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The Mayor of Little Shoes Lane [2/22/2001 -- 2/20/2003]

by GreyHawk Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:00:57 PM EST

The following is a true story. The names of people and places have been changed to protect the privacy of the family, and clipart (some modified) from wpclipart.com was used to replace actual photographs.

"TJ" was born on February 22, 2001. He died on the 20th of February, 2003. He was the eldest child of a small family, and big brother to his infant sister Liz. They all lived on a street we'll call Little Shoes Lane, in a small town in New England. At the funeral mass for TJ, his father spoke briefly about his son. He wanted the people who had never met TJ to get an idea of what he was like, and why he would be so sorely missed.

This text was inspired by those words, and is dedicated to the memory of TJ, penned by a sad uncle in February 2003.

TJ and Lizzy were brother and sister. Their parents were, of course, Momma and Daddy, and they all lived in the big blue house on Little Shoe Lane.

TJ was almost two years old - nearly a big boy, by his standards.

He loved to go for walks with his mother and sister in the afternoons. He'd walk beside the double stroller, which held his little sister, and smile at everything and every one he saw. His neighbors would smile, and watch the little procession as it made it's way down the street. They would often comment to one another "There goes the Mayor," referring to how TJ proudly walked along.

There was very little traffic on Little Shoe Lane. It was a dead-end street - ideal for families to raise children, as cars did not go whizzing by the way they often did on "through" streets. TJ loved all his neighbors. They opened their hearts and their homes to him. His endearing smile radiated warmth and wonder, eliciting more smiles in return.

Often, when he would play ball outside with his father Daddy, he would hear the neighborhood kids playing tackle football next door. He'd take off running and disappear under the fence to stand on the sidelines and watch. Daddy would come to him and say "OK, TJ - let's let the other kids play, and go home now," but the neighborhood children would object. They'd ask TJ to play, and give him the ball - then they would all pretend to try and tackle him, missing wildly of course.

TJ laughed with delight at the game.

He loved many sports - football and hockey were the best. Daddy took him to hockey games sometimes. If the TV was playing a sports game and bedtime approached, TJ would ask his father to read him a book so that he wouldn't have to go right to bed. Sometimes he'd get caught peering around the side of the book to continue watching the game, and he'd have to go to bed anyway. Some nights, he got to watch the whole game.

When TJ first learned to crawl and to walk, he began to say "uh oh" whenever something or someone fell over or went "bump" (usually him). As his skills and coordination developed, he was less often the cause of the "uh oh". His delight in recognizing that "bumps" could be from something or someone other than himself often led to him happily uttering "uh oh" to show that he knew the difference.

TJ and Liz had many cousins: KE, Jed, Kat, and Jay, as well as Kate, Matt, and KiKi. He saw them often, and enjoyed playing with them. He also loved his role as a big brother - he'd kiss Liz's feet, as he'd watched parents do, to make her laugh. And he often gave her hugs.

He never displayed any jealously whenever another child - neighbor or cousin, or even a stranger's child - played with one of his toys. He delighted in the fact that someone was playing and having fun, and wanted to share.

TJ used to love to hide when his father would return from work. As Daddy would come into the basement from the car, he'd hear the "thud thud thud thud thud" of TJ' shoes running across the floor to hide. Daddy would get upstairs, and say "Where's TJ? Is he under the table?"...Nope. And the couch would laugh. "Where's TJ? Is he behind the chair?".... Nope. And the couch laughed again, a bit louder this time. Then TJ would burst out from behind the couch and give his dad many happy hugs.

One day, TJ got sick. His parents took him to the doctor, who checked him all over. It appeared that TJ had a flu-like virus. His parents took him home, and made sure that they followed the doctor's instructions to help him feel better.

He was sick for several days. One night, he was very, very sick. His parents took him to the emergency room.

The doctors there ran several tests. The tests would allow them to see if anything serious had developed, or if the illness was just a very strong flu. The tests came back negative; that meant that nothing more serious was found. His parents took TJ home.

The next day, he began to look and act a little better. Later that day, however, his illness got worse. He tried to pick up his hockey stick, and couldn't find the strength. He became very lethargic. His parents became even more worried.

They rushed him to the pediatrician's office. His doctor told them they needed to take him to the big hospital - he'd become very seriously ill.

