stop now, even if right now life is very, very sad. I have to believe that one way or another, I and my family will find our way back. We're kind of pigheaded that way.
UPDATE II: Yesterday morning, when Little Quinn died, it was sunny and warm. Today, when The Wife and I went to pick his plot in the cemetery, it is dreary and rainy. If my life is a movie, I'm starting to wonder just who my scriptwriter is.
A death notice will appear in tomorrow's Buffalo News with the details on the viewing and the funeral. Between now and then, we have three different trips to make to the airport to pick up relatives, calls to make to various home health care companies to arrange the return of Little Quinn's medical equipment, and just generally alternating between embracing the sadness and beating it back with a broomstick. Oh, and tomorrow night, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is on. We're not going to make grief the centerpiece or our lives, nor are we going to eschew Christmas in favor of constructing a de facto shrine in our living room. It will hurt immeasurably to know that Little Quinn won't get to see his first Christmas tree (for various logistical reasons, we didn't have one last year), but the tree is going up, the cheesy TV shows will be watched, gifts will be exchanged, music will be listened to, and hymns and carols will be sung. There's too much life still to be lived. I find myself thinking of this exchange from The Fellowship of the Ring:
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
And although this will by no means be the last time I say this, I'd like to thank everyone who has dropped by and left good wishes either in the comments or in my e-mail. Words may seem inadequate to you, but to me, I treasure each and every one of them. Warren Ellis occasionally likes to note that "The Internet is made of people", and that is absolutely true.
EDIT: Slightly edited for clarity.
UPDATE III, 30 November 2005: Little Quinn's death notice appears in the Buffalo News today, and can be found online here. At the risk of repetition, the outpour of well-wishes is appreciated greatly.
The incongruity of life's events continues to fascinate: a coworker of mine actually gave birth to a healthy boy at around the same time that Little Quinn was making his exit from this world, and just about an hour ago The Wife and I met with The Daughter's first-grade teacher for her annual parent-teacher conference. The Daughter continues to do well in school, although we've just learned that she tends to hold up the class line to and from the classroom because for some reason she refuses to step on the cracks in the tile-square floor -- that old thing about "Step on a crack, break your mother's back", I suppose.
I also had prints made of just about every photo that exists on the hard drive of Little Quinn. I'm looking at some of these photos for the first time in months, and the degree of progress he made in his short time is truly remarkable. One blessing of him having lived such a short life is that our memories of him are so much fresher, and so much more intense. Looking at all these photos, I can remember almost perfectly when each one was taken.
There are moments still when the pain suddenly rises up, seemingly out of nowhere. But it always subsides again, and I find myself able to laugh with others.
Those who have read this blog for a long time know that I tend to draw associations between my life and things I read, see in movies, hear on television, and the like. I remember this little homily, offered in an episode of The West Wing, from Leo McGarry to Josh Lyman when Josh got into a bit of trouble:
This guy's walking down a street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep. He can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up "Hey you! Can you help me out?" The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole! Our guy says "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here!" and the friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."
My point is this: we're in a hole now, but we're gonna find our way out. And if someone else falls into the same hole someday, we'll get down there with them, because we'll know the way out.
For now, the shock and initial sadness has mostly worn away, and now it's the little things: catching myself listening for his breathing, wondering how long it's been since his last feeding, thinking that I should probably get a load of diapers into the wash. But just as it's the little things that make me sad now, it's the little things that I'll take with me and will keep me going.
Stephen King once wrote that he sometimes answers the question of how he writes with "One word at a time", under the logic that the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time. The big things in our lives, when we think about them, are just lots of little things in one big bundle.
Anyway, the family members are arriving, one by one.