Today is my nephew's feast day. Seven years ago today he died, at the age of six. A few years earlier, he had been in an automobile accident with the rest of his family due to the actions of a drunk driver. Bobby's spinal cord was severed and he was a quadrapilegic from the time he was 3 years old until his death.
But my nephew's story is not a tragedy at all. In fact, his story ties in very well to current events, because his story is one of the value of human life and that "quality of life" does not depend upon one's physical capabilities.
Bobby was one of the smartest, most charming boys many had ever met. He had an incredible smile and a special love for his family, partiularly his younger brothers and sisters. I clearly remember that he had not lost the ability to be a typical older brother. There he would be, laying still on his hospital bead, neck flinging from side to side watching his little sister run around him. His mom tells the story of how he would yell out, "Got you, Katie, you're in a cage!" And she, being a year younger and highly impressionable, would sit still and cry because Bobby had put her in a cage. She would beg her mom, "Help me, Mommy!" Her mom would tell her to just get up, nothing was stopping her! But no, she insisted that she was in a cage because Bobby put her there. And there laid Bobby, snickering over his clever move.
His mom also reiterates the stories of the many nurses who cared for him being wrapped around his little finger. It would be 2:00 a.m. and a nurse would quietly knock on her bedroom door, saying, "I'm just going to run to Taco Bell. Bobby wants some." My sister-in-law would get up and say, "What? Tell him no, he can't have any!" But his nurses just didn't want to say no to the charmer they had in their patient.
Family gatherings always had Bobby present in the center of the room, with Bobby laid out on his Jurassic Park sleeping bag. He would be carried or dragged from room to room on that sleeping bag, loving every minute of it. I remember every family meal his mom or dad would be right beside him, spoon or hand feeding him the different meals offered.
Bobby was the ringbearer in my wedding. His mom wheeled him down the aisle and he held the pillow in his lap. He was so proud, and so were we. He loved dinosaurs, and was very smart in school. He loved to paint pictures...holding the paintbrush in his teeth. His pictures are really very good, better than those of other kids his age who painted with their hands.
Sure it was a struggle. There were many boughts with pneumonia and many stays in the hospital. His breathing tube had to be cleared out of mucus regularly, and sometimes infections would take over. For a period of 5 weeks he was in a coma, with his family wondering if he would come out and be their little boy again. He eventually did, giving testament to the virtues of patience and hope in his doctors.
Bobby died on this day in 1998, and as his life proved to be valuable, redeeming, and hopeful, so was his death. Whereas many families fall apart after the death of a child, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were proof that a life of faith can provide strength never before seen or known. His funeral Mass was one of celebration because we knew he was in Heaven, running into the arms of Jesus.
Today I went to my in-laws house to give them a card and to give my sister-in-law some butterfly earrings. On my way out to their house, through some miraculous miracle of the season, we saw at least 500 butterflies flying through the air. Bobby loved butterflies, and so his family always thinks of him when they see butterflies. But it was actually on the day of his funeral that his love of butterflies was revealed to be so significant. On the inside of his memorial card, was this poem:
Consider the Butterfly...
A message of Hope
A gentle reminder
Of God's unfailing love.
Does the Caterpillar ever dream
That one day he will
Break the bounds of earth
And soar above in a brand new,
A body far more glorious
Than the one he formerly inhabited?
God promises us brand new bodies
Far more beautiful, far more glorious
Than the ones we formerly inhabited
To live forever when we believe
in Jesus Christ.
Happy Feast Day, Bobby! We love you.