The pediatrician called an ambulance. TJ' mother Momma rode in the ambulance with TJ, holding him tightly. The ambulance hit a bump - TJ said "uh oh".

On that Thursday night, around eight o'clock, TJ died. It was just two days before his second birthday. His mother had promised that he could have lots of balloons on his birthday.

The weather was rainy over the next few days. It was as though the whole world mourned the loss of TJ. His family, their relatives, their friends and neighbors were all very, very sad.

The Monday after TJ' death was the saddest day of all. TJ's family gathered at a funeral home to say goodbye to the Mayor of Little Shoe Lane. Many people, including the doctors and nurses who'd tried to save TJ, came to pay their respects.

TJ' parents placed several of TJ' favorite things in the small casket with him. He had his stuffed rabbit, his favorite blanket, his football, two hockey sticks, and his great-grandmother's rosary beads. The second hockey stick was so that TJ wouldn't have to play hockey by himself.
The family had a funeral service at their church, then a slow procession to a beautiful little cemetery that would become the final resting place of TJ's small body.

The family said goodbye to TJ that day, accompanied by many relatives and friends. His mother Momma brought two huge bouquets of balloons. She told the people how she had promised them to TJ for his birthday, and wanted him to have them. Then, together with Daddy and Liz, they released the balloons into the sky. TJ would know they were for him.

In the days following TJ' funeral, his family began calling the hospital and medical examiner in an effort to learn more about the strange illness that had taken him away from them. Relatives, friends and neighbors continued to stop in and visit, lending their support to the family. And the TJ' pediatrician, as well as the doctors from the hospital, called to check in on the family as well as to make sure that Liz did not demonstrate any of the symptoms of the mysterious illness. The medical examiner was called in to help determine the cause of death. It was his job to learn what he could about the illness and how it affected TJ. The information he learned would help doctors and parents treat, and hopefully prevent, future deaths from the same illness. He conducted his investigation carefully, and sent some tests out to various labs to await results and findings.
By the end of the first week following TJ' death, no new information was available regarding the virus. It was known his lymph nodes and small intestine were all swollen - a typical symptom that a person was fighting off a massive viral infection. The "bug" itself had not been identified.

Liz and the rest of the family all remained in good health. The family would now have to wait several weeks for the medical examiner to receive and evaluate results of tests from various laboratories.


Several family members and friends saw a news article the night of TJ' death. The article mentioned an investigation regarding five children who died in Virginia, a state located to the south, of similar symptoms. One of the family members contacted the hospital, and asked them to check and see if it was related to TJ' illness. The hospital pediatric emergency nurse said they would not only check on a possible connection, but they would also alert the other ER (emergency room) doctors and nurses to be on the lookout for other cases that could be related to TJ' illness.
So far, there has been no news. [As of late February, early March of 2003.]


Everybody who knew TJ, or his family, grieved for the loss. The loss of a child is especially upsetting, as it signifies that a life full of potential and promise will never get the opportunity to experience the fullness of a long life and all the challenges and rewards it can bring.

Nearly everyone, however, understands that the grief of loss is more than simply a mourning of lost potential, or lost company of a loved one. It is also a realization of the fact that we must nurture, love, and cherish every moment that we have to share with those around us; when someone dies, we grieve partly because we have no more time to show the person how much we cared. TJ knew he was loved - is loved - by his family and friends. He radiated that knowledge with his own unconditional love. He showed the wonder of a child in love with the world and all the simple discoveries he came across as he made his way through it. His mother stated it best, in the days following his funeral:

"If I had to choose between never having had the two years of joy or knowing that it would end after such a short time, there's no question that I would choose those two years when TJ was a part of my life. No question."

It is within that simple statement that we can all learn so very much about life; it's precious nature isn't something taken lightly, it is a gift that we all give to one another. While it will be hard for TJ' family to resume their lives, especially when they often encounter people with small children that will cause them to pause and think of TJ, they will continue on. TJ would have wanted that. And he will be watching, not only from the place his soul has gone to rest, but also from within their own hearts and souls, where that part of him that touched their lives will always live on, sharing and touching their lives.

The life of a person is made up of more than his or her experiences. It reflects the impression that other lives have made upon it as well. Anyone who makes a substantial impression appears to put a permanent piece of him or herself within our souls, just as we leave a small piece of ourselves within his or hers.

