Today I am writing a message I never thought I would write, and wish I never had to. I'm writing it for myself, and for anybody who reads it; perhaps so they converse with their family and re-prioritize their lives and habits.
A week ago, on February 18th, 2009 I lost my nephew, Tony Shirley-Tecumseh. He was 2 years and 10 months old. His death was sudden and tragic. Witnessed by his entire family, including his sister who is not quite 7 years old. I keep trying to tell myself that the colors of the world are brighter after traversing the darkest valleys, but I never knew the depth of darkness that people must endure.
I can only hope that this story can inspire and remind the parents of the world that they have the most precious gifts around. For now, I've witnessed and experienced the worst days imaginable, and I now patiently wait for time to heal the broken hearts.
Tony choked, and there isn't anything profound to add. More than 2,800 people die from choking every year, the vast majority of them children under 3 years old. If you have kids, please be safe and reduce the chances of choking. While in Tony's case, even having the most advanced first aid care would not have made any difference, please go and take first aid and CPR courses -- other cases will be different, and you may be able to save a life. This is especially important if you're around children. Being prepared is the first step to preventing tragedy.
The day before Tony died, I started the first day of a first aid course for adults, children and infants. I'm now shocked and ashamed it took me until my own son was 2 and a half years old to enroll. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my course to attend to my family. I don't know how I will muster the strength to continue and re-enroll, but I will do it.
The most important message of all is to just experience life. Please, I beg of you all, even more so if you are a parent, partake in lives of the children around you. Partake in their favorite activities. Play catch, draw a picture, go ride a bike. If you can, video tape it. My brother fortunately had a lot of video footage of his family, and it was a splendid but difficult reminder of the fantastic little boy we lost. I didn't get to know Tony as well as I wanted, and the videos help to keep his memories fresh, and enhance the knowledge I have of the little guy.
To bring about any positives from this situation is, at the moment, the only solace I can take. While nothing will change the situation, I do take a significant amount of comfort in knowing that some parents will be forever altered after hearing this story, and their depth and understanding of love is increased, and their responsibilities as parents are bettered.
Please cherish the time you have with your children.
We all die someday. The greatest tragedy in life is a parent burying a child. The innocence and blissful naivety is never tainted, but the bright flame of their life does not fully develop and mature, affecting everyone they encounter along life's journey. Tony was a beautiful child, with such a tender and giving heart and blissful spirit. The world would have been better for knowing him.
In the wake of any tragedy, I think it is important to try to learn lessons and turn the grief and anguish into actionable motivation.
My motivation is to encourage anybody that is moved by this story, in any way, to make a monetary donation to the Child's Play Charity. Please help the kids who are holding on to life, or fighting for it, or simply waiting out the rest of their days. Do it for me, do it for my little adorable nephew, do it for my brother. Do it for the kids around you. This charity deserves it.
The reasons for this specific charity are two fold. First, because I believe it to be a good charity with a worthy cause. I've met the people behind it, and believe them to be of the same tender and warm spirit that Tony possessed. They demonstrate the rare trait of true and selfless generosity.
Their goal is worthy; children in the hospitals need distractions and something to bring joy.
The second reason is simple and personal. My brother enjoys video games. My little nephew would struggle to keep up with his sister on Wii Fit and loved to watch them play.
Rest in peace, Tony. We will all miss you.