Friday, December 02, 2005

Rites of Passage

NOTE: I've simplified the template a little in order to speed up the blog's glacial load-time. I'll probably leave it like this for a while. Individual posts may look a bit weird, owing to an HTML error I made but have since corrected, until I have a chance to republish the entire blog.

I figured it was time for a new post here, although I still won't be ready for regular posting for a few more days (and, strangely enough, that's more an artifact of all the people around us and our comings and goings than a lack of anything to say -- my "blogging brain" has been quietly filing stuff away the last day or two, saying "Wow, I gotta post about that!").

First, I'd like to publicly thank the members of the Buffalo Prefecture of Blogistan, a few of whom I actually met in person at Little Quinn's viewing last night. I'm becoming more and more fond of Warren Ellis's contention that "the Internet is made of people", and last night I met a few of the people who make up this strange but wonderful Internet thingie. I'd like to single out Jennifer, who took it on herself to be a coordinator of sorts for the Buffalo Prefecture of Blogistan's response to Little Quinn's death.

The viewing itself was a pretty surreal affair. One of our concerns was that Little Quinn wouldn't look "right", not because he's dead but because when he was sleeping, his cerebral palsy resulted in him sleeping in fairly specific positions: his big tendency was to turn his head slightly to the right, and his mouth would take on this "crooked" little frown-thing. But somehow, the funeral people got that exactly right, and for quite a while last night I expected him to just suddenly stretch, like he often did while napping. Alas.

I also found myself trying to comfort others more than I myself needed to be comforted. That's not to say I didn't lose it a few times, because I did, but the balance between tears and smiles seems to finally be tipping the other way. After the viewing, we went out with The Wife's family to a restaurant/sports bar near our home for a few drinks. That was a very nice time. The Daughter played foosball for the first time, I introduced my family members from Idaho to Yuengling's, and the Sabres won in OT. That last one actually disappointed me a little, because I wanted to see one of this new-fangled "shootout" whatzits that are all the rage in hockey this year, but there'll be other games.

Today is the funeral. I'm not really sure what to expect. I'm sure it will be, by turns, gut-wrenching and uplifting. Right now, though, I think I'm almost ready for the return to silence. It's been a long week.

What follows is something I wrote that will be distributed as part of the bulletin for Little Quinn's funeral.

He was fifteen months old, and he had only just started to find his voice, to reach for things that caught his eye, to lift his head and to hold my gaze. He was only starting to know our touch. He was only starting to know us...and then he was gone. And after forty-one days in the hospital when he was born, and nine more this summer when he had bronchitis, after being intubated so many times and after having two surgeries...for him to leave us as he did, in the shortest of moments and so quietly, has made me wonder if he was ever here at all. I sometimes wonder if we ever had a son, if Haley ever had a brother, or if it was all some dream that lasted too long and yet ended too soon.

But he was here. He was here, and he taught us more about what matters in life than we could have learned if we could somehow read all of the words of wisdom written in all the books in all the world. He taught us strength; he taught us which battles to fight; he taught us that, having chosen our battles, we should never yield in fighting them; he taught us true fear and true hope, true despair and true light, true anger and the truest love we have ever known.

And he did all that in fifteen months.

How strange it is that I, having spent all of my life in the company of teachers, would learn the most from this little baby who spent both too long and too short a time trapped in a body he could never quite bend to his will.

I know that Quinn was here after all, and not just in the things he taught me, but in the people he brought into our lives. It is tempting to imagine what things would have been like had he been born completely healthy. Right now he'd be a toddler, standing up, babbling instead of cooing, eating Cheerios with his hands instead of taking formula through a stomach tube. He would be doing all of those things, and we'd be cheering him on – but we wouldn't know any of the nurses who have come into our home to care for him when we've been at work. We wouldn't know any of the therapists who helped him to learn to roll or what it is to sit. We wouldn't know the wonderful couple who took it on themselves to babysit a disabled infant when there was no one else. We wouldn't know any of the people who have given so freely and lovingly of their time and talents to help a family desperate for time to heal. Friendships might still have been made, but perhaps not so deeply or strongly. Our lives have become filled with angels and saints, and like that star in the west two thousand years ago, Quinn showed us the way.

In the darkest of Quinn's moments, when I have felt more alone and helpless than I thought anyone ever could, I would find myself wishing that none of it had ever happened. But then I turn, as I always have, to the books I have read or the movies I've seen, and I remember the words of two wizards. One, from a story about a hobbit and a gold ring, who said: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us." And the other, from a tale about a girl from Kansas who only wanted to go home: "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." By that measure, Quinn had the finest heart I have ever known, and I weep now not so much for myself, but for a world in which that heart is no longer beating.

And finally, I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this in the blog or not, but the one physical feature of Little Quinn's that always received the most comment was, believe it or not, his eyelashes. I tried getting a good photo of them once, with somewhat mixed results, but his eyes sure came out wonderfully:

I've never been sure about my own religious beliefs, but I'd be dishonest if I didn't note that I feel like those eyes are watching me now, and that I want so much to see them again one day.

UPDATE, 4 December 2005: For those arriving on this post as your initial visit to this blog, welcome aboard. The initial post on the death of Little Quinn can be found here. Also, on the main page, there is a section of the sidebar entitled "Notable Dispatches", wherein can be found links to more posts about the life of Little Quinn and the struggles that he experienced in his short life.

And for regular readers, I plan to return to posting this week -- perhaps as soon as Monday.

Thanks for reading.

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