Whenever the family sees a hockey game, or a little boy playing, and they think of TJ, he will instantly be there within them. And if they see someone bump into a cabinet or a table, or knock over something, or hit a bump in a car, they will hear TJ' voice saying "Uh oh". He is still with them; he will always be with them. And he will share their lives with them, albeit in a manner different than if he had lived, because he loves them still. There is a little window within their souls that he'll look through, in addition to checking on them from far above, and when they least expect it he will be giving them hugs and kissing their feet, laughing all the time.

TJ doesn't hide behind the couch anymore. He's safe and warm in the place his soul has gone, and he's got a great place to hide within the hearts and souls of his family and friends. Don't forget to look for him once and while. And send lots of warm hugs to that spot within that radiates with the love a little boy. If the couch giggles and laughs out of the blue, remember that TJ is there, and watching you. Look around, think of him as you see other children, and ask him what he thinks of different places and people. And enjoy the warmth of his love as you feel him hug you for thinking of him and continuing to share your life with him.

Originally posted on ePluribus Media and DailyKos.

read a special piece by Jerome and thought seriously about posting this in its original form.

Instead, I held off -- and I'm glad that now, after thinking a little more clearly, I altered the names and replaced the photos to ensure that I'd protect the family's privacy.

With all the death and loss going on lately, this isn't likely to be something folks will want to read, so I apologize to any who are offended by it and by the lack of direct political relevance.

I was recently re-energized with the intention of sharing the tale when I was reminded of too many similarities to another piece I'd recently read: Requiem for an (almost) four year old, by cynic of DailyKos -- posted Sunday, March 18, 2007.

I'm hoping to publish it as a book someday, with Q&A for families and resources for families with small surviving children who may need some help coping and explaining to the young ones about loss of a sibling.

Any suggestions on things that would be good resources or questions (ideally with answers) that could be included would be appreciated.

Never, never brave me, nor my fury tempt:
   Downey wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason's seat.

by GreyHawk on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:07:22 PM EST
and thanks for caring about how it would be received. I'm personally glad you posted it. While it tells of another terrible tragedy, it also hold intemporal truths that we all need to remember and, more important, enact in our lives.

For instance, it's a very basic thing, but I'm always careful never to go away from anyone in my family (even if it's just going to work or to bed) if we're angry or have been fighting. I would not ever want the last memory of someone I love to be that of a fight or a grudge. Without worrying needlessly about unexpected tragedies, it's a nice thing to do anyway... don't let conflicts fester.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:35:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an important truth that I wish more people would take to heart. I know too many people who lost folks suddenly and regretted their last parting.

Thanks for reading it, Jerome, and pointing out the truths you saw within.

Never, never brave me, nor my fury tempt:
   Downey wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason's seat.

by GreyHawk on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:39:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm always careful never to go away from anyone in my family (even if it's just going to work or to bed) if we're angry or have been fighting. I would not ever want the last memory of someone I love to be that of a fight or a grudge.

Learn How to Die; Learn How to Live

"'Everybody knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently,' Morrie said. 'So we kid ourselves about death,' I (Mitch) said. 'Yes, but there's a better approach. To know you're going to die and be prepared for it at any time. That's better. That way you can be actually be more involved in your life while you're living. . . Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, 'Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?... The truth is, Mitch, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live... Most of us walk around as if we're sleepwalking. We really don't experience the world fully because we're half asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do... Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.'" -- Tuesdays with Morrie

by Nomad on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:55:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No comment, only thank you!
by Fran on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:16:21 PM EST
I appreciate the comment, and appreciate that the story was well-received.

Never, never brave me, nor my fury tempt:
   Downey wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason's seat.
by GreyHawk on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:18:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are few things in this world that I dread as much as the sight of a small coffin.

Thank you for posting this here.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:47:29 PM EST
reading & commenting.

Never, never brave me, nor my fury tempt:
   Downey wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason's seat.
by GreyHawk on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 01:02:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for sharing this story. I believe that by honouring people in this way, they become part of our lives too. A painful but beautiful and moving tribute.

The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing
by deviousdiva (thedeviousdiva@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 02:13:59 AM EST
memories of those we've lost, we both honor and preserve their memory, helping them to live on within us in some capacity.

Never, never brave me, nor my fury tempt:
   Downey wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason's seat.
by GreyHawk on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 07:16:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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